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“How would you fix the Emirates mess?”

I guess that truth about Emirates Airline management has finally found its way to public. Wall Street Journal has already published an article on Emirates cabin crew’s dissatisfaction and in their newest article (“Pilot Workload at Emirates Under Question”) we can read about Emirates pilots’ discontent.

I will repeat how my intention was never to attract public attention, otherwise I would contact journalists from all over the world. My intention was to get my end of service money and an apology for being maltreated and harassed. I didn’t get any of these things so far. On the contrary, Emirates Airline managers fired a close friend of mine recently just for commenting my blog post on Facebook.

Nevertheless, as I would love to see my former colleagues more satisfied and happy with their work in Emirates Airline (which is one of the reasons why I have published so many of their stories here), in this occasion I am republishing very constructive and informative article from Update from Tom blog written by former Emirates high level manager Mr. Tom Burgess. You can visit his blog here, and this is part of his newest blog post on profit share, bonuses and constructive ways to improve current challenging situation in Emirates Airline.

Let’s assume, even just for a moment, that somebody from EK management will put their arrogance aside and read this smart article carefully and with understanding.

Many threats can be turned into opportunities.  And Emirates certainly has a threat to deal with.  The situation has been deteriorating for some time, but a tipping point was perhaps reached last year.  The company motto, promulgated by the HR department, was simple – ‘If you don’t like it, you can leave’.  In EG-IT this was supplemented by Patrick Naef’s approach of ‘If I don’t like you, you will leave’.  Now people will choose to leave if nothing positive is done.

But this major threat could not come at a better time.  The price of oil hasfallen dramatically, averaging around a third below its expected level throughout the second half of the financial year.  Fuel costs represent about 40% of the airline’s operating costs so there should be an additional profit of around 6% this year.  Even without the reduction in fuel price, Emirates would be making a healthy profit, so this is truly a large windfall.  As always, the discussion about what to do with the profits will already be underway and I hope there is a strong focus on the problem of staff morale.

Of course, an obvious answer is to be appropriately generous with the bonus but, though I said earlier that opportunities often evolve from threats, it can also work the other way.  A single and large pay out to staff will be very well received but, unless people genuinely believe that things are going to change, a healthy bonus could be the perfect trigger for people to move on.

Annual bonuses can also be divisive.  There is a general acceptance that those with larger salaries will receive more cash, but I feel uncomfortable with a system that increases the percentages of bonuses for senior managers.  The argument that the more senior someone is, the more impact s/he can have on the company’s performance, does not wash with me.  That has already been accounted for in the shape of a larger salary and an already larger bonus, without the need for multipliers.

Low salaries (for some) and high staff turnover has been a strategy that has worked well for Emirates.  One cannot fault the basic principle – if you pay enough below what a job is worth and the cost of recruiting does not fill that gap, you appear to make a saving.  But this approach reflects narrow thinking.  I worked for a company that paid in the upper decile of industry salary ranges and were thus able to recruit and retain the best staff.  The efficiencies realised just from having the best staff more than paid for that policy.  There were many other benefits too, including a much slimmer HR department which could focus on the important task of developing careers to the advantage of individuals and the company, rather than wasting time on endless hiring and firing activities.

You generally get what you pay for in life.  This certainly applies to staff and ‘pay’ is not limited to money, it embraces the whole spectrum of how people are treated.  There are clearly people who ‘want something for nothing’ in this world but there is no need to recruit those, or retain them if their attitudes change.  The vast majority of people want to work hard and make valuable contributions and this mindset is significantly strengthened if they are treated with respect and honestly, and paid what they are worth in the market.

Companies, even large ones, should not treat staff as temporary, unless there is a clear business requirement (e.g. one off event) to do so.  If a company treats its staff as permanent and applies a long term approach to the relationship, that attitude will be returned.  Obviously, many of us may not join an organisation with the intention to stay until retirement, but why shouldn’t a company make that assumption when it recruits people?  What could be the downside?

So what is Emirates going to do?  Attention on a number of issues is long overdue and, with a healthy amount of money to play with, there is now the perfect opportunity to act decisively.

– The staff survey needs to published, messages acknowledged and specific actions identified (and delivered, of course).

– The Group is in need of a major restructure.  A lot of the operational areas may work well, but support functions should be pulled together and thoroughly reviewed.  Opportunities for large efficiency gains will appear endless if a detailed review of activities, including a rigorous assessment of the value they add (or don’t add!), is carried out.  I hear of claims from staff such as “I have nothing to do”, “What I do is pointless”, etc.

– HR itself needs more than a review.  It has to position itself to do the job it was always supposed to do, but rarely did.  At least it appears the problem has been acknowledged, but real action is required.

– Management levels need a careful examination.  There cannot be many people in the group (other than those occupying pointless management jobs) who believe that Emirates does not have too many layers of management.  With fewer levels, reporting will have to be more focused and accountability increased.  I have witnessed an entire team of VP’s decline to make any decisions at a meeting, saying “we will have to wait for the boss” (who had been delayed).  And I know of another VP who is described by his team members as “the world’s most efficient email forwarding system”.  I could go on.

– I should not have to write this – treat everyone (all levels, up or down the organisation) with respect and maintain dignity, openness and honesty in all proceedings.

– Phase out the profit share scheme, but make an immediate andunambiguous commitment to increase the salaries of those in real need.  By ‘in real need’ I mean those who are adding genuine value to the day to day operation and to the bottom line of the business.  This will require a newremuneration policy, one that is much more considered than the ‘as little as we can get away with’ approach used to date and one that has staffretention as its cornerstone.  This ongoing commitment will be easily funded by the savings generated by the restructures described above.  The potential for savings should not be underestimated.

I suspect that this update may irritate a few people, but I am only trying to help.  I did write to Sir Tim Clark a while ago offering a few suggestions, even help, but he did not respond.  I gave up writing to Gary Chapman a long time ago because it seems he has no interest in my views.  I do not understand why.  If anyone has a problem with me doing this, I would ask them – “how would you fix the mess?”.

Posted by Tom Burgess at 00:08

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21 responses to ““How would you fix the Emirates mess?”

  • tagha1

    In my opinion, the “mess” will remain the same cause not a single senior manager wants to change it. Part of their game is to keep “promising” for a bright future and if staff complain, they can “switch” managers from that department to this department to let you “feel” the promised change and trick you.

    Like

  • Anonymous

    hi First of all Emirates should create a very transperant culture. Everything should be in written policies. At the same time, they should get rid of its gross discrimination against any nationality. Gone are the days if you were a westerner and you were just white skin and could get the plum jobs because of your stupid color but not no brains. Today talent is available everywhere, whether if you are asian or westerner or arab. The company should first change its policy towards white skin westerners and take on a global outlook in order to make this company truely global. It does not mean if you have 100 odd nationalities and your airline files to a every country of the world the company is a global company, yes global in a very narrow sense but still discrimatory when it comes to talent. Look at the top management they are all westerners, why is there not a person from Srilanka, India or Philipinnes. The way these westerners behave they dont know many things nor they are updated. Also the style of managing is the old traditional way….look at tim clark and gary chapman they are from the old school of leaders. Emirates should first deal with its sad image of discrimination against

    Liked by 1 person

    • DDC

      If this is not a racist comment then I don’t know what is.

      Like

      • Anonymous

        Agree, but Dragana only removes racist comments when she feels threatened by them…

        Like

        • administratordr

          I will consider removing this comment if you explain me in what way you find it racist and towards whom?

          Negative comments towards privileged people are not racism. And this commenter never said that white people have no brains. He/she just pointed out injustices based on skin colour and passport.

          On the other hand I have no reason to feel personally threatened by the racist comments I do remove because they are usually aimed to hurt people from the parts of the world I am not coming from.

          Like

  • Anonymous

    They ill treated me, so badly if my country knows what happened to me they would sue this company

    Like

  • Anonymous

    Im sorry that you see my feedback as racist, which is not! I have worked with the top global corporations 18years in HRD, and I have never seen such a horrible work culture that discriminates people. I have had bosses from Germans to Americans, they never made you feel so low and horrible as what this company makes people feel. So its not racist, I say talent is today everywhere, not just in US or Europe or Middleeast. You cannot discriminate the way emirates does, the use of certain phrases like ” Oh these indians” or ” These srilankans”. Most of all the biggest mistake they are doing is that they think their brand ” Emirates” will also keep them as the most preferred empoloyer of choice. That cannot last long. If you dont treat people in a fair manner no one will stay with you, You become “an employer not in choice”. Discrimination i mean the way they treat people in all aspects in cluding salary and benefits. So please dont say its racist, I have been long in HR i have seen the way HR folks function in this company too they dont know anything. They are just there to be like a puppet for the business. The dont have the balls to even stand up for the wrongs committed by the business heads. So neither can HR do or say anything when i comes to discrimination.

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  • Anonymous

    Only way to fix EK is by replacing management with capable local folks who has interest in long term success of this company. Right now management just keeping masters happy by showing growth, but crumbling inside. Hands off approach by locals is clean, but never works in long term.

    Like

    • Anonymous

      What i am actually saying the company needs to understand you need to treat people equally irrespective of nationality. I dont see why a talented manager from Asia cant be equal to a manager coming from the west. That is the biggest mistake they are doing. When you treat people indifferently and do no stand up for what is right, you can never run a successful organisation. Emirates is successful maybe to create brand and offer the best service, but sorry Tim Clark & Gary Chapman you cannot run a successful organisation with talented people. I was treated so unjustly in your company, having worked for so many years, in corporate world, your hands are full of injustice whether through you or your managers who report directly indirectly to you. The culture is a very punitive culture, 1st warning 2nd warning, what is this, employees come to give the company their best, this is not kinger garden. How can you be the best Organisation with such a culture. Please drop this warming system. Nonsense, who are you to warn someone. If someone needs discipline look at other ways to do it. not this way! Emirates was successful in creating a brand but not a successful organisation. I will never recommend anyone to join this organisation.

      Like

  • Anonymous

    Dragana I admire your courage and passion for truth. I will always remember that in my good fight. You have exceeded all expectations!!!

    Best Wishes

    Like

  • Eric

    You spend your time writing bad things about this company then you are surprised they don’t want your “help”?

    Don’t get me wrong, I like your blog because I hate Emirates’ policy towards its employees but I will not pretend I wanna help them. I’d rather see them going bankrupt and see the employees going to other nicer companies!

    Like

    • administratordr

      I actually want(ed) to help employees by “helping” management to see and comprehend the extent of the problem. But I completely understand your feelings towards EK and don’t blame you for wishing so.

      Like

  • tagha1

    Folks, am not defending anyone of them but, lets face it….most of EK daily flights are going to Europe, Australia and Americas….EK has more than 18 daily flights to UK itself…isn’t that worth to hire some British staff (or white skin as you like to call it) as managers to keep their business going!!! This is EK startegy through “political” business and EK MUST always take care of them and keeps them happy no matter what it cost.

    Like

  • sahil

    Reading through all these posting in this blog it makes me wonder, all the pomp and show of what a company like emirates does to create its brand and inside its offices full of turmoil and employee discord. I have been an emirates flyer for years after reading this blog I think the management needs to look at employee issues equally as much as they do for a customer like me. This is terrible to read the frustrating thoughts of so many employees who dreams to work in a good organisation. I very coincidently met a person who worked for Emirates Group in Dubai and he told me how he was treated worse that an animal. He had gone to meet the Companys Senior VP h and he asked him something that the company had done, something illegal ( he know that he would be terminated before the meeting). The SVP took his shoes closed the door and hit him. Now why is this not addressed. What is the role of the press, media in these countries. The poor chap was eventually terminated. Can I organisation however big or wonderful it maybe get away with all this? This SVP should be punished for hitting a person with his shoes. As a flyer I have stopped flying Emirates. If you cannot treat your people well, who serve your customer like us, then customers like us do not need you as well. First comes humanity then profitability. Companies like these need to really mend there ways, before it is too late.

    Like

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