5 Things HR Can Learn from Airports

I know many of you will be getting on an airplane over the next few weeks to fly and see friends and family over the holidays.  Some of you fly all the time, so this will be something you experience often.  Many of you rarely fly, so you get really frustrated because you feel it should work better.  We work in HR everyday.  We get use to the stuff that doesn’t work, but we shouldn’t.  We should be like infrequent fliers, everything that is wrong should bother us greatly.

1. The airport never appears to have anyone who wants to take responsibility for anything.  Every airline is on their own. The security folks only handle their ‘area’ of concern. Food vendors only do their thing.  Does it sound familiar?  It’s your department and/or organization.  Some needs to take charge of stuff no one else wants to take charge of.  HR can fit that role perfectly.  Too many times in our organizations we/HR sees things that need someone to take responsibility. We need to be that person.

2.  The one thing about 90% of air travelers need to do after landing is go to the bathroom and charge something (phone, computer, tablet, etc.).  Airports figured out bathrooms, I’ve never had to wait to use the restroom in an airport.  I almost always have to wait to use an electrical outlet!  Should be an easy fix – go buy 100 power strips and increase the amount of charging points by 5 times.  But no one does this.  HR has this issue. We see things that can be fixed, by doing something simple, instead we don’t fix it, because we want to fix it permanently.  Believing is we fix it ‘temporarily’ we’ll never fix it the right way.  Do the temp fix first.  Tell everyone it’s a temp fix. Then work towards a permanent solution.

3. Airports use to treat everyone the same.  Everyone had to check in at the counter. Everyone had to wait in the same security line.  Airports figured out this doesn’t work for those they need most, frequent fliers.  Now, those who fly often, get treated differently.  They can by pass the TSA line through special pre-check lines.  They check in before they even get to the airport (most people can do this, but frequent fliers learn the tricks!). They have special clubs to sit in and get away from the rest of us.  HR needs to treat employees differently.  The only employees/people who want to be ‘treated’ the same, are those who are low performers.

4. Planes won’t crash is you have a little fun. For years Southwest was the fun airline.  They showed you could still fly planes and and have a little fun.  Others are beginning to follow in that same path.  HR is not known for being ‘fun’. In fact, we are probably known for not having fun.  We like to tell ourselves this comes with the territory of having to fire people. “Tim, this is serious business, there is no room for fun in HR.”   You can have fun in HR.  You need to have fun in HR.  Our organizations need proper role models of how to have fun.  People will still have to be fired, might as well have some fun along the way.

5.  It only costs a little more to go first class.  Actually it costs a ton more, but have you ever really seen an empty first class?  And, no, it’s not all frequent fliers filling those seats.  Some people are willing to pay more for a better flight experience.  You might not be willing, but some are.  Your employees are the same way about a lot of things.  Don’t think you know what is best for them, because it’s best for you.  They might want something totally different.  Well, we (in HR) like having half day Fridays in the summer, so we are willing to work 9 hour days Monday through Friday to get those. Everyone will want this.  Unless your the department that can’t take a half day on Friday because your clients need y0u there at 4pm on Fridays.

Here’s a tip to get you through your holiday travel, if you get stuck in an airport.  You aren’t forced to stay at the airport.  If you have an extremely long layover, grab a taxi and go someplace nice to eat, or even a movie.  It beats waiting 4 or 5 hours fighting over who gets the outlet next.

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