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What Companies Can Learn from Ryanair’s Misaligned Employee Engagement Strategy

Aug 29, 2017

Your treatment of your employees is reciprocal— whether you like it or not, it will come back to you and has a major impact on your organization. Our innovative strategies for employee engagement change the way managers inspire, motivate and connect with their employees.

Low-cost European airline, Ryanair, has come under fire in recent days after it axed flights for a further 400,000 passengers travelling between November and March, less than two weeks after it cancelled up to 2,100 flights affecting about 315,000 flyers.

The action came after the airline "messed up" the allocation of annual leave as it shifts to a new holiday scheduling system. The Irish Airline Pilots' Association says Ryanair is struggling to cope with a high turnover rate among pilots as the airline expands its fleet, losing up to 700 pilots in the last financial year, their union claimed, with up to 140 going to one rival airline.

It’s clear that this fiasco is opening the floodgates for pilots to demand better pay and working conditions. The Irish airline has also been criticized for using divide and control tactics to keep pilots on different kinds of contracts and to prevent them from organizing, resulting in the company being unable to replace pilots as fast as they are resigning.

Ryanair is currently recruiting new pilots to ensure sufficient staffing resources for next year’s demand and will probably have to sweeten the deal to reduce pilot turnover, in particular countries where the package is less competitive.

Customer Engagement Strategy

Before the saga, Ryanair had been benefiting from a customer service overhaul as part of its new Customer Loyalty Strategy. Under its ‘Always Getting Better’ program, the airline rolled out a raft of initiatives to win over fliers, including allocated seating, new seats with more legroom, improved in-flight meals, extra carry-on luggage, more business-friendly schedules, and intuitive booking app.

Listening to customers has been a “spectacularly successful learning experience for Ryanair over the last 12 months”, says CEO, Michael O’Leary, and they are seeing the changes that they have implemented reflected in their business results too.

Misaligned Employee Engagement Strategy

What Ryanair is missing though, to complement its improved Customer Experience Strategy, is an effective Employee Engagement Strategy. Employee engagement is a critical aspect of customer experience. Happy employees make happy customers. Without your employees on board, the customer experience you have in mind will stay right there, in your mind, ignored by the people that are supposed to actually do it.

A correlation between employee engagement and customer service levels have been mooted for many years. In every case, employees report better business outcomes when they are engaged. In the fall of 2014, BI WORLDWIDE gathered responses from 7,264 employees who work for organizations larger than 500. Seven countries/regions were surveyed. Approximately 1,000 responses were gathered from each country/region, including Brazil, Canada, China, India, America, United Kingdom, and Latin America. We asked them “are you happy with your current job?”

Of the eight percent of American workers in the recent study who “strongly disagree” they are happy with their current jobs, a majority (55 percent) agrees or strongly agree they are “willing to work especially hard for my organization’s customers.” That proportion grows to 87 percent among those who are happiest with their jobs, easily creating a statistically significant connection between happiness and customer focus, but a far less powerful correlation than is commonly assumed.

We also asked, “what percentage of your full effort are you currently delivering at work?” On average, 39 percent of employees internationally report that they put in their full effort. In Canada, the percentage of employees working to their potential is higher – nearly one-half. Only three percent of Canadian employees report that they invest only half of their effort or less at work.

At most, one in three Canadians are intensely performing in or committed to their organization. Baby boomers have the highest levels; only a quarter of Gen Xers are performing intensely. Contrary to popular opinion, Gen Y employees commitment is nearly equal to their elder counterparts in Canada.

Turnover is expensive, not only for the cost of training replacements, but for the hidden costs of having employees who really don’t want to be there in the first place. They’re not doing their best work. They’re doing just enough work to get by until they can leave.

We also surveyed approximately 1,000 Canadian employees and asked them “how long are you planning on staying at with your current employer?” Baby boomers who are nearing retirement answered 4.6 years, Gen X 6.6 years, and Gen Y 5.9 years. Of those surveyed 11 – 13 percent of Gen Y employees plan on leaving within the next 12 months, as they have a more flexible notion of their career trajectory.

Part of what we teach at BI WORLDWIDE Canada is a contemporary approach to employee engagement and motivation stemming from BI WORLDWIDE's extensive experience in behavioural economics and our latest global research into what truly drives employees. BI WORLDWIDE’s research is aimed at prioritizing and making sense of those aspects of work that make employees happy or unhappy and that most powerfully drive performance. 

How Can I Raise Employee Engagement Levels in My Company?

Living in an always-connected, online world has brought about many changes to traditional business models and long-standing assumptions about social interaction and personal motivation. This is especially evident in today’s workplace, where traditional employee-recognition programs no longer work, as the needs and wants of your employee base has likely changed significantly.

What is the right approach to employee programs? What gets and maintains employees attention and focus? 

The New Rules of Engagement℠ are 12 imperatives for leaders and managers because the degree to which an organization delivers on each has important consequences for the motivation of its employees. Because people are strongly reciprocal, a company gets the level of performance from them that it deserves.

Learn More About Each of the New Rules of Engagement℠.

 BI WORLDWIDE New Rules of Engagement

To learn more about how we can help your company with employee engagement or the New Rules of Engagement℠ survey, we welcome you to get in touch at: canada@biworldwide.com