Our last day in Dubai arrived and with some regret, we departed for the airport. Because our professors believe in having us learn as much as possible, our stop at the airport included a visit to the Emirates Airlines building which is also at the airport. As you may recall, we were moved to an Emirates flight from Healthrow airport in London, England when we were rerouted to the UK from Atlanta, and the flights from Heathrow to Dubai were just fine with us. Our trip to Emirates allowed us to find out exactly why.
Our presentation from the VP of recruitment (Alison) talked at length about the company’s Human Resources (HR) policies and programs. Being in BYU’s MBA program, her repeated statement that the company focuses on an employee’s “family coming first” was notable. Besides being explicitly stated, several of their HR policies made it clear that this was a belief they held to. Not many companies, anywhere, allow for a year’s maternity leave; granted, that was not paid maternity leave (which would have been extraordinary), but at Emirates a new mother is allowed to care for her child for a year with the assurance that her position will be there for her upon return. For all employees, Emirates focuses on the impact to families during the hiring process. Because of the nature of the job, and the fact that Emirates is not a US-based company, asking about family is legal, and they do so to be sure that the candidate has considered the impact of a move to Dubai for their family, not to mention the impact on the family when the prospective employee is flying all over the world, sometimes away for days at a time in case of flight attendants and pilots.
Also during recruitment, they extensively test candidates. Simulations, psychometric, medical… they make sure you’re the right candidate. Alison said that they hire first for attitude, which was very apparent on the flights, and they can train the rest. Since the nature of the jobs we all think in the airline industry are primarily customer service, this all makes sense. The testing focuses on who you are and how well you can do the job, not what you are (race, gender, religion, etc.).
Once hired, an employee will get some intensive training at this facility in Dubai. New recruits wear red polo shirts for a while so that others understand they are new and may be asking simple questions or may need more explicit directions. Also once hired employees will notice changing themes each month that work toward improving how employees can do their jobs; this month punctuality was a huge push.
In the airline industry, each delay adds to a domino effect, and each employee has the opportunity to avoid contributing to delays as well as to reverse previous delays. We’ve all seen this when flying, such as when this trip started. A delay of our plane from Atlanta to Salt Lake City led to our delay returning to Atlanta, which led to our missing a flight from Atlanta to Dubai. It seems appropriate that Emirates was the one to get us into Dubai in time for our first business visits.
As an airline, Emirates needs to be on time for everything. In order to help this in a world of changes and unforeseen circumstances employees arrive for a flight at least 100 minutes, but no more than
120 minutes, ahead of time. At this time, they go through some gates (that wouldn’t have worked if they were too early) and the system tracks them as they get through their Emirates-specific security section, participate in a pre-flight briefing, and eventually get to the buses that take the combined crew to the plane. The purser, or lead flight attendant, has a KIS (Knowledge Information System, or something like that) tablet with them on a flight that has information on the flight itself, as well as the passengers flying.
This made Emirates sound like a luxury hotel as much as an airline. Emirates rewards employee who exemplify extraordinary customer service and do so publicly in their facility. Large pictures of current and past recipients for being examples of their company values were on the walls inside the facility. “So and so realized customer X did not have his newspaper and was upset as it had also been missing from the previous flight too; he communicated to the destination and had another employee there purchase the paper which was delivered as customer X deplaned. Customer X was surprised and delighted by this unexpected delivery.”
In summary, other airlines need to watch out. Emirates is young, and is growing at an incredible rate. Their record of profitability is the envy of most other airlines who are lucky if they break even.
Their employees seem to be happy, their policies seem to be sound, and from one visit with an HR person I’d work for them…. if I did not need to move to Dubai.