United Airlines cancels employee bonus lottery after backlash
- United Airlines has temporarily ended a new quarterly lottery bonus plan over employees' objections, reports CNBC.
- The airline originally rewarded employees quarterly bonuses when they met certain performance goals, but it decided to replace that model with a lottery in which one "qualifying employee" could win $100,000 and other qualified workers could win cash rewards or vacations, according to a Chicago Business Journal report.
- Employees who opposed the lottery said it made it harder to earn rewards. One employee, Laurie Vesalo, wrote in a letter that the lottery unfairly favored "an elite few." In a note to employees, United Airlines president Scott Kirby said the company intended to introduce a more exciting program, but misjudged how it would be received.
Especially since the passage of the new tax law, some employers are looking to reinvest savings into annual and hourly wage increases. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that's exactly what 65% of employees in an Aon Pulse survey said they'd like to see their organizations do in response to the tax bill. The majority of increases so far, however, have been one-time bonuses — not permanent raises.
Bonuses have begun to take the place of raises as financial rewards in many workplaces, so it's understandable why United workers would be apprehensive about a lottery-style system. Workers could perceive this type of system as valuing luck over hard work. Pay also remains one of the most sensitive issues in the typical U.S. workplace, so attaching a lottery to it certainly risks the perception that employers are leaving lower-income workers' circumstances to chance.
Soliciting employee feedback on an idea or proposal before executing it could help in the long run. An idea that employees vehemently oppose threatens to undo employers' engagement efforts or, at worst, risks losing workers' trust entirely.