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No Joke! Lottery Replaces Some Bonuses As United Shakes Up Employee Incentive Program

United's new incentive program seems more like a Jelly of the Month Club than a real bonus for some employees.

Bingo, and other lottery-like games of chance, are usually enjoyed by people in their leisure time who want to bet a few dollars on the off-chance of nabbing that elusive big win. Buy a lottery ticket or attend a local bingo hall and take your chances …. or fly to Las Vegas, perhaps?

But betting your savings or bonus does not require a flight to Vegas anymore, at least if you are a United Airlines employee. UA workers are now being asked to gamble with their employee incentive programs.

United tries to be different, but is it better?

Corporate giant United Airlines has a new plan in place to incentivize employees using a drawing that will award employees with cash, travel perks and even cars. And yet, cash incentive programs based on merit are being ushered out in a plan that might sound good on paper, but is reportedly not very well-received by actual United employees.

Photo by: Raimond Spekking (Wikipedia)

While the program is allegedly intended to reward top perfomers, it at least initially appears to randomly award incentives. According to the details of the new plan, one employee will be awarded a $100,000 prize each quarter that will be determined by a drawing. Sounds good, right? Not if you are the majority of other employees who will lose their quarterly bonuses to finance the prize for the ‘grand prize winner.’ Those lost employee bonuses are estimated to be between $63 and $7,589  per quarter, according to Inc.

The Chicago Business Journal interviewed United Airlines’ President Scott Kirby who said, “As we look to continue improving, we took a step back and decided to replace the quarterly operational bonus and perfect attendance programs with an exciting new rewards program called core4 Score Rewards.”

Not everyone is happy about this new giveaway

Hmmm . . . . instead of showing up for work every day, perhaps United employees could just go to the local Quickie Mart and buy a lottery ticket. That seems to be the sentiment among workers who are not embracing the new program designed to “build excitement and a sense of accomplishment.” Apparently, the employees are anything but excited. In fact, the Chicago Business Journal reports that employees are rather angry and that the new plan has met with a “firestorm” of disapproval.

The disapproval is ironic since the new plan was expected to be well-received by employees and bolster customer service efforts. After a disastrous incident in which a passenger was dragged violently from a plane, the new incentive plan was meant to encourage United crews to pay more attention to passengers’ needs and improve customer service efforts, but it seems to be having the opposite effect.

Did somebody call bingo? The new non-merit-based United employee incentive program. Photo Edwin Torres Photography via Flickr. Photo Ken Iwelumo (GNU Free Documentation License)

Inc. published United employee’s reactions on their Flying Together internal website. Here are a couple of more notable viewpoints listed here only by job title (names omitted):

“Awful idea. [Current] bonus program has everyone pulling in the same direction with a common goal. This is scratching a lottery ticket…” –Captain – B-737

“I would be embarrassed and mortified to win this lottery. If it was possible I wouldn’t allow my name to be released and I would give my ‘winnings’ to the Flight Attendant AFA Cause Charity. I win at the expense of tens of thousands of fellow employees? No thanks.” –Flight Attendant

“If I wanted to play in a lottery, I would just go my local 7/11. I recommend United management reconsider this morale killing program.” –Captain – A-320

The response was less than United’s leadership had probably hoped. The good news for United employees is that this change will not affect their other bonus programs like profit sharing. But for some employees who relied on the program to receive a little extra spending cash for perfect attendance, this change will be a big disappointment.  That is unless those magical lottery balls roll in their favor. If luck shines their way, one lucky employee might be able to buy a new Tesla and a cruise.


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