Best Online Discussion

Alaska Airlines’ employees vote on town-hall questions, transforming the dialog between leaders and workers

Online discussions at Alaska Airlines have gotten radically stronger in 2015, thanks to a decision to let 14,000 employees vote on questions to be asked at AA’s town halls.

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Alaska Airlines communicator Nancy Trott and AS webmaster David Henrich saw immense potential in the “employee comment” tool they built to engage employees. The result: Henrich created a new tool that allowed employees to vote up or down on questions asked at the airline’s town-hall style employee meetings, with the five questions getting the most “up” votes asked first. The achievement earned Alaska Airlines first place for “Best Online Discussion” in Ragan’s 2015 Intranet Awards.

The partners used Henrich’s comment tool three times before each employee town hall. Employees sent in a total of 222 questions that received 27,612 votes from just 14,000 employees. In Trott’s words, the solution was “an overwhelming success.” 

There were several surprising benefits and side benefits:

  • The tool ensured that the questions most vital to all employees got asked at each meeting.
  • It gave leaders insight into what employees were thinking.
  • Asking for questions in advance gave leaders time to prepare thoughtful answers.
  • Trott received “tremendously positive” feedback from workers who attended the town halls.
  • Officers requested that Trott and Henrich use the tool in other ways.

Trott and Henrich used the tool before an announcement of new AS destinations to give employees a chance to be an “airline network planner for a day” and suggest new routes. Trott says, “Amazingly, three of the highest [employee-] ranked destinations were the very same destinations we were about to announce.” Trott adds, “That process helped instill pride of ownership among our employees, who really do know this business well.”

Congratulations to Nancy Trott, David Henrich, and Alaska Airlines!  

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