United Airlines is Making it Easy for Employees to Get Service

ServiceNow’s HR Summits are a multi-event series that bring together HR practitioners and thought leaders to discuss and share best practices around HR service delivery. These free one day events continue to grow in popularity, particularly because of insightful participants like Hector Chahin, Director of Employee Experiences at United Airlines.

I was fortunate enough to grab a few minutes with Hector to learn more about his role at United and how they are transforming HR service delivery.

Mike: Thanks for taking the time to chat Hector. Tell us about your role at United Airlines.

Hector: I’m the Director of Employee Experiences within HR. I currently have responsibility at a high level for the experiences of our employees and their experience through consuming HR services.

Mike: How many employees are you responsible for?

Hector: We have 90,000 active employees. They range from pilots, to flight attendants, to aircraft mechanics, to management employees at corporate. We also have 54,000 retirees who still have some level of entitlements, whether it’s travel, benefits, and so on. We also have 100,000+ vendors. Some of them are entitled to travel or United is required to provide mandated training, so we’re sitting around anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 individuals who will interact with our services.

Mike: Wow, that’s a lot of people. What technology have you been using to support delivering services to this large and diverse group?

Hector: Two years ago we started a journey of implementing a platform, a competitor to ServiceNow. December 23rd, 2016, we were notified that the vendor was no longer supporting the platform. So we went back to the well and began the RFP process again.

During our RFP process, we saw all the different platforms and competitors of ServiceNow. We did not want to build on another IT-specific work management tool. We’ve had done that for decades. When our employees go to the HR portal, they don’t want to see IT jargon. It doesn’t mean anything to them. We were able to convince our leadership to go with a tier one system, which in this case was ServiceNow. With ServiceNow’s dedicated HR product, two releases per year, and constant development, we knew this is how we wanted to be servicing our employees. We are rolling out the system in the first quarter of next year.

Mike: What are some of the challenges you identified in your current service delivery model?

Hector: We had consultants and internal resources take a look at our current service model. There were obvious gaps which were quickly identified.

I also have a team that’s dedicated to looking at all negative employee service surveys. They reach out to employees who have given us a negative survey as it relates to their experience and investigate. What broke down? What can we do better?

In our prior environment, when employees searched for information, they got everything under the sun. They had to make a decision based on what they thought applied to them, and it may or may not have been correct.

We also have numerous email addresses for HR and payroll. Employees would email requests and get responses like, “Oh, sorry. You sent it to the wrong email. You need to send it to this group.” This causes frustrations and delays.

We want to consumerize the employee service experience, but the expectation of our employees has been so low based on what we’ve been providing. We really have an opportunity to get focused on not just using the right technology, but providing better service.

Mike: What are you hoping to accomplish by transforming HR service delivery?

Hector: When I use Uber or Lyft, I don’t think about the technology anymore. I just think about the car that’s going to show up in five minutes. We want to make it easy for employees to get service from HR in the same way. We now have enough proof and data behind us and our employees are backing us by saying, “Hey, we want a better experience”

It’s really about holding ourselves accountable. Everything now has an SLA, and we’re going to be accountable and measured to that. Transparency is key. We will no longer be seen as the black hole with employees asking: Where’s my request? Where’s it going? Who has it? How can I follow up on that?

Mobile access, and personalization will also be key for us. We have 50,000 employees that have company-issued mobile devices. Everything from pilots with iPads to flight attendants with iPhones. We need the ability to quickly push information out and allow them to easily access relevant information anytime, anywhere.

Mike: Thanks again for sharing your journey. Any quick advice for others about to embark on a similar journey?

Hector: You get what you pay for. We learned that in our current platform. So it’s nice to know you get a top-tier system in ServiceNow.

I think the other key thing is getting everybody on board and understanding the vision. Everything needs to tie back to improving the employee service experience and meeting our employees’ expectations.

Mike: Thanks Hector. Hopefully we can chat again after the go-live.

Hector: Happy to.