March 6, 2018

In lieu of bonuses, United Air created (and canceled) a $100k lottery for its employees

In an internal memo leaked last week, United Airlines announced they were replacing performance-based bonuses with a new, “exciting” lottery system, in which the company’s 80k employees would have the chance to win a handful of prizes. Now, after a  widespread petition and a barrage of bad press on the internet, United is calling off […]

In an internal memo leaked last week, United Airlines announced they were replacing performance-based bonuses with a new, “exciting” lottery system, in which the company’s 80k employees would have the chance to win a handful of prizes.

Now, after a  widespread petition and a barrage of bad press on the internet, United is calling off the whole thing.

What’s wrong with a little lottery action?

United’s current performance incentive program rewards 30k+ of its employees with up to $1.5k in bonuses per year for meeting companywide goals, like on-time departures and on-time arrivals. Last year, the company paid out $87m in such rewards.

The proposed lottery system — which offered prizes ranging from a Mercedes sedan to a one-person $100k payout — would’ve only affected 1,361 employees, and cost the company around $18m.

Only employees with “perfect attendance records” would’ve been eligible for the lottery, excluding those who took sick leave or had emergencies.

When employees call bullsh*t

Hundreds of United employees signed a Change.org petition calling for the reinstatement of bonuses — and the airline was skewered for trying to peddle the lottery as a step up in worker compensation when, in reality, it was a cost-saving measure.

Yesterday, United President Scott Kirby told workers that the company was “pressing the pause button” on the lottery, and taking time to “review feedback.”

In recent years, companies have largely replaced raises with ephemeral reward systems, often at the expense of worker satisfaction. But the internet has given workers a platform to speak out — and employers are forced to listen.

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