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Ahead of this May’s IoIC Live conference, we spoke to some of our presenters about their insight and experiences of what matters to their colleagues. Here, British Airways’ Drew McMillan, global head of colleague communication & engagement, reflects on a programme to rekindle pride among the airline's 44,000 people.

British Airlines is a British institution, this year celebrating 100 years in business. It carries 55 million customers every year, in planes that take off somewhere in the world every 90 seconds, 24/7, 365 days a year. Last year, it posted record profits.

So, what could possibly need improving at one of the world’s most successful airlines?

Drew McMillan, global head of colleague communication & engagement, says that, while the company is in a good place, its people have lost some of their emotional connection with the brand. At IoIC Live this May, Drew will explain the company’s plans to reconnect the workforce.

Getting in touch with employees’ emotions

“We have seen seismic changes in the airline industry – with the rise of low-cost carriers, super-premium Middle Eastern airlines, and changes in customer service expectations with the likes of Amazon and Uber,” says Drew.

“So, to get to its position of strength, BA made some tough choices, some of which impacted on the employee experience.

“Now, we find ourselves in an interesting paradigm, where the company is doing very, very well, but our people aren’t quite in love with us. This matters, because customers sense it.”

Spreading the love

Drew joined BA a year ago, tasked with getting to grips with this problem.

“We are investing in a five-year, multi-faceted, integrated programme to make our people fall in love with the company again, which will impact customers – because it will enable a real boost to our unique British Airways service.”

The wide-reaching programme covers everything from leadership development to new tech to Ozwald Boateng-designed uniforms.

“It may seem like a frivolous thing, but the BA uniform is an iconic element of our brand and if you’re wearing a uniform every day it needs to feel special,” says Drew.

Communication needs to find its place

Communication is another essential asset that needs improving, he says.

“We have failed in recent years to communicate what BA’s purpose is – what our role in the world is.

“We have a large workforce of 44,000 people worldwide, many of whom are long-serving and have been with us through our toughest times – the terrible events of 9/11, the financial crash of 2008 affecting business travel, and continuing volatile fuel prices.

“This centenary year provides a platform for us to explain our vision and our purpose. It is an opportunity to rekindle the pride, belief and togetherness that we have lost.

“And, with the announcement of £6.7 billion – billion! – in new investment for our customers and our people, we are absolutely committed to making BA a success for another 100 years.”

Hear more from Drew, and a host of other IC professionals, at this year’s IoIC Live, in Bath, 9-10 May. Book your place here.

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