After the acquisition of US Airways, American Airlines has been making significant changes with the vision of restoring American as the greatest airline in the world. How are they doing that? With their people.
Carrie Corbin’s role is to build talent acquisition programs and strategies. Her team’s focus is to support the enterprise talent attraction efforts via recruitment marketing, media, digital and social strategy, as well as building American Airlines’ sourcing and diversity recruiting programs, all while caring for the candidate, new hire, and employee experience and telling the employer brand story.
Have a listen to the interview below, keep reading for a summary and be sure to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast
What made you join American Airlines?
That was an exciting journey. American Airlines has about 110,000 employees, and they were in an interesting place when I joined. That’s precisely why I wanted to take this on. They are a well-known legacy consumer brand, with a heavily unionized environment in a regulated industry. The opportunity to completely rebuild a brand identity was something that I’m fortunate to be uniquely qualified for, given that I’ve already done that once with AT&T. In this situation, I have the benefit of having particular experience on what works and what doesn’t. Frankly, it was a little bit of a step back in time when I joined, but we’ve made progress. Overall we have an employee culture with people who love the aviation industry, love their jobs and their free flight benefits. Then we also have our leadership teams have come together to get us to that place to of One American. We also need to minimize the ‘us versus them’ mindset, as most companies do, that have been around that long. We’re finding a way not to erase but embrace the company history, which is cool for me to be in the front line.
What are Talent Challenges for American Airlines?
One of the common challenges that we’re challenged with is that people associate the job with the consumer brand. The problem that presents also is hiring for your corporate and professional roles, for instance, technology roles. We’ve grown our IT organization, as a result of the merger. One of the other areas what’s also a challenge is the fact that the airlines as a whole struggled, for several years in the US. It became an education process for our leadership to understand that we recruit in an entirely different way, compared to 20 years ago. They know us as a consumer brand, but if you don’t hire for so long, you’re not seen as an employer in the area. So we needed to clean up a bit. Also the fact that we have five generations now, all communicating differently. One other challenge is the fact that we have a lot of people that are going to retire, so we need to look at new, long-term talent.
What’s the Employer Brand Strategy of American Airlines?
When we didn’t hire for so long, it kind of starts to create a culture of every man for themselves. Everyone wants to keep their job and stay afloat. That tends to cycle some of the creativity and innovation in the company. Our recruiting model ended up being predominantly outsourced, so there was no strategy. They’ve been spending a year rebuilding their recruiting organization in-house. So that’s where I came in, to build the foundational elements. I’m creating our diversity recruiting model, our candidate experience, from onboarding to new hire. I’m responsible for our metric, to understand our baseline and show some of the successes over time. We needed to stabilize the current situation, to focus on the employer brand. Even with things like career fairs, nobody likes to do that, but we still need to. We’ve been working on managing our brand presents better on campus, and with our other efforts. Whilst we also want to connect directly with talent. We want to give future candidates employer brand-related information while going through all of the changes. We’re going to take the time to focus on employer experience and the full life-cycle of it, not just the hiring. We don’t have a retention issue, because that’s the culture that people know and love. When we build our EVP, we want to understand the ‘what’s in it for me’ if they work at American Airlines.
How is American Airlines Retaining the Right People?
Instead of a regrettable turnover, we probably have unfortunate retention. When you have people that are handcuffed to their jobs, they know that they’re promoted on retention, rather than performance. If they have to start over somewhere else, they would probably start at the bottom. As we know, the customer experience will never be greater than the employee experience. That’s part of the reason why we’re putting such a big emphasis on the employee experience because we have a customer experience organization. But we don’t have an employee experience organization. We have a typical people, HR operations type focus, so we need to create a consistent employee experience. Hopefully, we’ll have some strategies to come out of that, to make people’s current employee experience better. We need to empower our employees, to know when to break the rules.
Is Employee Experience part of Employer Brand?
Absolutely. Your employer brand is your identity as an employer. Which is different from your consumer, product or service brand. From that perspective, companies can be very narcissistic in the story that they tell. So, for years that’s what we’ve been doing on our career site. But we want to be able to help people picture themselves working here, but that’s not just doing a realistic job preview video. It’s understanding, honestly, what the experience is going to look like. I know where the confusion comes from. Employer brand is the identity, who you are, who are you now. Employer branding is the interaction part, the recruitment marketing. They’re going hand in hand, but you can still do recruitment marketing, whether you have a defined employer brand or not. But also the other way around. If we have a defined employer brand story, we should be sharing that with our employees. It should be something that inspires pride, so it’s driving employee advocacy.
What are some Hard Lessons from your Employer Brand career?
One of them was the recruitment marketing versus employer brand situation I just explained. We made some mistakes along the way. Some of that was being innovative, and we were the first company to build an app for jobs at a company level. Being a global company, we should have been one of the first. But later on, we decided to build a good, full-on responsive career site and decided to kill the app. We just needed to know what was working, or what wasn’t, so you have to try it out. Getting feedback about our written copy was also very interesting. If we had done an internal focus earlier on, we would’ve learned about this earlier. That way we could have used it in the process of developing copy. As a focus, employer brand hasn’t been around that long. We just had to figure it out as we went. One of my favorite sayings has been; “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?” I’ve been waiting to start an intensive employer brand discovery process, rather than just bringing in a recruitment marketing firm to call it a day.
What’s your EB Tech Stack?
There was a decision made before I came in, regarding CRM and talent community. That’s a challenge for me because we need to do something better. We’ve been working on a survey based on a Facebook post in one of our groups. I feel like there are a lot of things that we should be able to execute, it’s critical. With that is the ability to develop landing pages quickly. We build our talent network at American Airlines, to show some of the ROI for our events. It’s probably my top tool right now because we haven’t been able to transition as much away from events as I want.
How to Measure ROI on Employer Brand?
That’s part of what we’re still developing. I’m trying to build a more cohesive strategy around that because it’s tough to get our baselines. Recruiting metrics are under me, and workforce metrics are under a different team. Then there’s the brand and marketing metrics and tools utilization, all of those things. That was one of our first challenges. With an external party we’ve created automated surveys, where you’ve got validated questions, but also put in some custom questions. For instance, around referrals to friends and family. Looking at your external brand, we look at Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn and then just general brand perception on the internet. From a recruitment marketing perspective, the easiest one to get to is the cost per application, by channel or source. But that alone doesn’t tell the story. So really tracking the candidate journey of applying and understanding their source of influence is essential. Cost per app, cost per hire and the source of influence, the three of them together are going to tell you the effectiveness of your recruitment marketing.
Connect with Carrie on LinkedIn.