Departments - July/August 2009

The Insider

A Second Look at Delta

By Catherine Eberlein Pfister


op-notch employee engagement programs always give us lots of food for thought. Since Delta Air Lines' award-winning program, MyDeltaAwards (MDR), offered more than could possibly fit into this issue's "Case in Point," we wanted to share additional details with you from Stephanie Merchiore, manager of Employee Recognition, who leads Delta's recognition effort and its designated recognition team.

PIP: What role has and is MDR playing in the Delta-Northwest merger?

Merchiore: MDR plays an important role in onboarding more than 30,000 pre-merger Northwest employees. The success of the merger—and value to stakeholders—will ultimately be determined by our ability to integrate into "one company-one team." A key component of that is ensuring we all operate with a single strategy, business priorities, values and goals. And that employees are recognized consistently for those behaviors, activities and results.

PIP: What are some specific examples that illustrate this role?

Merchiore: In the second quarter of 2009, pre-merger Northwest employees became eligible to participate in MDR and were given an incentive bonus to register on MDR. After registration they became eligible to participate in all company programs (such as Gaining Altitude, Chairman's Club and Community Engagement), as well as specific business unit programs based on their role.

Perhaps the best example this year is that The Chairman's Club, the most prominent and highly visible program in the company, will encompass the entire blended organization for the first time in 2009. Instead of Delta's Chairman's Club and Northwest's President's Award—both pinnacle "best of the best" programs—it will be run as a single program, Chairman's Club. It will include all employees eligible to be nominated in a six-week time frame, based on a common set of criteria with a single award event this fall.

PIP: Would you explain "Delta's Scientific Foundation for Recognition" and the role it plays in MDR?

Merchiore: Recognition goes beyond a "nice-to-have." There is a scientific foundation for it, based on the laws of applied behavior analysis, that proves people's behavior can be affected the most when coupled with positive, immediate, certain consequences (versus negative, future, uncertain).

We promote the concept of R3 which is the alignment of reinforcement, recognition and reward programs. Reinforcement happens on a day-to-day basis and typically has very little or no cost associated with it. Recognition happens less frequently but at least several times per year and has little or modest cost associated with it. And rewards are delivered on a more contractual basis or "do this, get that" and typically have a modest or higher cost associated with them.