The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

Up In The Air – Boarding Theory

Up In The Air – Boarding Theory

Jul 6, 2010

Many of the people I know have watched a film called “Up in the Air.”  Indeed, I suppose it was a popular file garnering several Oscar nominations.  (I have no idea if it won anything as I don’t watch the Oscars.)  Several people have told me how personal the film was, and other than the whole “affair thing” I’d have to say that I agree.  I’ll take a moment to point out that I am nowhere close to 10 million miles either.  However, there were certain points of the film that as I watched it (on a 4 hour flight of course) I chuckled to myself and realized that I do the same thing. 1

At one point in the film, Cloony and Anna (someone or other) are passing through the security lines and he chooses the line with the Japanese businessmen.  While she accuses him of being racist2, Cloony’s character explains about his choice.  The Japanese on one hand seem to like slip-on shoes, while the other security line had children or something or other.  Having passed through the security line just this morning, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I go through the same type of decision making process both before and during the security experience.  You see, even though I have many shoes with laces, I only own one pair that is slip-on.  These are my “airport shoes.”  God forbid that I would have to spend time taking off my shoes and then tying them back up when I should be running to my gate (for which I’m inevitably late for).

As I approached the ID checker with my driver’s license today, I quickly scanned the people in line in front of me.  Two lines, does everyone look like they travel?  Do they look like they know what they are doing?  Anyone with children?  Anyone look like they are from Idaho taking their first trip in 10 years?  Yes, I am that absurd and will happily deal with all your criticisms for it as it gets me through the security line seconds or minutes faster.

At the end of the day, my experience is all about process – usually a set of processes stacked end to end.  If I fail any one of these many airport processes, I’m annoyed and my entire user experience is diminished.  I have a regular driver that takes me to the airport (he is NEVER late), I check into my flight and scan seats on my phone while in the car, I print my boarding pass when I get to the airport, get through security as quickly as I can, head to the airport lounge where I don’t want anyone standing in front of me to check in, and then to the gate where again, I want to board early.  I have optimized my airport experience as much as possible from and end to end perspective, but I have also optimized each individual sub process such as the security line.

This is really no different from your HR service delivery end users whether it’s self service, a call center or dealing with an HR business partner locally.  The difference is that your end user customers don’t have as much flexibility in customizing their experience.  However, the same can be said for them – any failure in the end to end process inevitably taints their perception of the entire experience, not matter how trivial that taint was.

Today, the end user experience can be automated and made more efficient from a large cadre of technical capabilities.  POP screens that alert call center reps to caller information have been around for ages, and the implementation and integration of HR knowledgebase to information governance is steadily becoming more prominent.  The knowledgebase information is becoming more available through tier 0 tools, and when tier 0 is not the right solution, case tracking at the end user level can be available.

I’m going to continue wearing slip-on shoes to the airport, only because I know it saves to 15 seconds.  It might seem trivial, but it’s those little things that make a difference in the end user experience.


  1. ok, I admit that I copied this intro from another post on the same movie [back]
  2. perhaps I should define racism sometime, but I’m not sure this blog is the right place [back]

3 comments

  1. A good technique for understanding HR service delivery is customer experience mapping. This qualitative research approach looks at the interactions from the users perspective and does so by conducting in-depth studies (often interviews or workshops). Done properly it is a powerful technique to identify the key moments of truth – touchpoints which are key to setting the overall direction of the relationship.

    Unfortunately, too often HR processes are designed to minimize the pain for HR, not deliver a service to the workforce. Technology is implemented that focuses on making HR jobs easier than delivering value to the organization.

    Technology can provide benefit but it needs to be aligned to employee needs which need to understood thoroughly in a segmented manner.

  2. Hey Dubs,

    What are your thoughts on the video system used in Up In The Air? People often compare this to our recently released video interviewing system (which is used for screening rather than firing), though I think this gives it a bad rap.

  3. I think people understand the difference in sensitivity for various situations. Yes, while the video firing certainly seemed like a bad idea, we currently use video conferences routinely in work situations. Also, iPhone 4′s use of 2-way video chat I think is a stronger positive influence than the movie’s negative influence.

    I’m surprised you get comparisons on your technology to the movie. It’s really not a good comparison, and I’m saddened that you get it. We already know that stupid managers fire employees over text messages, and perhaps video firing is not so far off from that. But that would be akin to saying that we should never use text, IM, video and email for collaboration, and any other employment communications.

    Lets just go back to paper, shall we? After all, I do want my personal secretary back!!! (rofl)

    While I won’t say that you should do 100% of interviews via video (some face to face does serve as a screening tool to read people better), initial screening via web cams when available certainly must be better than the screening phone call. Just IMO.

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