Scandinavian Airlines strike: What went wrong?

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Employers must look at how they communicate with their workforce and establish a platform so that employees can reach their managers and address concerns

Pilots at Scandinavian Airlines are currently on strike, leaving more than 200,000 loyal customers and clients feeling frustrated and angry. The union representing 95% of the airline’s pilots, the SAS Pilot Group, remains on strike after the negotiations with the carrier itself broke down on Friday. An entire weekend of business was lost, more than 1,200 flights were cancelled, and strike action looks as if it will continue well into this week. So what went wrong?

A breakdown in communication

Staff strikes are nothing new, especially in the travel industry, but what is interesting about this particular strike is the demands of the employees. The striking pilots insist that their concerns go beyond simply wages as they’re also demanding more predictable and transparent working hours. These demands reflect a movement that has been slowly developing around greater flexibility and transparency in the workplace.

The European Parliament has been working to modernise European Labour Law by legislating for greater transparency and predictability, so that workers have schedules that are flexible but also protected. These types of moves are highlighting how it is now essential for businesses to think beyond the overall business objectives and take care of their employees. Otherwise, as can be seen with SAS, drastic action and consequences can ensue due to a breakdown in communications between employees and employer.

There are key lessons that can be learnt from the SAS crisis. Employers need to look at how they communicate with their workforce, regardless of their industry. This goes beyond just checking in every now and then. There needs to be a platform or channel always available so that employees can reach their managers and address concerns as well as successes and achievements.

Adopting flexibility

Many industries across the UK, such as hospitality, healthcare, security and retail rely on flexible work models for their employees. The majority of workers in these sectors are shift based and require a flexible process to help manage across a number of sites. For instance, healthcare workers often need to work in shifts as it provides the flexibility required to run a 24-hour health service with a workforce consisting of different qualifications and skills. As businesses working in these sectors continue to grow flexible options can no longer be ignored.

In response to this growing demand many businesses have turned to solutions offered by the cloud. By turning to cloud-enabled working businesses have been able to implement structures that enable powerful and meaningful communication regardless of one’s location, alongside bringing business processes into the digital age and reducing the need for communication by phone calls or through social networks.

More than 80% of small and medium-sized enterprises rely on manual and time-consuming solutions such as pen and paper rotas, or at the very least a combination of manual spreadsheets typically stored in Excel. The cloud has transformed these processes. Rather than staff having to ask their managers personally when they are working, or managers having to spend large portions of their day notifying and updating the schedules, cloud-based workforce management solutions update instantly and notify everyone who’s working, where and when.

The future of workforce management

The Scandinavian Airlines strikes are a symptom of a growing worldwide awareness that businesses must take a more considered approach when dealing with their employees. Investing in the right technology and opening up communication with your workforce are steps in the right direction to help achieve the balance required.

Naomi Trickey is VP of people and culture at Planday

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