American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL) will be among the first huge U.S. firms to make a widespread effort to train its employees in racial diversity and inclusion policies.
The carrier appears to have made the decision under some pressure, regardless of how valuable and forward looking the action is.
In letter to employees, CEO Doug Parker wrote:
While we are proud of our longstanding commitment to equality and diversity – from the team members we hire to the communities we serve – discrimination and implicit bias sometimes create outcomes that are less than ideal for many of our team members and customers. It is our intention to reflect on the experiences our team members and customers have shared, and lead our airline forward to create a more inclusive society. We think corporate America can make a difference in diversity and inclusion and we at American want to be leaders in that regard.
We will take four specific actions to facilitate that effort, and we are grateful for the thoughtful input we received thus far that will aid our journey. Our work is only beginning, but knowing the American Airlines team, we are confident in our ability to set a new standard in the area of diversity and inclusion.
The announcement was made after conversations with NAACP President Derrick Johnson; Tamika Mallory, co-president of the Women’s March; NAACP General Counsel Brad Berry; NAACP Legal Defense Fund Senior Counsel Ajmel Quereshi; President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Black Women’s Roundtable Melanie Campbell; attorney Royce Russell; and Justice League NYC member Mysonne Linen.
The airline also offered details of exactly how the approach will work:
Conduct a Diversity and Inclusion Gap Analysis: An independent firm will conduct a top-to-bottom review of American’s human resources and business policies related to diversity and inclusion, including hiring, training, career development, customer complaint resolution, team member experience, and supplier selection. The 9-month process, which will begin in early 2018, will assess American’s current practices compared to industry best, and provide recommendations to improve where gaps exist.
Implement Company-Wide Implicit Bias Training: Beginning in January 2018, American will build on existing anti-discrimination training and implement annual implicit bias and training for each of its 120,000 team members. We will develop the training with an outside consultant who specializes in implicit bias awareness. In addition, we are working to refresh our conflict resolution training and education around our anti-discrimination policies.
Overhaul Our Customer Discrimination Claims Process: American serves nearly 200 million customers every year. Every customer complaint received is investigated and responded to, but we can do more for people who feel they have experienced discrimination. We will create a new customer resolution team that will specialize in these complaints. This centralized focus will improve response, visibility and coordination across the company. All customers with a discrimination claim will be called by a specialist within 48 hours of filing their complaint, and an expedited investigation process will be initiated. As this team develops, case managers will track data and analyze trends to improve training and accountability across our operation.
Sharpen Our Focus on Team Member Concerns: Our People Team will review and improve our internal oversight and resolution for team member discrimination claims. This will include increasing awareness of work environment policies and the process to report concerns, as well as ensuring accountability for team members who violate these policies.
Hopefully, this will provide a much needed road map for other companies.