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Beyond Reports — How You Should Use KPIs To Drive Performance

If you ask people at airlines how they use KPIs, I'm convinced that 95% will provide the same answer. We use them to create reports. Accordingly, airlines create a sheer endless number of reports every single day.

There’s an operations report for the head of operations and a ground performance report for the head of ground ops. And most likely, someone combines the two reports and hand them over to the VP Operations. And after adding some additional information and changing the layout, it is forwarded to the SVP Flight Ops. Oh, and finally, weekly, the report is provided to the management board. And on, and on, and on.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there’s something wrong with all those reports. On the contrary, they play a vital role when it comes to monitoring and managing an airline.

Creating Reports Is Only One Way How To Use KPIs 

The thing is that using KPIs to create reports reflects only one way how to use KPIs. On top of that, airlines focused on this approach leave a massive opportunity on the table. Moreover, I genuinely believe that there’s another additional way how to use KPIs. Actually, a strategy that truly unleashes the full potential of KPIs.

KPIs Contain An Widely Underrated Motivational Power

Instead of solely creating reports, KPIs —from my point of view— possess an unbelievable power when it comes to motivating your staff. Usually —and unfortunately— this is hugely underrated and underestimated throughout the world. 

Now, the benefits and advantages KPIs hold when it comes to motivational aspects are massive. They easily outperform the value of your entire report. It is just an entirely different game. 

Motivating With KPIs Isn’t A New Way How To Use KPIs

Actually, I’m not telling you anything new. The idea of “motivating with KPIs” has been around for a while. And I’ve seen some airlines that tried to set up a real KPI-driven culture. However, each of them failed and returned to known ways how to use KPIs: Reports.

Why? Because they overlooked two essential aspects.

New Distribution Channels Are Key #1

If you want to use KPIs to motivate your staff —first and foremost— you have to ensure that everybody can access the KPIs. It’s no longer about reports for the management. Actually, it is no longer about reports at all.

On the contrary, it is about setting up solutions that allow everybody at your airline to easily and swiftly access all relevant KPIs. This is so super-essential. It isn’t sufficient to send out a daily mail or to have a huge screen in your canteen. Each employee of your airline must have the possibility to access relevant KPIs, whenever they want and wherever they are.

On top of that, you have to provide solutions (apps) your employees enjoy and want to use. Just providing access to a browser dashboard, that is complicated to access and hard to read won’t do the trick.

Key #2: Rethink Your KPIs — Radically

Here’s another bad news. Having the perfect smartphone app with a fantastic user experience isn’t sufficient to catch your employees’ attention. And we all can agree that you need attention first. Without attention, there’s no motivation.

So what’s the second essential ingredient to using KPIs as a motivational tool? It is about entirely new KPIs. Why? Because your current KPIs do not provide enough context to your staff. A misconnex ratio or on-time performance are abstract numbers. Nobody —except a few experts— understands the impact if the OTP decreases by 0.2%.

That’s why you have to rethink your KPIs radically. Moreover, you have to set up KPIs that create awareness and EMOTIONS! Once your employees are emotionally linked to your KPIs, they will take care of them. Here are two examples.

Number of Unhappy Passengers

The on-time performance or delay minutes are abstract KPIs. Your employees literally don’t care if the amount of delay minutes today is 1,234 or 1,450. There’s no emotional link to it. However, every delay impacts a passenger and creates an unhappy passenger. And nobody wants to have an unhappy passenger. Furthermore, everybody knows how a flight delay feels. This KPI creates emotions! It catches attention. Subsequently, your employees will take care of it.

Compensation Costs

Compensation costs are another example. Instead of showing the delay minutes (see above why this doesn’t work), you calculate and visualize the costs related to delays. A bold figure: $1,200,345

Again, that catches attention and creates emotions!

There are many other examples. However, I think you get the point. KPIs have to be contextual, transparent and create emotions.

How To Use KPIs

Why You Should You Go Down That Road?

Now, you may ask why you should put in all that effort? An effort to develop new distribution channels, probably new apps. Additionally, an effort to define new KPIs, to set up new data interfaces, etc.

The answer is simple: Because you will achieve an entirely new level of motivation. Once you’ve established the fundament mentioned above: 

1) Distribution channels that let everybody access KPIs in a swift and modern way

2) Contextual, transparent and emotional KPIs

Things will start to change.

In the first phase, everybody —and really everybody— at your airline starts to monitor the indicators. Moreover, since the KPIs are straightforward, everybody will begin to take care of the KPIs. Every single employee will do the best he/she can to improve the KPIs.

Seeing Their Effort Is Paying Off Will Grow The Motivation Exponentially

And now that magic starts to happen. Once the KPIs are slowly increasing the motivation of your employees, reach entirely new heights.

 For the first time, your employees understand how their effort improves the performance of your airline. Contrary to previous times, it is not linked to abstract figures — but to a very emotional level.

How To Use KPIs? Create Emotions, Motivate, And Drive The Airline’s Performance

The described way of how to use KPIs has nothing in common with today’s KPI usage. It is no longer about creating reports and monitoring. It is the purest way to drive your airline’s performance — by incorporating every employee, creating true emotions and real awareness, and finally driving the motivation.

What Do You Think?

Always happy to receive your feedback and thoughts. Just hit me up on Twitter or get in touch on LinkedIn.

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Benjamin Walther

CEO, Frankfurt

Benjamin is Information Design's CEO and a proven content-maniac. Besides running a successful business and developing pioneering ideas, he's dedicated to writing blog posts and creating content.

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