Employee Engagement In the News: It’s No Fairytale

Employee Engagement - ScratchedLately, Beauty and the Beast has been in the news. Sadly, I’m not referencing the live action movie. I’m talking about the real life “tales” of two companies. Beauty is personified by Kylie Jenner in her Pepsi protest commercial. Beast represents United Airlines and its overbooking policy.  Not the fairytale you were expecting.



April 4, 2017 – Beauty

Kylie Jenner posted her new Pepsi commercial.1 In it, she walks away from a modeling job to join a protest. The commercial ends with cheers when Ms. Jenner hands a Pepsi to one of the officers in the police line and he accepts it.

Almost immediately, it was panned for trivializing the social justice movement.  Pepsi pulled the commercial shortly thereafter saying, “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize.”2


April 9, 2017 – Beast

United Airlines, as do most other airlines, overbooks its flights to ensure their flights are full.  Normally, volunteers are requested and the airlines offer increasing compensation as an incentive. In this case, there were not enough volunteers.

“United and regional affiliate Republic Airlines, which operated the flight, selected four passengers to be removed to accommodate crew members needed in Louisville the next day. The passengers were selected based on a combination of criteria spelled out in United’s contract of carriage, including frequent-flier status, fare type, check-in time and connecting flight implications, among others, according to United.

Three passengers went quietly. The fourth, who was literally pulled out of his seat and off the plane, was David Dao, a physician in Elizabethtown, Ky.”3

You can see the disturbing incident here: Video shows a passenger forcibly dragged off a United Airlines plane.


What do these tales of Beauty and the Beast have to do with employee engagement?

Let’s consider the implications in each phase of the engagement lifecycle:


Phase 1: Pre-Hire Process

This phase really focuses on the employer brand. What makes a company special enough for someone to even consider working there? Given the backlash, the employer brand of both companies has been damaged and that could mean fewer people considering them as a place of potential employment.


Phase 2: Hiring Process

If a candidate was in the hiring process, this gaffe might cause them to reconsider the opportunity and/or request more in terms of salary and benefits to compensate for working at a company with a diminished reputation.


Phase 3: Onboarding

New employees might begin questioning their decision to join the company and could potentially begin to look for other opportunities.


Phase 4: Employee Engagement

How many employees started looking for roles outside of these companies because they no longer want to be associated with the insensitivity each company showed?  How many engaged employees just became disengaged because they feel betrayed by their company? How many employees are ashamed to wear their uniforms? How many employees would recommend their company as a great place to work?  How many employees would be willing to promote the company brand knowing that their personal brand would be associated with it?


Phase 5: Advancement/Promotion

Would employees still want to advance within these companies or would they start looking for advancement opportunities outside of the company?


Phase 6: Transition/Termination

Will voluntary turnover increase? How many employees will leave as a result of the controversy?


Phase 7: Alumni

Would previous employees consider returning to these companies given the uproar? Would they recommend or refer potential employees or business to them?


Will there be a happily ever after?

PepsiCo and United Airlines have a long road ahead.  While they seem to be focusing on their consumer relations, they cannot neglect to consider the implications their actions have had on their employees.

Let’s hope they can transform just as the Beast did in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.5



What are your thoughts on these Beauty and the Beast companies with respect to employee engagement? What other companies have faced similar situations?



1 “Kendall Jenner for PEPSI Commercial.” YouTube. PepsiCo, 04 Apr. 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.
2 Strachan, Maxwell. “Pepsi Pulls Kendall Jenner Ad Following Intense Backlash.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 05 Apr. 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.
3 Mutzabaugh , Ben, and John Bacon. “United Airlines says controversial flight was not overbooked; CEO apologizes again.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 11 Apr. 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.
4 “Video shows a passenger forcibly dragged off a United Airlines plane.” YouTube. Business Insider, 10 Apr. 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.
5 http://movies.disney.com/beauty-and-the-beast-2017




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