Airline giant Virgin Atlantic is laser-focused on enabling employees to be their true selves at work.
It recently made headlines when it launched its new Vivienne Westwood-designed uniform. At the same time, the airline decided to simultaneously update its gender identity policy to allow employees could choose what uniform to wear.
Here is their advert, featuring Ru Paul’s Drag Race judge Michelle Visage:
This move is already having a positive impact on hiring at the travel giant. CEO Shai Weiss shared with the Telegraph that the employer’s move to reform a traditional, aesthetics-focused sector has seen a 100% rise in job candidates.
“When we get 10 applicants for every job – we’re in a really good position,” Weiss noted. “Short-haul pilots want to be long-haul pilots. And long-haul pilots want to be Virgin Atlantic pilots.”
For Weiss, Virgin Atlantic’s secret to success or “secret sauce” as he terms it, “is our people, is that we have amazing talent, and they should be included and inclusive”, as reported by the Guardian.
Clearly, inclusion is key to helping the airline bounce back after COVID-19 pandemic brought travel to a halt (and airlines had to lay off or furlough the majority of their workers).
While Weiss has previously shared that the airline pays “fairly and competitively”, hiking salaries, which is the approach other airlines like Lufthansa and Air France are taking, may not be enough to thrive in this hot labor market, dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’.
Employees want to work for a purpose-driven organization where they feel part of something bigger, therefore it is no surprise diverse, equitable and inclusive organizations are winning in this environment.
Inside inclusion and development at Virgin Atlantic
While Virgin Atlantic’s new uniform policy played a huge role in this hiring success, it builds upon other work the airline has been doing around inclusion.
Notable examples are allowing visible tattoos on people who work in customer-facing roles, as well as giving them the choice of whether or not to wear makeup, as well as providing optional pronoun badges for employees and passengers.
In addition, the travel giant has rolled out mandatory inclusivity training.
All of these policies came together and contributed to Virgin Atlantic being named by Newsweek as the UK’s most loved workplace. Other employers on the list include Selfridges, GWI, and PerkinElmer
Virgin Atlantic’s chief people officer Estelle Hollingsworth commented: “At Virgin Atlantic we use our company and the power of our brand as a force for good in the work we do with our people, customers, community and planet as we strive to be the most loved travel company.
“It’s an honor that this has been recognized by our number one ranking in Newsweek’s UK’s Top 100 Most Loved Workplaces list.
“We’re committed to continue creating a positive and inclusive workplace environment as we lead by our purpose that everyone can take on the world.”
Of course, being the most loved workplace is not just about inclusion, but also giving people opportunities to learn and grow at work.
In 2022 and beyond, Virgin Atlantic has made learning and development its priority: “Our people make our brand. Our people spark that emotional connection with our customers, and that’s what creates the love [our customers] have for Virgin Atlantic.”
Ultimately for Isherwood and Virgin Atlantic, having “learning and development opportunities fuels happiness and overall engagement”.
“If people can play an active role in their own development, they’re going to feel empowered”, be more satisfied in their jobs, and have “a stronger sense of belonging to the company”.
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