Flying people to their destination as promised is table stakes for what Delta Air Lines calls the company’s “virtuous circle” between customers, employees, and shareholders.

Now the organization is expanding its strategy to create a digital virtuous circle founded on a simple principle: the only way to deliver a seamless, personalized customer experience is to do the same for employees. It’s designed to provide artificial intelligence (AI)-based training and career development at the precise intersection of customer expectations and employee skills and aspirations.

“Using technology and empirical evidence, we can provide a positive, personalized employee experience that motivates people to deliver that little extra effort, going above and beyond for the benefit of our customers,” said Tim Gregory, managing director of HR Innovation and Workforce Technology at Delta Air Lines. “If you do well by your people, they will do well by customers. This is the cornerstone of our skills-based organization.”

Generative AI to Help Customers and Employees

Read more news and coverage from SAP Sapphire

Speaking at this year’s SAP Sapphire & ASUG Annual Conference Orlando, Gregory said that Delta Air Lines is developing a generative AI proof of concept slated to automatically transform generic skill descriptions into more accurate capabilities that reflect the job’s requirements based on real-world, updated employee and customer data in context.

“We want to include the concept of intuitive reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF) that allows the hiring manager to provide feedback to the machine, going beyond just fine-tuning,” he said. “That way, our employee’s time goes towards benefiting our customers and achieving our business goals.”

Here are highlights from Gregory’s presentation where he shared how Delta Air Lines was investing in the company’s employee experience to the delight of customers and for the organization’s competitive advantage.

Linking CX to EX Generates Customer-Centric Business Results

According to Gregory, research found that skills-based organizations were 107% more likely to place talent effectively and 98% likelier to retain high-performing talent and have a reputation as a great place to grow and develop. It’s impossible to argue with the strong business results of Delta’s strategy that links the customer and employee experience. Forbes ranked Delta the sixth best employer in the world. The airline is No.1 in on-time arrivals and a trusted consumer brand.

Just as data reveals what matters to customers most, so does it surface insights to help Delta create a positive employee experience, whether someone was just hired or has ambitions to move up in the organization. For example, Delta has already exceeded one of its objectives to fill 25% of corporate and management positions with people who are currently in customer-facing roles.

“Delta people are highly diverse with many kinds of backgrounds, educational levels, and capabilities,” said Gregory. “Bringing our frontline employees into management makes solid business sense because they have a customer-centric perspective that they’ll incorporate into their managerial role. That will enable us to have a strategic direction focused on our customers. These folks can leverage their existing knowledge so that the learning curve and time to productivity is lower than if we were to hire externally. It’s more cost-effective to move someone up through the organization, and it gives us a deep bench of talent for succession planning.”

Gregory added that 90% of non-executive management roles at Delta Air Lines no longer require a college degree.

At SAP, relevant, reliable, and responsible AI is built into HXM solutions

Career Path Intelligence with SAP SuccessFactors

To help employees move from an hourly, customer-facing role to the salaried corporate position of their dreams, Delta Air Lines is building a dynamic, skills-based experience for continuous employee learning using the talent intelligence hub in SAP SuccessFactors solutions. Individual employees have a growth portfolio, which is a profile that includes their current skills and competencies mapped to formal and informal learning opportunities within and outside the organization, some recommended by AI-based algorithms. 

“We are incorporating disruptive technologies like our AI-driven skills ontology that automatically incorporates industry trends with embedded intelligence,” said Gregory. “We can say which skills are most important to Delta Air Lines and the employee can easily combine those with their current capabilities, strengths and styles, and aspirations to create a personal career path. All of the content is based on Delta-specific skills and personalized to each employee’s career goals.”

How to Build a Modern, Skills-Based Organization

Centralizing employee profiles with opportunities to learn and collaborate on one intelligent platform provides Delta’s employees with development paths that reflect the organization’s business strategy. 

“We’ve taken our approach to customer experience and applied it to the employee experience, building a modern, skills-based organization,” said Gregory. “Our digital virtuous circle means that we invest in our employees, the employees invest in our customers, our customers invest in us by choosing Delta Air Lines, and our shareholders keep investing in us to keep the whole flywheel turning.”

Susan Galer is a communications director at SAP. Follow me @smgaler.

Get the latest SAP news delivered to your inbox once a week