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United Airlines

United Airlines launched the Core Strengths: Results through Relationships training to shore up issues around collaboration and conflict it was facing among its intact teams. The training was aimed at increasing productivity while allowing it to operationalize its purpose statement, “Connecting People. Uniting the World.” The Core Strengths training has led to improved team effectiveness through greater self and team understanding, improved collaboration, and lower conflict costs.

“People really see themselves in the conflict piece” and participants acknowledge “I do do that.”

Efrain Ayala-Johnson

Senior Manager, Enterprise Learning Delivery at United Airlines

The Challenge

United Airlines maintains a strong focus on the performance of its teams and takes an active stance in addressing those that are not working cohesively, where collaboration isn’t taking hold the way it should, and when misunderstandings are occurring among teammates. The company lives up to its “Connecting People. Uniting the World” purpose statement by monitoring bi-annual performance reviews and employee engagement research results to be aware of and proactively address issues around conflict, lack of team cohesion, or instances of team members struggling with conflict triggers that lead to relationship breakdowns.

United Airlines has a robust learning and development program and selected Core Strengths for its impressive work with team effectiveness and its ability to expand United Airlines’ current training for dialogue skills, problem solving, understanding diverse personality styles, and how to creatively work better together.

The Core Strengths Answer

United Airlines first rolled out The Core Strength: Results through Relationships training to its management administrative employees. Teams are selected for training based on mid-year and annual performance management data as well as low employee engagement scores that are measured every 4 months. Human Resources team members look for any hint of conflict, comments around dialogue interruption, and an overall lack of team cohesion in recommending teams to go through Core Strengths training.

Teams are also selected to take the program when managers proactively approach Human Resources with a request to improve team dynamics and collaboration. According to Efrain Ayala-Johnson, Senior Manager, Enterprise Learning Delivery at United Airlines, Core Strengths is recommended “when people are asking for information about team engagement. ‘How can I create a little bit more self-awareness about my behavior and how it’s perceived? And how can I create some degree of understanding of where other people are coming from and how can I improve my communication with them?’”


Core Strengths has been successful in improving team performance at United Airlines through greater understanding of team dynamics, improved collaboration, and promoting healthy opposition to see all sides of an issue to create alternatives. In particular, the teams have benefitted from the opposition vs conflict modeling. “People really see themselves in the conflict application,” Ayala-Johnson said. According to Ayala-Johson, the content resonates with participants and they acknowledge, “I do do that.” In addition, Core Strengths has been praised for its reliability while also maintaining enough flexibility in the methodology for participants to see themselves accurately. The broad range of behaviors and the connection to peoples’ motives were noted as aspects of the methodology that stood out from other training programs.

About the Company

United Airlines is a global airline based in Chicago, Illinois. Its purpose is “Connecting People. Uniting the World” and it is committed to customers through a series of innovations and improvements designed to help build a great experience for every customer. The company operates approximately 4,900 flights a day to 355 airports across five continents. In 2018, United Airlines operated more than 1.7 million flights carrying more than 158 million customers.

When relationships work, there isn’t a problem that can’t be solved.

Core Strengths is Now Part of Crucial Learning.

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