When Delta embarked on a mission in 2015 to redesign its uniform collection, Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Director — New Uniform Program, had one goal in mind —bring along each of Delta's 64,000 uniformed employees on the daunting, evolutionary task ahead to ensure their voices were heard.The exclusive collection, created by New York fashion designer Zac Posen and produced by clothing retailer Lands' End, is days away from its global launch May 29. Ekrem shared his thoughts on the final stages before Delta employees step into a new era of sophistication and style.
Q: How does it feel to be so close to the finish line?
ED: Euphoric, exciting and to be honest, a little sad. It's been a long journey and I can't help but reflect on the last three years. We had no script when we started, except ultimately we wanted to put the employee front and center with every decision. It's been a learning process, but I hope Delta people know we made it our mission to hear their voices and keep them involved every step of the way.
Q: What does it take to transform Delta's look – clothes, shoes, accessories – for 64,000 employees overnight May 29?
An army of people. Consider that each employee will have 18-plus pieces of clothing delivered to their homes. When you combine the shoes and accessories from Zappos, Spanx and our other venders, we are shipping close to 2 million items over a three-month period of time to every country that Delta operates to. Lands' End in particular is working day and night. They've set up a dedicated hotline for Delta employees with up to 50 customer service representatives. It's been a great collaboration with them to get orders completed on time.
Q: For employees working overnight May 28, worlds may collide between the new and old uniforms in the morning. What's Delta's plan?
Rest assured if you're on an overnight flight from Atlanta to Paris passing through time zones, you won't need to change into the new uniform at midnight. If you're starting your shift the morning of May 29, no matter if it's our first flight out in Sydney, or the last in Honolulu, you will need to wear the new uniform.
Q: Why is Delta launching the new uniform in just one day?
A lot of companies handle these rollouts over an extended period of time, but we drew a line in the sand. This is a new, bold and different Delta. No matter where our customers, partners or employees are in the world, they can walk into any airport, hangar or facility and see Delta and our people transformed overnight.
Q: What are you hoping the reaction will be from customers?
We received a lot of positive feedback from customers during the early wear tests. Moving away from the red and blue is difficult for some after 30 years, but the majority understand we have to constantly change and improve. If you look at the last three decades, the company is different. With the technology improvements in the mobile app, the investments made inside airports and gate houses, the enhancements to Delta Sky Clubs and buying new aircraft – we have already transformed Delta. This is another evolution.
We want everyone to join in the celebration by posting photos of Delta people looking their best with the hashtag #DeltaReadyForTakeoff.
Q: What do you hope employees will take away from this process?
I hope their takeaway is that Delta values them. Delta is a place where voices are not only heard, but listened to and acted upon. Our living, breathing desire for the last three years has been that the morning of the 29th and every day after for the next decade, employees will wake up, put on the uniform and think, "I am so proud to work for Delta. I look good. I feel good. I can't wait to see our customers." If we've done that, it's a success.
Q: After May 29, what's next?
A lot of people have asked if we're done now. In some ways, no. We'll be listening to employees, gathering feedback throughout the summer and asking what we can do to make this an even better product. Delta employees should feel 100 percent confident knowing we will make whatever changes necessary so they can do their jobs to the best of their ability. If we don't, we'll wind up with something mediocre. And Delta is not in the business of doing anything mediocre.