Assessment of British Airways Human Resource Management Strategies


In a human body, heart is the most important part form where we can judge whether body working fine or not. In the same way in any organization the most important asset is employees. And to maximize their assets, management should always manage the employees working condition with intelligence and efficiency. If employees of any organization are well managed, the organizations mostly do very well. It is therefore necessary to work on development, building, motivation, enhancement and enrichment of the employees.

In general every organization believes that Human Resource (HR) offers them reasonable advantage. These advantages can be

Quality work force

Quality culture etc.

The Strategic Human Resource Management ensures that the employees or human capital of an organization contributes towards its achievements with their performance, knowledge and skills. The Traditional Human Resource is only concerned with the implementation of the policies like:


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But when general HRM plug into the organization's strategy the outcome of HR department more scope to increase the abilities of their workforce and focus on the vision and mission. This connection is made to improve the organization performance and develop organizational culture which in turn facilitates innovation and flexibility. Overall the key principle of Strategic HRM is to achieve organization's vision and mission.

But in this globalized and changing world organizations has to demonstrate the importance of an effective human resource generally refer to the set of policies designed to maximize organizational integration, employee commitment, flexibility and quality of work. So that organization achieves their goals. To understand more about HRM, I have chosen British Airways for this course.

Overall about British Airways

British airway is the biggest airline in United Kingdom and third in Europe. It is based at the busiest international airport in the world i.e Heathrow Airport, London, and has a worldwide flight network with partners as Qantas in Australia, USAir in the United States and TAT European airlines in France. With its Alliance partners and its own operations, British Airways in a year serves on an average of 95 million passengers, using more than 1000 air-planes and around 441 airports in about 86 countries. The major activities of the British Airways is the international and domestic scheduled operations and charter air services for the carriage of freight and mail, passengers and other additional services.

To ensure that an operation of this size functions as smoothly and effectively as possible, needs well organized Strategic human resource management (SHRM). There are several approaches and models by which Strategic HRM can be applied but basic strategic HRM model is widely accepted by many authors, researchers and even critics as well (Kane and Palmer, 1995). This basic model is based on the external and internal environment and basic organization strategies.

Basic Model of Strategic Human resource Management (Adapted from Kane and Palmer, 1995)

In order to fulfil its mission and objectives, BA needs qualified employees for that the HR department is responsible to advertise the vacancy and select suitable candidates. The recruitment of staff is one of the most vital tasks within the organisation.

People are the most important asset for any organisation. The success of the organisation depends on the abilities, knowledge and skills of the people working in that organisation. They are the most important benefit for any industry or organisation. Therefore to ensure that an organisation hire the right people, a standard and formal structure must be used.

Recruitment and selection

"Recruitment is closely monitored to ensure that it is only authorised if the Company is confident that the business need is critical"

So, it can be concluded that BA is following a balanced combination of both models in order to maintain efficiency and cost effectiveness by carefully hiring and training employees and on the other hand self-satisfaction and benefit of workers by using a humanistic approach.

In the FactBook 2007 BA claims: "British Airways places great emphasis on 'Investing in its people". This investment is always very considerable because of its effectiveness and the unjustifiable consequences if it is not made according to the requirements.

British Airway's focus on establishment of effective recruitment and selection methods and more importantly on training and development of employees can be understood by this increase of 5% on the employee costs.

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Townley (1991) argues that "organisations are increasingly likely to focus on more general attributes and values than narrow task-based criteria." Barclay (1999) explains the fitness of organisations are expressed in terms of personality, attributes, flexibility, commitment and goals rather than the ability to do specific job for which person is being recruited. Torrington and Hall (5th Edition: p 142) termed these general but valuable attributes as organisational criteria. It now depends on the nature of organisation that what attributes are much valuable for them than other. In case of British Airways, the massiveness and expanding nature of organisation requires candidates with flexibility and adoptability and 'utmost professionalism'. Apart from these, in the Fact Book 2007, BA claims that "The motivation and commitment of employees remains key to the success of British Airways."

Categories of departments

To be a bit precise, the recruitment for employees is functionally categorised for six departments.

Customer service

First is Customer Contact which is responsible for delivering on board services for customers. Employees in this department are further divided under Cabin Services and Passenger Services. BA is looking for candidates having customer service experience and age over 18. The candidates for this department should have calm and warm personality, effective communicational ability with people from diverse cultures, ability to work under stress and team support attitude.

Commercial department

Secondly, there is Commercial Department which recruit people for Sales, Alliance, Marketing and Strategy. The organisation is looking for candidates having ability to work in a dynamic, fast moving environment with excellent communication, organisational and planning skills to work in this sector. Experience of Customer Service here is also desired by the selectors.

Technical department

E-Business and IT department and Technical and Operations department covers e-Commerce, e-Procurement, IT and e-Working and pilots, engineering, flight training sectors respectively, which are working for the organisation to cope it with the latest technological requirements for success. The employees must have innovative and creative thinking with an ability to think beyond the technology. Good negotiation skills, problem solving skills and considerable experience and qualification in job related technology is required.

Corporate Services

Corporate Services includes HR, Finance, Health Services, and Legal services, PR & Communication, Safety, Security Community and Environment. This department look for motivate and committed personnel which have same interest as the objectives of organisation. Experience and standard qualification in the related field is usually required.

Graduate schemes

At the last, there is Graduate Opportunities and Training Schemes sector which hire graduates, students for industrial placement, trainee pilots and engineering schemes. The excitement and challenge of airline industry along with the sheer diversity in company's structure and opportunity to take the career in desired way by acquiring valuable skills and experience make BA a priority for young graduates.

Methods to choice the applicants

Organisations have different ways to select the candidates depending upon different factors including time, cost, administrative ease and selection criteria for the post to be filled. A list of selection methods as described by Torrington and Hall (2006) includes, Application Forms, Self-Assessment & Peer Assessment, Telephone Interviewing, Testing, Group Selection Methods and Assessment Centres, Work Sampling/Portfolios, References etc. British Airways ( use CV and Application forms, Interviews, Assessment Processes, Criminal Record Check.

Applications Forms are the written documents which usually reflect personal, educational and employment information of the candidate. Application form has been extended by some organisations to ask much more and much detailed information from the candidates like about their skills abilities and also some situational questions are made to evaluate thinking approach of candidate. British Airways stress more on the CV and directed the candidates to develop a well organised, logical and easily understandable CV. A brief discussion about the related skills is required with no spelling and grammar mistakes. The main objective of Application forms is to shortlist the pool of recruited candidates. Application forms can be used to obtain candidates' signatures as to the truth of the information provided. Application Forms are slightly better and fair indicator of candidate's potential due to their standardise format making the comparison of the information during sifting and short listing easier and less prone to error

Assessment Process

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Assessment Process incorporate multiple selection techniques usually involves Leaderless groups, Command or executive exercises, Group Problem Solving, psychological tests, in-basket tasks and variety of interviews and presentations. Due to the multiple measures IRS (2002d) noted that these are the most effective ways of selecting candidates. At the end of the measures, the assessors have to come to cumulative rating for each individual, related to job requirements. This selection method is costly and time taking but provide opportunity to evaluate the candidate by in depth observation. Assessment Process followed by British Airways constitutes Group Exercises, Interviews, Psychometric tests, Presentations, fact-finding and role plays.

Group exercises

Group exercises will investigate the team working abilities and communication skills of candidates.


Interviews contain tricky questions and critical situations to do decision.

Psychometric Tests

BA claims: "The tests we use most often focus on verbal and numerical skills. We may also include a personality assessment which another tool is designed to find out a bit more-about candidate."

Interpersonal skills

Fact-finding explores interpersonal skills to gather related information whereas Presentation shows communication skills of a candidate with a group.

Role Plays

In Role Plays, one of the assessors will act as a client and the candidate have to tackle him according to the given situation.

Testing method

Testing is one other source of selecting candidates. It is a sort of alternative for the unreliability of interview as an indicator of performance and potential of the candidate. But views against Testing dislike the objectivity of the technique and the difficulty to incorporate the test indications with the rest of the evaluation. In the form of psychometric testing, role plays and fact-finding, BA uses this technique to evaluate the appropriateness of the candidate with the requirements of the job. The other types of test according to Torrington and Hall (6th edition) are Aptitude tests, General Intelligence tests, Special aptitude tests, Trainability tests, Attainment test and Personality Tests. The detailed nature of Testing may provide a sufficient analysis of one's capabilities but there are also some problems in using this as a selection technique including a time consuming nature, the inadequate criteria to develop the testing for a good job performance, ability to be sexually, socially or racially biased.

Criminal Record Checks

Criminal Record Checks is also a very essential part of BA's selection process as in the world of International travel; nothing is more important than safety and security. BA is UK's leading safety critical business ( with a well renowned safety record so in order to fulfil legal requirement to check the criminal record if the employee is being hired to work with children and/or vulnerable adults.

Result of Motivation

The top ranked order of factors which effect the motivating :

Interesting factor

Good engage

Job security

Work done on Full appreciation

Well and good working conditions

Promotion and organization growth

Personal loyalty on employees and staff

Being feeling in on things

(9) Sympathetic help with personal problems

(10) Tactful discipline

Maslow's need-hierarchy discuss the theory which provides some interesting and entertaining insight onto employee and staff motivation by comparisons of above results. The number top one ranked motivator is interesting work which describes the self-actualizing factor. Second ranked motivators' good wages which describe the is physiological factor. Third ranked motivator is full appreciation of work done which discuss the esteem factor. Fourth ranked motivator is job security which describes the safety factor.

In June 1997, Ayling praised a striking new visual identity supposed to be based on market research but that generated emotionally charged controversy. The change was radical; symbols were simply scrapped (new design, new colours, new motto, denial of the psychological national belonging) as if it was possible to start from scratch with new company identity and culture.

As strikes immediately showed it, BA's culture was still one of a public sector company. Instead of trying to negotiate, Ayling harshly condemned strikers without taking in account this public sector company background. In spite of Ayling's desire to eradicate " British-ness" from BA, employees and people in general (customers, the press, Margaret Thatcher) were not ready to accept it. Strikes were also the result of incomprehension from employees: were the new salary scheme (part and parcel of the efforts to reduce area costs) and the £60 million identity change coherent? Was it possible for employees to stay motivated and involved in BA under those conditions? Furthermore, 160 planes stayed with the Union flag instead of the new design in 1999 because BA lacked time to repaint it. The identity change was as a consequence first of all badly accepted and in addition badly implemented.

However, Ayling began to understand after the strikes the high necessity of human resources as part of cultural background in a customer-facing business . He launched a campaign to raise staff moral in October 1997 and started to think about focusing on people on the front-line through interviews and speeches praising communication between management and staff. He built a hotel and developed a new concept for BA's headquarter (no permanent desk-space). Again, in 1999, an opinion survey was sent to all employees, results were alarming, and Ayling introduced training and motivational programmes.

Cost cut is a very unpopular practice. Consequently, managers usually do it only when it becomes an emergency. Bob Ayling did not take it like that. He anticipated the future and he kept an unwavering stance to impose the BEP measures while a record profit was announced for the year: he sold sensible activities, relocated the accounting department…

He asked for volunteers to leave the firm not because he could not afford to pay them, but to replace them with flexible people having more appropriate skills.

At last he decided to concentrate BA strategy on high margins activities, and implemented a rationalisation program, paring down unprofitable routes and cutting excess capacity.

This anticipative approach triggered the admiration of financial analysts, but the consequences inside the company were not so positive. Lots of the problems i.e. created in an organization are the direct result of worker and employees failing to communicate.

Career management and development

In an environment where talent is rare and external opportunities are plentiful, British Airways believes that the employees will stay in the company only if their contribution is valued. They will stay in the company as long as they are able to perform and do the useful work in the challenging and the stimulating environment. Managers to some level are held responsible for development of their subordinates at British Airways. There are some concerns due to the pace at which the company is growing, this process in not in taking place as fast as it needs to be, especially around the development of the competencies for the company's many types of teams.

British Airways develops a lot of courses for their employees or staff to learn, and at the same time, give them opportunities to go outside to learn. All training and development is built on a firm commitment to releasing and maximising the full potential of every British Airways employee. Due to the huge range of jobs across the company it hard to describe every development initiative in detail here.

Overall British Airways has an impressive range of training resources at hand, which there staff will be able to draw upon as they need them. These include courses like computer based interactive e-learning centres, reference materials, video based e-learning and library facilities. These programmes are offered to the staff, so as to develop a wide variety of skills like team building, presentation, leadership and negotiation.. In certain cases support is provided towards technical and professional qualifications. In all these areas, the responsibility is on the individual, through discussions with their manager, to take responsibility for seeing their needs are met.

When it comes to career progression for any staff BA always try to adopt a creative approach, responding to people's aspirations and providing cross training where it is needed. When vacancies arise, they are advertised internally and where possible they promote from within.

Pay and Rewards

To reward the contribution of an employee towards an organization, pay is used as a motivator. It is an important issue in the public as well as private sector. Many organizations have formed the pay methods to enhance the individual and team performance. Money acts as a motivator to reward their contribution.

Some of the expected impact areas of concern at local level are:

Pay as a communicator of values in terms of fairness, equality, teamwork, flexibility and working across the organization or with external partners

Pay as a motivator of individual performance, team/ organizational performance, individual development, responsibility, risk-taking and loyalty/ experience

Pay as a payment factor of production in terms of cost (control/ implementation/ maintenance) and effectiveness in resourcing the organization

Conclusion and Recommendation

The purpose of this paper was to investigate the human resource management strategies of British Airlines. Judging the human resource management strategies of British Airlines with the work of leading experts in the field of Human Resource Management strategies, we found out that:

At British airlines management has created a conductive environment, with more workers participation, career succession planning, career relevant training, greater opportunities for higher roles, job satisfaction, trust and commitment to enhance employee commitment and satisfaction.

In general British Airways has balanced strategy to recruit and select employees make BA a joyful place for employees to work in without disturbing the cost scale much.

I think British Airways should shift the emphasis from CVs to Application Forms in order to get accurate, related and required information about candidates. Assessment procedures followed can be characterized as better method to select candidates and BA is following this quite efficiently.

If these findings are properly implemented by BA, a number of benefits could be achieved which include developing a set of shared values, reducing costs when the relationship finishes and increasing profitability as a greater number of end users customers are retain.