British Airways Cultural Practice Analysis
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Published: Wed, 13 Sep 2017
The aim of this report is to illustrate the cultural practice at British Airways. British Airways have their own unique cultural practice. An organisational culture is a powerful tool that influences the behaviour of their members of the organisation and to help them become more effective. Culture is a force that helps organisation to operate outside of their awareness because it helps them to explain many of their puzzling and frustration experiences in life (Schein, 2010). It also helps us to understand the cultural force that enable us to understand ourselves better.
Everyone want to work in an organisation culture that is made of a different culture because different employee brings different life experience to the organisation. An organisation culture is influenced by the founder, executives, and managers because they are in charge of making a decision and strategic direction. An organisation has a life of their own and gain, value, practices, and beliefs.
Culture cannot be defined by a single definition, according to Hofstede 2016 organisational culture is the “way in which members of an organisation relate to each other, their work and the outside world in comparison to other organisations”. A second definition is “The set of beliefs, values, and norms, together with symbols like dramatized events and personalities that represents the unique character of an organisation and provides the context for action in it and by it” (Morgan, 2006). A third definition is “The language they use along with the regularities in the interaction such as “thank you” followed by “don’t mention it” or “How is your day going so far”, “just fine”. Observed interaction patterns, customs, and tradition become evident in all groups in a variety of situations (e.g. Goffman, 1959, 1967; Jones, Moore & Snyder, 1988; Trice & Beyer, 1993; Van Maanen, 1979) (as cited in Schein & Schein 2016).
As stated in Schein & Schein (2016) organisation is one of the most difficult organisation attributes to change includes founders, leadership, and services.
Background of British Airways
British Airways (BA) is the largest airline in the United Kingdom which provides domestic and international air service for passengers and cargo. They are based in Waterside and their main hubs are London Heathrow and Gatwick airport which operate both short and long haul flight (British Airways, 2016).
In 1972 the United Kingdom government founded the British Airways Board to manage British Overseas Airways Corporation, British European Airways, Cambrian Airways and Northeast Airlines and all four-company merged on 31 March 1974 to form British Airways.
After being, a state company for almost 13 years, British Airways was privatized in February 1987. In 1987 the expanded with the acquisition of British Caledonian, followed by Dan-air in 1992 and then in 2012 by British Midland International.
On 21 January 2011, British Airways merged with Iberia to form International Airlines Group (IAG). IAG is the third largest airline group in the world and second largest in Europe in term of annual revenue. IAG is also listed in the FTSE 100 index and on the London Stock Exchange.
British airways have more than 280 aircraft which are Boeing jets and airbus and they have more than 42,000 employees. They operate in 75 countries with 150 destinations which include Europe, North, Central and Latin America.
British Airways Environment: Cultural Practice
British Airways cultural practice is about how they organise themselves, their beliefs, rules, and procedures. British Airways cultural practice is based on their hierarchy system whereas information is passed down from the board of directors to the executive managers than to the different departments to implement every manager oversee all activities. Then the managers then pass the information upward to the executive directors who will pass it to the board of directors where the discussion on any issues concerning the information will be deal with.
At British Airways, they prefer to use both role and task culture, two culture out of Charles Handy’s four types of culture. The Open University (2016) stated that Handy model does not display and shared learning that can identify evolution or culture. Role culture is where the structure is defined and employees know their job and who to report too. Task culture is where a team is a formed to complete a specific task. A task culture offers some benefit to employees, for example, they are motivated because they feel empowered to make a decision within the team.
British airways cultural practice is to work with everyone from different background, ethnicity, sex, age, culture and religion and treat them fairly without any discrimination and they also want to give their customers maximum satisfaction at all time. They create a conducive environment for all their customers and provide maximum security at all time when customers board their plane. At British Airways health and safety for all customers is very important that why they make it their point of duty to provide a conducive environment to all their customers and to ensure they are safe at all time.
British Airways cultural practice is to carter an excellent environment for their employees and customers, in term of the safety of aircraft and good customers service. They make sure they provide a safe aircraft by checking the plan twice before passenger starts boarding the plane because they do not want to put their passengers at risk. They also make sure they have the top of the range aircraft with the best facilities to meet customers demand and to give customers the best experience.
Focus of the report
This report will focus on British Airways, their cultural practices how Schein’s cultural model theoretical framework can apply to British Airways cultural practice. British Airways has gone through different mergers and acquisitions. They employed different people from different race, religion, and background. However, British Airways is very successful but like any other organisation, they have their drawbacks. According to Grugulis & Wilkinson 2002 British Airways as gone through crises after another from the terminal 5 disasters to cabin crew goes on strike.
Organisational culture is very important for British Airways because it helps them to set their value, belief, how employees should behave, direction for the organisation and help build harmony within the organisation. According to Lief et al (2012), British Airways culture is the centre of their organisational culture whether it is internal or external environment change. For example, if there is an increase in competitive competitors, organisational culture to adapt the organisation must adapt or try to change their culture in order to survive in the industry.
Theoretical framework provides a specific outlook on which to examine a topic. Triandis (1984) claim that theoretical framework is a specific theory about aspects of human existence such as cultural perspective. These theories can then be applied to the study of actual events. There are multi theories about culture, such as
- Geert Hofstede – Hofstede’s cultural dimensions
- Edgar Schein – Edgar Schein’s cultural model
- Charles Handy – Charles Handy’s four types of culture
- Globe “Global Leadership and organisational behaviour effectiveness”
- Edward T. Hall – Hall’s cultural factors low context/high context
- Trompenaars Model of National culture differences
All these theoretical frameworks are available; however, I am going to discuss these two model Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and Schein’s cultural model.
Hofstede claim that there are six dimensions of culture, he carries out a research between 1967 and 1973 on about 100,000 IBM employees in more than 70 countries based on global cultures in the workplace (as cited in National culture 2010). The six dimensions are:
- Power Distance Index – power distance is how power is distributed. It is also a hierarchical order, which everyone has a place in which no justification is needed.
- Individualism vs Collectivism – individualism is classified as a loose-knit social model where an individual only cares about them immediate family themselves. Whereas collectivism is a tight knit model, where an individual expert their relative or a team to look after them in exchange for loyalty.
- Masculinity vs femininity – is also known as tough vs tender culture. Masculinity is an organisation seek for material rewards for success, assertiveness, and heroism. Whereas femininity stands for quality of life and caring for the weak. In other words, both masculinity and femininity are the behaviour with an organisation.
- Uncertainty Avoidance Index – is the level a risk taking an organisation feels comfortable with. Society feels uncomfortable with uncertainty and the issues with this dimension is that the future can never be known.
- Long Term Orientation vs Short Term Normative Orientation – this dimension is sometimes called normative vs pragmatic. Every society must deal with their past while facing the present and future. In this dimension society who score low like to maintain time-honored traditions and norms whereas society who score high ensure they encourage thrift and take more pragmatic approach.
- Indulgence vs Restraint – indulgence is where society enjoys the natural human drives to enjoy life and have fun. Whereas restraint is the need to have regulation by strict social norms.
Schein’s model highlight three level of culture within an organisation. The level ranges from tangible things you can see and feel to value and beliefs. The three levels are:
Even though artifacts are what you see, hear and feel, it also is visible products of the organisation such as its language, its style in clothing, its lists of value and its physical environment (Schein & Schein, 2016).
The second level is about the organisation ethics, what the organisation stands for? Their goals, vision, and mission. What is their aspiration? Things that the organisation portrays as their value such as reward and honesty.
The final level, which is considered the most important level. According to Schein & Schein 2016, everyone at the organisation of to agree with a system that works for them which include morals, behaviour, and standards when they were setting up the organisation.
Hofstede’s vs. Schein’s Model
As stated in Schein (2010), Schein believe that culture is a set of assumption that is collective by a group of people to solve a problem/issue within an organisation. As for Hofstede, he believes that culture is formed in an individual through acquisition such as symbols and values over a lifetime through the physical and social environment (Rajala, Ruokonen & Ruismaki, 2012). Even though both Hofstede and Schein theoretical framework focus on symbols rituals and value. Hofstede contrast from Schein because Hofstede say that organisation culture cannot be change and Schein believe it can be changed.
According to Rajala, Ruokonen & Ruismaki (2012), Hofstede believe that manager must change their mental program, in another word the way they think to adapt to the international environment by implying the national cultures within the organisation culture. On the other hand, Schein believes that senior managers should reinforce the whole organisation culture through their learning experience.
British Airways culture is embracing over the entire organisation whether it is geographies, gender or on the plane. Schein model focuses on how to overcome a problem whether it is internal or external through share learning, unlike Hofstede model (Morschett, Schramm-Klein & Zentes, 2011). British Airways use assumptions on their cultural practice to create a positive working culture and established the British Airways way on how to work across territories.
As stated in Rajala, Ruokonen & Ruismaki (2012), Schein model focus on a dynamic organisational culture where a manager can make a cultural change, more effectively within the organisation rather than them bring cultural change to a national level through share learning. British Airways have different learning program that helps managers to focus on having a fun working environment for employees. However Hofstede model focuses on national cultures statistic based on internal cultural change.
Based on the argument stated above, it would be suitable to apply Schein theoretical framework, artifacts, values and assumption to British Airways cultural practices because Schein focuses on the relationship between leadership and culture of the organisation. Whereas Hofstede looks at national culture. Schein model also looks at the leader, how they shape and form the organisation culture through their values, beliefs, assumption and practices (Schein, 2010). Beliefs, language, behaviour, values, and symbols are very important to British Airways because they provide culture identity and stability working environment for everyone.
Schein’s Model on British Airways Cultural Practice
Using Schein’s model on BA cultural practice it will help their organisational behaviours becomes clearer. For example, they can profess moral standards and high aesthetic at the second level. While displaying curiously at the third level.
One of British Airways most noticeable artifacts is their logo was inspired by the union jack and it is a distant echo of the speed bird symbol.
Another artifact for British Airways is their brand, British Airways value their brand because it is what they stand for. The core of their brand is “To Fly. To Serve”. It is their longstanding motto that represents their Coat of Arms and what they promise their customers.
Another artifact for British Airways is their uniform, with over 300 uniforms from 1980.
British Airways has a professional culture where employees have to dressed appropriately at all time and follow strict policies. According to Osborn (2014) some of British Airways strict uniform policies are:
- Hair no longer than collar length, clean and clipped back (food handlers)!
- Worn up hairstyles must be neat and tidy with no wispy bits.
- 1 stud earring in silver.
- No chipped nail varnish and must be either red or very natural pale shades, no blacks, blues etc.
- Lipstick to match your uniform colours.
- No external badges on clothing or bags (only name badges or luggage labels).
- Tights only in black (free from snags) always carry spares.
- Shoes polished and plain black for male & female, no buckles etc. Ladies shoes no higher than a couple of inches for the heel.
- Uniform bags and suitcases plain black or navy blue and no stickers (wheelie bags to fit in the overhead locker).
- Jackets to be worn fastened at all times.
- Gillets (in flight overalls) to be worn at all times during the service on board.
- Hats to be worn when walking through the airport and in the public eye.
- Uniform jackets to be worn at the same time (as a crew) i.e. all on or all off, if it is hot weather outside.
- Ties and cravats to be worn at all times.
- Shirts clean and well ironed, crisp white.
- âSleeves never to be rolled up.
- âSkirts to sit on the knee no higher.
- Trousers not to be altered e.g. narrowed.
- Name badges to be worn at all times with your wings on your jacket lapel.
- No chewing gum EVER.
- No eating in front of public unless a bad delay or discreetly on board.
- Do not use mobile phones whilst walking through the terminal or on board the aircraft.
- No rucksacks or shopping bags.
- Never use bad language or critic the airline.
British Airways values their employees because they play a significant role in deciding the organisation culture. The employee’s attitudes have a big impact on the culture at British Airways. The mindset of employees influences the culture at BA. British Airways vision and mission statement are “To be the most exclusive and first choice airline for all airline travelers” and “One destination seeks to ensure our customers fly confidently that, together, we are acting responsibility to take care of the world we live in”. with these British Airways are telling their employees and customers that they are safe on the ground or in the air. They also want employees and customers to feel safe and confident when they are flying with British Airways.
At the most deepest and important level, tacit assumption is where British Airways culture elements unseen and cognitively identified in everyday activity between employees. These elements are an element of culture British Airways often find taboo to discuss within the organisation. British Airways have some unspoken rules which acclimated to their attributes over time. Therefore they use surveys and carry out casual interviews with employees but these cannot draw out attributes. British Airways need to know that culture at this level can be an underlying assumption driving element that is often missed by organisational behaviourists.
This report argue that British Airway has a strong hierarchy, they have both role and task cultural practice at the organisation.
I will conclude this report that BA should have a culture that shows how each department works together and how communication is passed with their hierarchy. Also, it is very important for BA to show their customers they value them by providing maximum customers satisfaction at all time.
Changes in new regulation, competition or the company environment may require a new culture. However, they may new an entire set of organisational values and assumption may need to be changed. So the business can develop and survive. Therefore the executive of to pursued the values of the company and make sure it is accepted by the employees.
From this report, we can say culture is the way we do things. In this context culture is the way we judge people beliefs and behaviour and culture is also an influence on human behaviour and how human behaviour and how human perform at work.
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