Effective human resource management is one of the key issues and determinant of the effectiveness, productivity, profitability and long term survival of entities. Human resource management refers to the effective integration of human resources or people/employees to business strategy so as to achieve predetermined goals and objectives (Becker & Huselid, 2006). The case study presented relates to the human resource management of Japanese Airlines which can be said to be in a mess. The company requires changing some of its human resource management strategies/approaches for it to be productive, profitable and to expand especially in the current global airline markets that are characterised by high competition from both national and international airline industries. This essay is going to discuss some of the various HR strategies that can be employed by Japanese airlines to enable it attain back its profitability, growth and ensure long term sustainable growth and competitiveness.
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Human resource management as mentioned is one of the most vital resources to an entity and how it is managed determines to a great extent its overall performance and productivity. It is a process that entails managing, incorporating and balancing the different needs and desires of employees with the goals and objectives of an organisation (Datta, Guthrie & Wright, 2005). Human resource strategies refer to the various initiatives taken by a company to ensure that its human resource or its workforce is producing at its full capacity. Human resource management is a term that encompasses different facets of HR including human resource planning, recruitment and selection process, employee motivation, performance appraisal, and diversity management among others. In the recent past, the airline industry in the world has been experiencing increased competition and diversity.
Economic integration and globalisation has led to the opening of Japanese borders to foreign direct investment, a factor that has not only led to increased competition for national companies but also increased workforce cultural diversity. This has in turn led to increased need for effective human resource strategies to cub negative impacts of cultural diversity and production. There is also a need to move from the traditional Japanese management practices that shields employees from being an integral part of the management.
From the case study given, Japanese airlines can be said to be suffering from ineffective human resource management which has led to its near collapse. Poor diversity management has led to the development of a culture of "us versus them" between the IASCO crew members and Japanese crew members leading to distrust and lack of commitment in jobs (Goldman et al, 2008; Ozbilgin, 2005). The employment terms of IASCO crew members are stringent which have led to the emergence of this culture and in turn negatively affected the productivity of these employees. It is also stated that the company has continued to maintain the "old model" of management characterised by specialised and clearly defined jobs, formal standard operating procedures and rules, a formal hierarchy, department's boundary limits and standardised career and training paths. These are some of the issues that can be said to have led to poor performance and low employee productivity.
As the HR director, there are several HR strategies that the HR department has focussed on in order to help our company's human resource improve its productivity and performance. Human resource is the key determinant of the output of a company. Harnessing the potential and capabilities of all employees of Japanese airline is our department's main goals. There are several issues that Japanese airlines require to change as far as human resource management is concerned. Currently, the company is exuding a culture of distrust and division among employees from Japan and those from IASCO. Our first role would be to bring harmony to this divided workforce.
Diversity management is one of the strategies that we are currently employing (Ployhart, 2006; Bassett-Jones, 2005). One of the major reasons why we have focused on diversity management is to enhance group cohesion and team work. Individuals work best when they feel that they are not discriminated against or prejudiced by other groups within the organisation. However, for such cohesion and team spirit to be cultivated, each employee must feel that he/she is appreciated and that he belongs to the company. The company needs a culture change that can only be achieved if cultural and diversity issues are addressed.
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What we are trying to do in the company is to get people to appreciate each other regardless of their cultures or different cultures. We understand that harmony is the key to achieving team work and improved performance of our crew. In the human resource department, we have come up with a cultural training program that we believe will be effective in enabling employees understand the unique characteristics and appreciate. The way the human resource has been managed for the past years, there has been no room for diversity management and this has contributed to the rift experienced between the IASCO crew and the Japanese crew leading to emergence of a "them versus us" culture. How individuals perceive the management of a company determines to a large extent their commitment to their jobs and their ultimate output. The reason as to why there has been poor productivity amongst the IASCO crew is due to the fact that they feel alienated by the others and the management.
Training all employees on the diverse cultures, and terms of working will be essential in changing the mindset and culture that has proved to be detrimental for our company in the past years (Reynoso, 2010). All employees need to feel a sense of belonging. By initiating diversity training programs, we intend to improve interpersonal relationships amongst our employees. This in turn is expected to help them appreciate each other and improve team work which will ultimately lead to improved productivity, customer relations and customer service. According to research on human resource management by Lin and Shih (2008), effective management has been proved to improve group cohesion, team work, individual and unit performance and also employee retention rates. We believe that by effectively managing the diversities that are currently present in our workforce, we will be able to create a team spirit culture, arouse the innovative and creative abilities of our crew members, lead to improved performance and ultimately retain the employees in our workforce.
Human resource planning (HRP) is another initiative or strategy that we are undertaking. This strategy refers to the process through which an entity carries out an assessment for the identification of its human resource requirements needs that are essential to enable it achieve its company's wide goals and objectives (Reynoso, 2010). For a long time, the company has not been assessing its human resource needs and this has resulted in hiring and recruiting the wrong persons to the entity hence leading to poor productivity. The company has been hiring out of the current necessity without first evaluating its needs. By initiating a human resource planning process, we are trying to identify the current skills that our company requires to achieve its goals prior to hiring the persons. This process will also enable us identify the already existing skills and any gaps that may require training. This way, we will be in a position to clearly define job specifications and roles hence leading to recruitment of the right persons to the company.
HRP will also be essential in helping our company align its business strategy with human resource strategy. This is because this process will ensure that only employees with right qualifications and desired skills, characteristics and qualifications necessary for achievement of the goals and objectives company will be hired (Zagelmeyer, 2009). The major main reason for undertaking HRP strategy is to help the company align its human resource needs and the business strategy needs which is an essential element of improving the performance of human resource and that of the company.
Effecting the recruitment, selection and training processes are the other HR strategies that we are currently undertaking. The methods employed in hiring and recruiting and selecting employees to join an organisation determines the output of the organisation (Reynoso, 2010). Effective recruitment and selection process enables a company to select the right personnel to join its workforce in line with the goals and objectives of an organisation. As evidenced from the case study, the recruitment and hiring process of our company has mainly been driven by the needs to cut costs rather than our company's future growth needs. This in turn has led to selection of the wrong persons, bringing on board the wrong attitudes which have led to creation of a culture of distrust leading to poor performance.
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The major reason for undertaking this strategy is to streamline the recruitment and selection process of our company to ensure that it is in line with the company's goals and objectives. This will ensure that individuals hired to the company will have the right qualities to enable the company grow, expand and be competitive both in the short run and in the long run.
Training of newly recruited and already existing employees is another HR initiative that we have introduced in the company. For employees to perform their tasks better, it is essential that they be equipped with adequate skills and knowledge (Reynoso, 2010). Being a service oriented company, Japanese airlines is committed to offering high quality customer service to all our travellers. This however cannot be achieved if our employees are not empowered and equipped with necessary skills and strategies of delivering services. Newly recruited employees need to be trained on some basics of their jobs, the culture of the company and skills necessary to enable them 'fit-in' the company quickly (Wei & Lau, 2010). Training of existing employees will help in boosting their service delivery especially for our flight attendants making Japanese airlines an attractive travel option for individuals (Zagelmeyer, 2009).
Communication is one area that our company has for the past years faired poorly. From the case, the company is still maintaining a rigid company structure characterised by formal hierarchies and specialised and formalised jobs. The management seem to be out of reach by employees with communication being very low. Employees need to feel that they are part and parcel of the overall company management (Fornes, Rocco & Wollard, 2008). Alienating them leads to development of a perception that the management is not interested in their welfare and this has a negative impact on their productivity.
Improving the communication between the management by reducing hierarchical barriers and increasing top management participation in employee related issues is essential in improving our employees' performance (Zagelmeyer, 2009). The main reason for improving communication in Japanese airlines is founded on the fact that communication leads in creation of trust, respect, a feeling of belonging and appreciation and improved motivation. All these elements are essential determinants of the overall performance of an individual, his/her commitment to his/her job and job satisfaction.
Employee motivation is another area that our company has totally failed for a long time. The company does not have any initiatives put in place to improve the motivation of employees. From the case, Japanese employees are said to have been working hard to "improve the bottom line profits" of the company while IASCO members are viewed as mercenaries only interested in the money they get from the company. Motivation is improved when employees are able to relate their efforts to organizational goals and the reward systems that they are entitled to get for their efforts. A company's goals that are only tied down to profit maximisation while sidelining the monetary and non monetary goals of employees lowers motivation leading to low and poor productivity from employees as it has been the case for IASCO crew (Reynoso, 2010).
Terms and conditions of Japanese crew and IASCO crew are different although these two groups are in the same job level. This is a demotivating factor that we look forward to eliminating. All employees of our company need to feel that their efforts are appreciated. To ensure this, we have come up with monetary and non monetary incentives to motivate employees. Compensation of all employees needs to match up to their qualification and job category. Although labour cost reduction has been the main concern of the company, a focus on performance improvement would help boost the profitability hence eliminating this. By doing this, we intend to improve the overall performance of employees, improve their creativity and innovation and also increase job satisfaction leading to better performance of the company and higher profitability.
Career planning and development is also a HR strategy we are undertaking. According to recent research, employees' performance and decision to remain or resign from their jobs has been found to be influenced by their perception on their company's commitment to their career development needs (Holton & Yamkovenko, 2008). Employees value career development and planning opportunities as they are viewed as a form of management's concern for their welfare and needs. With increasing global competition in the airline industry, our company needs to retain some of its best. By undertaking career development, we hope not only to retain the employees but also to improve their technical and service delivery for our company. This will in turn make Japanese airline an airline of choice for air travellers hence improving our much needed profitability, competitiveness and growth.
Despite the efforts we have been undertaking to improve the human resource management in our company, culture change has proved to be one of the most difficult endeavours. The company has for a long time been governed using hierarchies, standardised rules and regulations which have led to establishment of a culture that does not consider integration of human resource, effective communication, diversity management, and employee motivation as vital elements of its productivity. Culture of an entity is usually rooted deep and changing it is quite difficult as it necessitates changes in operations and management processes (Doorewaard & Benschop, 2003).
The major difficult in culture change and diversity management has been as a result of the management practices that exist in the company. For team spirit, group cohesion and employee collaboration and harmony to be achieved, there is need for increased integration of the human resource into the management systems of the company. Given the hierarchical nature of our company and the unwillingness of some of the managers to relinquish some of their powers to pave way for strategic human resource, change of culture has been almost impossible.
Although getting people to come together has been a tough job, we have managed to increase interpersonal communication through diversity management training sessions and the "them versus us" culture is slowly being eroded amongst the employees. Employees have begun appreciating each other's differences and opinions following the training. However, given the magnitude that distrust attitude has had on the IASCO employees, the process has been slow. Most of these employees have been calling for a review of their employment terms including pay and termination of contract notice duration.
The management is also slowly appreciating the efforts we are making towards the improvement of morale and motivation. We have gained support from some of the department managers and we are working on convincing the top management to commit itself to this activity. However, training and development programs have not gained considerable support from the management given the economic hardships that the company is experiencing but support has been promised once the economic crisis period is over and we have communicated the same to our employees who seem excited about it.
Human resource management at Japanese airlines has been in a mess for a long time. The impact of globalisation seems not to have dawned on the management of the company especially as far as strategic human resource management is concerned. Human capital management has not been given the weight it deserves and this is clear from the distrust culture and attitudes as well as the hierarchical old business model still in existence at the company. This essay is attempting to solve the human resource management deficiencies in Japanese airlines. If implemented, the identified strategic human resource management strategies will be beneficial in improving the individuals and unit performances as well as the entire performance of the airline. The management needs to commit more resources and time to understanding the needs of human resource and how to meet them.