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Human Resource Industry Audit - Reflection Paper

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Human Resource Industry Audit - Reflection Paper

Human Resource Industry Audit - Reflection Paper

Tommy Kramer

Nov 4, 2006

Human Resource Industry Audit - Reflection Paper

Change is the one constant in the highly competitive business world. Industries are consistently exploring different ideas, techniques, and processes to make or keep their organizations moving forward in the competitive environment. The commercial airline industry is an extremely competitive, safety-sensitive, high technology service industry (Appelbaum and Fewster, 2002). This industry is struggling to remain competitive and effective management of personnel plays a large role in its viability. People, employees, and customers must remain the center of the industry’s core competence (Appelbaum and Fewster, 2002). The human resource audit focuses on the management of people in the airline industry. The purpose of this paper is to summarize the key human resource (HR) challenges in the airline industry, the recruitment challenges, and the training and development issues of the airline industry.

The airline industry underwent deregulation in the 1980s. This previously protected, regulated and sometimes thriving industry has undergone enormous changes bringing about major challenges for the industry. Improving labor relations between unions, management and employees is a central challenge for the industry. The airline labor relations model carries a fundamental assumption that labor and management are natural enemies and the gain of one would be at the expense of the other (Miller, 1992, p. 390). HR can achieve excellence for the airline industry if HR can mend years of division. Labor and management must work together as partners to defend against external adversaries and forget the past and salvage the future (Miller, 1992).

Competition introduced low budget fare airlines presenting the industry with the challenge of controlling costs. Controlling costs caused airlines to sacrifice the health and safety of employees’ in the interest of productivity. The conflict between productivity pressures and safety is apparent in the airline industry (Boyd, 2001, p. 444). The airline industry trade unions commonly report members that are pressured to look the other way on small safety violations (Boyd, 2001). To solve this problem, human resource managers should redress health and safety in the HR agenda since these issues are constantly being eroded by cost-cutting initiatives (Boyd, 2001).

Many airlines have entered bankruptcy court in their struggle to maintain solvency. In an attempt to save money, airlines negotiate with trade unions to cut salaries in an attempt to control costs. Controlling labor costs and recruiting are two HR challenges which affect each other directly. The dwindling incentives in the industry make airlines less attractive to new recruits and encourage people to forego joining the airline industry. Reasonably good pay, steady work, solid pension benefits and travel privileges were the rewards for the successful applicant (Keeling, 2005, p. 44). Unless management and HR come to grips with this challenge they will face a shortage of new recruits. To make the airline industry attractive to new recruits, HR must convince management to approve the right compensation packages and present them to new applicants.

Struggling airlines are also confronted with continuous transformation of the industry. Assumptions about the airline industry have changed. Gone are the days of a protected industry from competition or bankruptcy. To remain competitive airlines must produce an attractive product and sell it a reasonable profit (Miller, 1992). HR’s primary focus is the management of change and should become an agent for continuous transformation (Ulrich, 1998).

Recruitment and selection are critical issues facing the airline industry and the shortage of new recruits is the leading challenge. Problems causing recruits to shy away from the airline industry such as downsizing, salary cuts and increasing numbers of airlines entering bankruptcy have consumed airline professionals and few recognize the industry workforce has remained almost unchanged. The challenges facing the industry are a lack of skilled pilots, shortages of quality frontline people and an aging workforce (Appelbaum and Fester, 2002, Keeling, 2005, & Flin, O’Connor, & Mearns, 2002). Recruitment should focus on trying to change outcomes in the industry. First be honest in selling the industry and try to make it as attractive as possible (Pollitt, 2004). It is a difficult choice for airlines to bring their excess baggage to the table, but if new applicants are fully aware of the contribution they can bring to the industry despite its shortcomings, this may appeal to the ethics of the worker

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