BA gets in shape for the future

Airways’ director for people tells Personnel Today how it is coping with change

Airways’ HR department is having to make some tough decisions as the airline
undergoes massive changes. In 2002, as part of BA’s ‘Future Size and Shape’
programme, the company said it needed to save £650m by March 2004 – including a
manpower reduction of 13,000. A year later, it introduced new business
initiatives to save a further £450m. This sparked wildcat strikes at Heathrow,
which are estimated to have cost the company some £40m. Now the company wants
to cut staff costs by a further £300m.

Robertson, BA’s director for people, talks about the challenges ahead.

How is the HR team at BA involved with staff during this period?

The new business plan will see the HR team working closer than ever with our
managers, our people and the trade unions to transform the business. Clearly
the need for savings will involve more headcount reductions, but unlike the
previous exercise, the exact manpower effect has yet to be determined.

this challenging period, we have worked closely with our employees and unions,
and we will continue to do so.

people department has had a key part to play in the effective delivery of this
change. It has required creative thinking and an innovative approach. As we
move forward towards delivery of our new cost-saving targets, the role of the
people team will remain critical.

Has HR learned any lessons from last year’s high-profile disputes?

We recognise that we can always do things better. We have looked actively at
what the airline can do to improve staff communications in light of events last
summer, reviewing what works well and what could be improved. As a result, we
are making progress in increasing involvement and dialogue between employees
and their managers as we roll out our new business plan.

How will BA communicate its message to staff in the future?

We want to do things differently by giving people greater opportunities for
involvement and discussion. We want our employees to talk to their managers and
unions about the issues facing the business and discuss possible solutions.

briefing sessions for managers will ensure they are able to engage with their
teams about the challenges we face. Workshops and planning sessions will be
held around the company for employees to develop and build plans to achieve the
cost-saving targets in their areas.   

chief executive and his team have programmes of workplace visits over the
coming months, so employees will be able to talk directly to them.

support this new approach, we are using a wide range of tools. A personal
letter from the chief executive, Rod Eddington, was sent to employees’ homes
and a video message was available on the website as part of the business plan

dedicated e-mail address has also been set up for our people to ask questions,
and electronic, print media and briefing packs were used to cascade information
around the business.

How will HR be dealing with employee concerns?

Communications and improved engagement about the success of the airline is
an essential part of good people management, and people management is central
to the motivation of our people and the delivery of excellent customer service.

has well established and jointly-agreed arrangements for discussing issues with
our employees through staff representatives, which include regular forums at
all levels.

normal industrial relations framework will be used for consultation and
negotiation for any changes. These will be taken forward from the local
workshops that will set out how departments plan to reach cost targets.

future has to be about competing successfully. To compete we have to be
profitable enough to invest in the three ‘Ps’ – people, products and planes –
and deliver excellent customer service.

Mike Berry

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