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Silvertail Airlines is one of the airlines that served as a duopoly alongside Singapore Airline during the Singapore government’s ‘two airline policy.’ As part of the duopoly, it meant that the public had to put up with high fares and limited schedules, while the company had not to work too hard to attract passengers. However, the winds of change began to blow when the government settled on deregulating the air sector to allow the entrance of new firms in the duopoly dominated sector. The introduction of low-cost carriers on both the domestic and international market saw an immediate and dramatic change on Silvertail. Following the fall of its share price, the company’s Board of Directors was replaced ‘experts’ imported from the United States of America. Top-heavy management structures were dismantled leading to the disappearing of most middle management positions and the closure of the regional branches. Maintenance was also outsourced. Silvertail eventually emerged as an airline with a new image after overwhelming turmoil which included a very disruptive industrial action.
After the staid image of Silvertail was gone, the airline promoted itself as new, young, and innovative. The problem that faced this new airline was, however, despite seemingly generous redundancy offers, many of the public faces of Silvertail, namely, the cabin crew and ground crew, declined to accept them. This aspect led the Recruitment Manager, Sam Milroy, and Bobbi Stephens, the cabin crew director, in convening an informal meeting for the purpose of deliberating the matter so as to have the best solution. Both believed that the company’s target market was not going to respond to the new image given that most of the cabin crew was composed of old members. Since getting rid of the old employees simply because of their old age was going to have a negative publicity on Silvertail and even possible lawsuits, Sam and Bobbi opted for technical approaches for gradually getting rid of the old workers.
Bobbi suggested on reducing the number of cabin crew per flight and assigning ground crew duties to the others. On the other hand, Sam suggested on getting rid of some of their perks like travel concessions and preferential rosters for so-called ‘family reasons’, keep them away from home longer, put them on the long haul flights because the young ones would not mind since they are more resilient and do not have family concerns. Bobbi thought that it was a good strategy to promote the younger ones since according to him; ‘nothing annoys an older guy more than someone twenty years younger telling him what to do, especially if the old guy thinks he should have had the job.’ They also believed that they could make the lives of the older employees more miserable by simply stipulating that all employees had to have a second language and a degree as eligibility for promotion. Sam proposed that the company needed to rewrite its job description and position description so as to make it harder for the older employees to complete the internal competency requirements, hence declaring them as unfit to serve in the cabin crew. The paper uses the Silvertail Airline case to discuss the best business downsizing approaches.
Critical Analysis of the Current Situation and the Implications if the Company Were to Adopt the Plan Suggested by Sam and Bobbi
The current situation in Silvertail is one that has the potential to tarnish the new image that the company is using to market itself. According to Adler (2010, p.75), extraordinary measures have to be taken by any business to propel it to a new level of perception and credibility in the market. Silvertail is faced with a situation where the old face of the business has not been completely transformed and the people responsible for the old face are deliberately not willing to accept the change. In order to handle this situation, both Sam and Bobbi come up with propositions to deal with the ‘old worker’ problem which they think that is necessary for eradicating the old face of the airline, which could cost their reputation. Different strategies adopted in effecting a change in a business are characterized by different implications for the business thus they have to be carefully thought out. Adopting the plan suggested by Sam and Bobbi would have certain implications as depicted in figure 1 below:
Figure 1: Business implications upon the implementation of Sam and Bobbi plan
Upon the implementation of the plan held by both Sam and Bobbi, the airline would be faced by some ethical issues. First, the duo suggests on cutting down the perks that the old workers enjoy as well as technically separating them from their families in a bid to frustrate them to voluntarily quit the job. It is unethical to implement such a plan which has a psychological effect on the employees. According to Mark (2004, p.53), it is ethical for any given business to protect the rights of its employees by ensuring that all the operations of the business are fair and just and that the common good is protected as well as ensuring that both the individual values and beliefs by the workers are protected. On to the contrary, the plan of Sam and Bobbi focuses on demoralizing the older employees by unethically impacting them with a change in business operations.
Despite the fact that the older employees may taint the new image of the airline, the fact that both Sam and Bobbi cannot run away from is the experience endowed in those employees. Jackson (2012, p.22) points out that the experience of a business staff is critical in propelling the business to new heights of success. Although the older employees depict the older face of the airline, the experience endowed in them is invaluable when it comes to the smooth and efficient operations of the airline. By implementing the plan by Sam and Bobbi, the older employees would desert the airline thus leaving behind a vacuum of experience which has to be filled by the young and inexperienced employees, hence affect the efficiency with which the airline’s operations are carried.
It is the view of Kashi and Franek (2014, p.86), that the best decision-making process involves both the Board of Directors and the experienced employees. Apparently, the opinions and ideas that a new and inexperienced employee can contribute are much far inferior to for the experienced counterparts. The plan for both Sam and Bobbi seeks to demoralize the older employees out of their service to ‘save’ the new image of the airline. Definitely, the perfect replacement for the older employees according to Sam and Bobbi are the young and energetic employees, who due to their limited time in service make them relatively inexperienced. In terms of decision making, it means that the airline shall be obtaining ideas and opinions from those less experienced employees, hence resulting in relatively inferior decision making.
The propositions by Sam and Bobbi would demoralize the older employees, leading to their gradual exit from the job. According to Wilke and Ritter (2006, p.39), the first ambassadors in marketing any given organization are the immediate and the former employees of that organization. Given that Sam and Bobbi want to achieve a new image for the newly born airline, the implication of implementing their plan in achieving their objective would result in a negative publicity as opposed to a positive one. This aspect is so because the old employees would talk about the changes that have been introduced to the airline that adversely affect them. Also, in retaliation for the airline’s ‘mistreatment’ of the old employees, the employees can decide to negatively portray the airline in the society as an expression of their disapproval. This negative publicity would ruin the image of the airline despite the fact that both Sam and Bobbi are trying to build it.
Critical Evaluation of the Downsizing Tactics and Their Implications to Silvertail
According to Ngirande (2012, p.35), downsizing in a business is important for scaling operations to a more realistic and manageable size, as well as giving the business an opportunity to re-evaluate its processes and rewrite its business plan in a manner that reflects the current business status in a more accurate way. The process of downsizing is a bit sensitive thus has several and different tactics through which it can be achieved. Different businesses can, therefore, adopt different downsizing tactics. However, the tactics employed in a given organization in achieving the objective of downsizing can have different implications to that business, either positive ones or negative ones. It is therefore advisable for a given business to settle on downsizing tactics which have positive implications regarding the business-employee relationship. Silvertail airline led by Sam and Bobbi has a proposed plan for achieving the airline downsizing, particularly of the old employees. These tactics are presented in figure 2 below:
Figure 2: Downsizing tactics proposed by Sam and Bobbi to get rid of the old employees
Making Life Less Comfortable between Flights
This downsizing tactic was proposed by Bobbi, who believed that it could be achieved by reducing the number of cabin crew per flight and assigning ground crew duties to the others. According to Bobbi the old workers would be faced by an increased workload which they could not withstand comparing them to the younger employees. This aspect would them isolate them as unfit for the job, leading to their job termination. This downsizing tactic would have a negative implication since subjecting employees to a non-proportional workload would lead to a low-quality service delivery, which would, in turn, jeopardize the new image that the airline is keen on maintaining. According to Arslan (2017, p.17), optimum service delivery by employees is achieved when the employees are not subjected to any form of stress including that of non-proportional workload. The tactic of making the employees’ lives to be less comfortable between flights as part of downsizing would negatively affect the customers due to low-quality service delivery.
Getting Rid of Some Perks
Sam proposed that the airline should get rid of some perks like travel concessions and preferential rosters for so-called ‘family reasons’, keep the employees away from home longer, put them on the long haul flights considering that the young employees would not mind since they are more resilient and do not have family concerns. This downsizing tactic is meant to make the old employees have a feeling that their job is best suited for the younger employees, thus leaving them with no option other than to quit the job. The problem with this approach is that all employees are subjected to the same working conditions, which are generally demoralizing, thus producing an overall poor performance in the job in terms of quality delivery. As Allen and Turner (2018, p.38) point out, employee performance is directly related to the motivation he or she gets from the job. This downsizing tactic does not motivate the employees.
Promoting the Younger Employees
Bobbi believes that putting the younger employees in positions of power is a clever downsizing tactic against the older employees. He believes that the older employees would not bear with the fact that they would be receiving instructions from their juniors regarding their duties but rather would consider resigning from the job. Given that the old employees at Silvertail turned down the seemingly generous redundancy offers to stay in the job, taking instructions from juniors would be none of their worries, hence making Bobbi have settled for the wrong downsizing tactic. The implication for this tactic, however, is the risk of having inexperienced employees occupying positions of authority. Salovaara and Bathurst (2016, p.41) point out that inexperienced leadership in any given business setup leads to poor decision making which has an adverse effect on the general performance of the business.
Re-Writing the Job Description and Position Description
Sam believed that one of the best downsizing tactics is to re-write the descriptions of both the job and the employee positions. By this tactic, Sam envisaged making it harder for the older employees to complete the internal competency requirements for the airline. Re-writing the job description and position description for any organization for the purpose of improving the quality of service delivery, regardless whether it makes it harder or not for some employees to complete the internal competency requirements of the business, has a positive implication on the business. According to Vanitha (2012, p.3), customers are attracted to a given business by the quality of services offered by such a business. Therefore, the implementation of this downsizing tactic would ensure that only those who qualify, and those who possess extra skills for that matter, serve in the airline hence improving the quality of the airline’s operations.
Recommendations on how the Management Could Address the Various Alternatives to Downsizing Using the Appreciative Inquiry
Downsizing tactics in a business setup ought to be selected and implemented wisely as their implications could result in adverse effects on the operations of the business. The management of a given business or organization could, however, the Appreciative Inquiry to address various alternatives to the downsizing of the business. According to Lundgren and Jansson (2016, p.102), Appreciative Inquiry is an approach in management which is concerned in identifying and analyzing the aspects of the business which are working out well as well as the reasons as to why those aspects are working well, for purposes of venturing more into that direction. This approach enables an organization to grow in the direction that its attention is focused. Appreciative Inquiry approach can be used in the Silvertail Airline situation to address the various alternatives to downsizing in a bid to pre-determine the desired implications to the business. The possible Appreciative Inquiry approach is outlined in figure 3 below:
Figure 3: Appreciative Inquiry approach in addressing various alternatives to downsizing
According to Lundgren and Jansson (2016, p.102), the discovery stage in Appreciative Inquiry helps a business in discovering and disclosing its positive capacity. In the downsizing approaches by Silvertail Airline, this stage would involve finding, emphasizing, and illuminating the factors that have brought the business any advantages while implementing the various downsizing approaches. This aspect would give the business an opportunity to isolate certain instances that did not resonate well with building the image of the business while strengthening those that are advantageous to the business. By discovering the positive aspects in any of the downsizing approach adopted by the business, the business gets an opportunity to alleviate the possible negative implications that could have resulted in implementing the any of the downsizing approaches.
Lundgren and Jansson (2016, p.102), points out that the dream stage to any business setup acts as a prime opportunity to envision of what needs to be or what could be. After identifying the positive aspects with the various downsizing approaches by Silvertail Airline, the managers could now begin to think of the best way possible to incorporate those positive aspects in attaining or formulating better downsizing approaches which would result in positive implications to the business. By actuating this stage of dream, the managers would get an opportunity to involve other staff members to have their input on the matter, hence resulting on a solid idea and plan for business downsizing, that when implemented would leave all the parties satisfied, and that which would help the organization to grow in the specific area on which its attention and energy are focused.
The stage for design in Appreciative Inquiry enables the managers in a given business to create and design what they have envisioned in the dream stage (Lundgren and Jansson 2016, p.102). In the Silvertail Airline situation, the managers would now design better downsizing approaches which have been born from the discovery of the positive aspects in the existing downsizing approaches and subsequently thought out well in the dream stage. The design stage gives the managers an opportunity to lay the best ideas, which they have in mind, on an implementable plan. By laying down a clear plan regarding a well-envisioned downsizing plan, the various alternatives to downsizing could be addressed.
According to Lundgren and Jansson (2016, p.102), the last stage in Appreciative Inquiry is the destiny stage and it involves the implementation of the plan that has been designed and created in the design stage. In this stage, the Silvertail Airline managers would now put to action the nice plan which they would have developed from identifying the positive aspects in the implementation of the current downsizing approaches and envisioned the best way possible in the dream stage. Silvertail Airline managers would use this stage of Appreciative Inquiry to impact positive implications on the business by implementing the ‘flawless’ downsizing approaches developed through the Appreciative Inquiry process.
An HR Plan to Address the Future HR Needs for Silvertail Airline
According to Indranoi and Kecharananta (2015, p.79), a human resource plan is a process for the identification of the current and future human resources that an organization requires to achieve its goals and objectives. As an organization, Silvertail Airline requires a robust human resource plan for its future in a bid to achieve its goals and objectives. Some of the things that have to be addressed by such plan would include the kind of downsizing approaches adopted in streamlining the operations of the business, given that such aspects have implications to the business whether positive or negative. Therefore, for Silvertail Airline to succeed in the sector in terms of achieving its objectives and goals, a comprehensive human resource plan is necessary for addressing the future HR requirements for the organization. This kind of plan would have several main pillars as depicted in figure 4 below:
Figure 4: HR plan for addressing the future HR needs for Silvertail Airline
According to Mokina (2014, p.66), an employer brand is a description of the reputation as an employer and its value proposition to its employees. As part of the human resource plan, an HR manager would consider creating an employee experience that would be sufficient enough to market the business to recruits and employees. This aspect can be achieved by aligning the aspirations, values, needs, and wants of the organization with the people the organization is looking to recruit and retain. Creating an employer’s brand would be so crucial in achieving the goals and objectives of Silvertail Airline since the best recruits would consider offering themselves for recruitment due to the marketing of the business by the employer’s brand.
Cabin Crew Training
Cabin Crew training would be one of the key aspects pertaining to human resource plan needed by Silvertail Airline for the realization of its goals and objectives. The training of the cabin crew would translate into improved quality of service delivery to the customers hence resulting into more trust of the airline by its customers. According to Armstrong and Landers (2018, p.88), employee training in any business setup imparts the employees with the necessary skills for their optimal delivery and also gives them the perception that the employer expects nothing but excellent performance, hence boosting the overall performance by the employees. Therefore, cabin crew training would serve as one of the crucial aspects Silvertail Airline needs to adopt towards the realization of its goals and objectives.
According to Yonghan (2016, p.13), career management involves the deliberate planning by an employee regarding his or her engagement to a certain employment, for growth and financial stability. Career management enables employees to think through their career or job objectives and goals. An HR manager would encourage career management among the employees to give them an opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills regarding their current job position. This aspect allows the employees to focus on improving their service delivery hence raising the overall performance of an organization.
Silvertail Airline is a typical business model faced by a human management crisis. In order to ‘save’ the new image of the business, Sam, and Bobbi, who are managers of the organization propose to employ several downsizing tactics which would see the gradual exit of the old workers. Such downsizing tactics proposed by both Sam and Bobbi include making the lives of the old employees less comfortable between flights, getting rid of some of the employees perks, promoting the younger employees in favor of the older ones, as well as re-writing the existing job description and position description for the purpose of isolating the old employees as incompetent. However, using the Appreciative Inquiry process, the Silvertail Airline managers could address the various alternatives to downsizing by observing the four critical stages of the process which include discovery, dream, design, and destiny. Nonetheless, Silvertail Airline needs an HR plan for the future achieving of its goals and objectives, which includes aspects such as employer’s brand, cabin crew management, and career management.
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