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BA threatened with industrial action over new performance mgt system

What could BA have done differently to avoid this situation? Your thoughts please...

Here is what I feel could have been an Engagement based approach that could have been followed:

Before designing the New Performance Management System

1. The questions asked at this stage should have been:
    Are we aiming to "improve performance" or are we fixing what's not broken?

2. Is the time right (proposed Brexit and associated uncertainty; assuming that the scheme was on the anvil well before the referendum)

3. How to ensure that the development process is Engaging, inclusive and well documented?

During the Design process

1. Engagement with Employees while the Dashboard idea was starting to emerge on the drawing board. Employees' psychological contracts could have been strengthened by focusing upon What makes freshers apply to BA? What they like about BA (what keeps them at BA?)
After the Design and just before launch

2. Further Engagement through inviting inputs from employees, the concept of marketing for ideas should have been the mainstay for the development. What encourages them to deliver high quality customer service? What more can they do deliver better service? How would they like their performance to be measured?

3. Application of Emotional Intelligence by the Design Team (BA Management) by Choosing a  Warm and Positive Theme. This  should have been a starting point; motivational associations with Joy/Brightness/Twinkle/Smiles/ Satisfaction/Loyalty should have been worked upon.
[ It seems that the BA management would do well to remember and apply this magnificent quote by Sybil F. Stershic ..“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel.]

4. Generating and Strengthening an emotional bond by choosing soulful and engaging words. The term "Dashboard" itself has an insensitive ring to it, it sounds clinical, heartless and very mechanical.

5. Using Traffic Light analogy to sum up a fellow employee's performance is not only hurtful, its downright insulting and demotivating.

After the Design Process and leading up to the Launch:

1.The new system should have been soft launched, monitored (employees updated)

2. A final decision for a full fledged launch should have then been arrived upon.

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  • Hi Subhajeet

    I haven't read anything about BA's new system, but I found your points 3, 4 and 5 thought-provoking. We do talk about dashboards, green lights etc without stopping to remember that these are actually metaphors. I don't think I personally would find a traffic light system demeaning, but it lacks nuance, and in an organisation the size of BA, you would expect some kind of trial (perhaps best not to say pilot scheme!) before going live.
  • In reply to Elizabeth Divver:

    Hi Elizabeth
    Thanks a ton for your response, its very encouraging to know that you found some points to be thought provoking. This was my first post on the CIPD Community and I would be delighted to write more and definitely look forward to your thoughts...

    As in every aspect of life, timing is everything and I reckon that BA could have timed the roll-out better. Currently the UK economy is under a fair degree of pressure and a recent news report also talks about an ongoing shrinkage within the economy.
    These are situations when the Organisational goal should be "optimum performance" and certainly not a time that any business house would like to face Industrial action.
    Also, speculation about Industrial action is likely to affect customer sentiment and encourage cancellations..thus affecting service delivery standards (something the proposed performance management system was aimed at improving!).
    Seems very paradoxical....
  • I wonder what the real issue is here.

    BA and their Unions have a long history of interesting discussions not all of them as understandable outside their industry as inside.

    The Company have been on a longer term restructuring exercise for years to try and compete with the more low cost airlines. As part of this they have been trying to restructure their cost base as they believe they have considerable challenges in having historically higher wage rates.

    The Unions don't accept this view of course. Therefore there isa challenging ER environment.

    The performance process suggested can only be seen in this regards. It is not that revolutionary and its not that unusual to have a "dashboard" or even a traffic light system in some performance management systems. (and anyway we have always graded people using things like Acceptable / Unacceptable - is that any better?). Having a set of metrics that an individual can be measured against and that are known seems like something the CIPD would probably support.

    The Unions of course see this as a means of ultimately performance managing people out the business - this is why they are arguing for a guarantee of no dismissals as a result of the performance management system. What Business would give that guarantee?

    I believe that there has been quite extensive consultation on these proposals. Although imagine this is something the two sides disagree on.

    Would I delay a major roll out because of Brexit - personally not. If you felt it was the right thing last month to have a new better performance management system then why wouldn't it be today?

    And finally is it any wonder that the Unions call a ballot (action short of a strike) just before the summer holidays - its when the power of the threat is far greater than at other times of the year.
  • In reply to Keith:

    Hi Keith
    Thanks for participating and for mentioning some very interesting points.

    HR can really create value addition and be counted as a growth partner if it helps align the policies and procedures in accordance to prevailing economic realities (for this it is highly desirable for current HR practitioners to have had a background in streams related to accounting/economics or marketing); cutting edge HR practice should be dynamic and its policies including roll-outs should be well timed, if there are sudden shocks or pressures, these should be evaluated and to overcome any surprises in extreme circumstances, proposed roll outs should be with held.
    The marketing world is full of such last moment changes to minimise risks. One of the most recent and high profile example is from Tata Motors (of Jaguar and Land Rover fame) wherein Tata Motors renamed their "zica" hatchback as "Tiago", this was done because the company took into account the prevailing global impact of the " zika" virus and chose to spend money on rebranding rather than allow the brand to suffer.
    I have mentioned this to link my reply to the fact that the BA team should have with held the roll out of the new performance management plan, post Brexit. Even a superficial scanning of financial news reports indicates that there is tremendous pressure upon the economy and associated uncertainties. The composite index has tumbled below 50, (the first time in over six years) this reflects a contraction. There have been reports of many projects being put on hold and large scale order cancellations from several quarters.
    Some thing that was fine last month, can go out of flavour this month and therefore some prudence was expected from BA, (as mentioned in your post above "is it any wonder that the Unions call a ballot (action short of a strike) just before the summer holidays - its when the power of the threat is far greater than at other times of the year")

    My question then is............why give them an opportunity to create a disruption at such a crucial juncture?
  • In reply to Subhajeet Chatterji:

    But the simple question is - is the UK vote to Brexit really a condition of and in itself sufficient not to put n place a more robust, business focused performance management system that the organisation believe will drive performance and help it compete in the changing economy. I believe they decided it wasn't and that it was in the best interests of the business to have a robust PM system in place and derive the benefits that entails. We will of course never know if that decision was correct as we cant know the counter history but for what its worth I think they were right to push ahead.

    I don't necessarily buy your assumption that for HR people to be effective they need current experience in accounting or marketing. I think its useful for all managers to have an appreciation of other disciplines but HR is a specialism in its own right that can bring a unique insight to problems. We rarely see Finance people bemoaning the fact that Senior Finance people haven't spent a time in HR....we need to stop these apologies for our profession.

    For whats it worth I don't see the relevance of your Zica/Zika reference. Clearly it would be stupid to name a consumer product similarly to a current media hyped disease. (In fact the issue here is that didn't spot the link a long time ago).

    Finally rarely a summer goes buy when one transport union or another (and often the BA unions) are threatening industrial action. It is a feature of the ER year (you may recall the whole Gate Gourmet thing blew up in the summer) Its when these things happen - a quick scan of the news shows this "dispute" I actually not really have much impact or even publicity.

    The Southern Rail dispute is having far more impact on people than a potential "work to rule" by some BA staff.