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It is important that human resources within the airline devise strategies to minimize the possible negative effects that union relations may have on the workforce.
There are several issues that have impacted the airline industry as a whole, and present implications for the human resources challenges discussed thus far. The first of these issues is a drastically changing workforce demographic within the airline industry. In particular the workforce is aging. Establishments in the air transportation industry have a significantly higher proportion of employees in the 45 to 54 and 55 to 64-year-old age ranges than other industries (Wallace & Gonzalez, 2005). Specifically, employees in the 45 to 54-year-old age group comprise approximately 35% of the whole workforce (Wallace & Gonzalez, 2005). On the contrary, workers in the 14 to 24-year-old category comprise only 4% of the workforce (Wallace & Gonzalez, 2005).
This issue presents human resources challenges with regards to employee retention, since an older workforce means that many are close to retirement, which would also challenge HR with the recruitment of new, qualified employees. Employee satisfaction may also be a related HR issue, since an older workforce may more noticeably demand benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans. These demands further implicate the cost effectiveness of operations within human resources.
Another key issue faced by the airline industry is the use of contingent workforces. This is an issue that is not unique to the airline industry, but instead is on the forefront of all service industries. Contingent employees include "independent contractors, leased employees, freelancers, temporary workers and seasonal employees (Pratt, 2002)," which are willing to work in positions within the airline industry for monetary compensation only, without any benefits. The utilization of the contingent workforce may especially be desirable to the low cost / no frills airlines since it generally results in the maintenance of a flexible staff while still acquiring the personnel and expertise required (Pratt, 2002). The human resource challenges most involved in this issue are the recruitment and retention of qualified employees. The fact that contingent employees do not receive benefits beyond monetary compensation may make these positions less desirable than positions where these individuals perform the same job for the same pay, but also receive benefits.
Another prevalent issue within the airline industry is the use of outsourcing. Outsourcing has increasingly been used by establishments within the airline industry as a means to cut costs and remain competitive (CNN, 2004). Airlines have been outsourcing divisions such as heavy maintenance work and call-centers to locations over seas where the labor is cheaper. However, this outsourcing may cause serious issues with regards to security and safety compliance, which can have devastating effects on entire operations (Grassi, 2005).
Overall, the human resource function implicates the effectiveness of all operations within the airline industry. Appelbaum and Fewster (2004) discuss key ways in which human resource management impacts organizational development within the airline industry. Observations made include: successful airline were characterized by a management style that was communicative and hands-on; the most high performing airlines empower their employees with a focus on quality and teamwork,; Management personnel in the most high performing airlines demonstrate excellent communication skills, are approachable, and place importance on employee recognition; two-way communication and employee input is emphasized and valued in successful airlines; and a commitment to continual training and development of employees (Appelbaum & Fewster, 2004). These observations illuminate ways in which human resources within the airline industry can devise strategies to overcome challenges.
Appelbaum, S.H., Fewster, B.M. (2004). Human resource management strategy in the global airline industry -- a focus on organizational development. Business Briefing: Aviation Strategies, 70-5.
CNN (2004). Outsourcing has yet to really penetrate the travel industry. Local Needs and travel infrastructure tends to require local people on the ground. CNN.com Retrieved 6/13/07 from http://edition.cnn.com/2004/TRAVEL/12/23/bt.outsource.airlines/index.html.
Grassi, D.M. (2005). Outsourcing airline safety may prove costly. MichNews.com.
Pratt, M.K. (2002). Contingent employees raise host of benefit questions. Boston Business Journal. Retrieved 6/13/07 from http://boston.bizjournals.com/boston/stories/2002/04/08.
Taylor, R. (2004) Evaluating an instrument designed to assess job satisfaction of airline passenger service staff. Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 21(1), 172-83.
Wallace, D., Gonzalez, C. (2005). Turbulence in the…[continue]
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