Case Study: The British Airways (Ba) Swipe Card Debacle

The Analysis and Plan

The Main Problem

The main problem at British Airways (BA) is the lack of an effective internal communications strategy during the change implementation. The manner in which a change in an organization gets communicated influences employee resistance to change (Amarantou et al. 2018, pp. 9-11). BA lacked a proper strategy to disseminate the change information to employees. BA can ensure employees join in defending its reputation by making the information accessible to them (Curtin et al. 2015, pp. 142-145). In the absence of effective communication, office gossip and speculations among employees lead to job insecurity. As evident in BA, employees felt disrespected and devalued by the failure of management to disclose the changes and how they would affect their working schedules. It followed a massive decline in job satisfaction among employees, a rise in absenteeism, and a decline in productivity. BA needs a response strategy to address the concerns raised by the poor internal communication.

The Alternatives

 The first alternative is to abandon the swipe card system and start afresh by collaborating with the union. If employees do not envision the change before it gets implemented, it can become a burden to many and eventually fail. According to the business philosophy associated with Fred Hassan, “attitude drives behavior, behavior drives culture, and culture then fosters executional excellence and sustainable high performance” (Thornton, G. 2018, p. 108). The three – attitude, behavior, and culture – are competitive advantages to organizations and are built through employee engagement in change management. The benefits of this alternative include less resistance, fewer strikes in the future, and better productivity. The challenges of this alternative include potential financial loss due to massive investments in the process.

The second alternative is to push forward the change by involving the willing employees and letting go of employees that resist the change. Sometimes workplace change must occur rapidly and with less employee consultation, especially when such a change is vital for the organization. The management team at BA needs to create a compelling “why?” for the change, communicate the implementation process, remove barriers, and reward acceptance. The benefits of this alternative include a consistent culture of change management that is immune to external factors like strikes and fewer effects on travel schedules. The challenges of this alternative include the legal and ethical obligations of the organization to involve stakeholders in significant organizational change and the possible loss of top talent.

The Recommendation

British Airways (BA) should abandon the swipe card system and focus on involving the union and employees in developing a better implementation strategy coupled with effective internal communications. Once implemented, BA employees will be able to perform their duties without depending much on authority. Intrinsic motivation factors affect change implementation in all stages. Employee involvement can provide this motivation hence creating a conducive environment for organizational change to be successful (Ukpe, I. 2018, p. 2). BA can achieve this by ensuring employees are prepared for the change while reinforcing it with the union’s help.

The Organizational Development Interventions and Implementation Process

Diagnosis: There is an opportunity with effective internal communications to solve issues, such as absenteeism and decline in job satisfaction. It is also crucial for BA to address concerns raised by employees by administering surveys and interviews. Financial records can help establish the impact of the change.

Data collection and analysis: The data collected through surveys and interviews get analyzed to identify the cause of raised concerns. Employees may get interviewed on different issues, such as why they take sick leave or the cause of their absenteeism.

Feedback: The findings get presented before the senior management team indicating concerns and recommendations.

Designing intervention: The management team must develop a communication strategy that addresses most, if not all, of the concerns raised by employees. The focus is to ensure every employee feels valued and appreciated without imposing any limitations related to the use or non-use of the swipe card system.

Leading and managing change: The intervention – better internal communications strategy for employee involvement – gets executed. The employees must feel motivated to adopt the swipe card system from scratch once their concerns get addressed. The management must create a vision regarding proper communications on future changes.

Evaluation and institutionalization of the change: Once there is clarity on how the organization will be communicating to its staff, it should become a norm and not a one-time occurrence. Employees working at BA need to be aware of the communication channels to use when raising concerns and ways to address similar issues in the future.

References

Amarantou, V. et al., 2018. Resistance to change: An empirical investigation of its antecedents. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 31(2), pp.426–450.

Burnes, B. & Bargal, D., 2017. Kurt Lewin: 70 years on. Journal of Change Management, 17(2), pp.91–100.

Curtin, T. & Hayman, D., 2015. Internal Communications. In N. Husein, ed. Managing a Crisis. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 141–149.

Thornton, G.S., 2018. Internal communications Flourishes at THE Grassroots: The growing importance of managers in employee engagement. Strategic Employee Communication, pp.107–120.

Ukpe, I., 2018. Psychological Empowerment and Employee Involvement in Organizational Change: The Role of Commitment to Change.

APPENDIX 1: THE PROJECT PLAN USING LEWIN’S FORCE FIELD THEORY OF CHANGE (Burnes & Bargal 2017, p. 3)

PROJECT NAMEImproving Internal Communications at British AirwaysPROJECT MANAGERConsultant
PROJECT DELIVERABLEEffective internal communications strategy for better employee involvement
SCOPE STATEMENTThe objective of this plan is to develop an internal communications strategy and minimize resistance.
START DATE01/01/2022END DATE30/06/2022OVERALL PROGRESS0%
TASK NAMEASSIGNED TOTIMELINEACTIONCOSTS
Phase 1: Unfreezing
Scale down the use of swipe card system graduallyHR department01/01/2022 – 31/01/2022Inform employees through the current communication channels that the swipe card systems will get abandoned for a while.Labor Material Equipment
Phase 2: Create the desired state    
Assess the current internal communication strategyOD consultant1st Feb 2022 – 10th Feb 2022The current status of communication gets assessed. Opportunities for improvement gets identifiedLabor
Identify key metrics to track for successSenior Managers, OD consultant11th Feb 2022 – 20th Feb 2022Focus on employee engagement metrics, employee referrals, and project management issuesLabor
Training and development programsHR Department21st Feb 2022 – 31st Mar 2022The focus is to ensure every employee understands where to channel feedback and concerns. Make it a norm to communicate any change through the established channels.Labor Equipment Materials Financial
Phase 3: Refreeze    
Implement the improved version of the swipe card system to ensure the process is friendly to employees, at all levels.HR Department and Senior Management1st April 2022 – 30th May 2022The process should be gradual. Employees get rewarded depending on how they adapt to the change. Assess employee feedback.Financial Labor Material Equipment
Continuous improvementSenior Management1st June 2022 – 30th June 2022Ensure concerns are addressed and the system remains up to date.Labor Financial