|Institution of 'corporate culture' in Jordanian air transport
|Corporate culture can be defined as a package of fundamental attitudes, practices and values, which should be institutionalized as an integral aspect of the modus operandi and the policies of public and private corporations...|
JORDAN (Star) - Concerted efforts are under way throughout a majority of economic sectors in the Kingdom all geared toward yielding positive economic growth. Thus far few of the efforts employed have reflected tangibly on the lives of ordinary citizens. No one is more conscious and aware of this than King Abdallah, hence his relentless efforts, numerous initiatives and constant follow-ups to improve citizens' circumstances.
Being a fundamental economic sector for the Kingdom, air transport is affected by and in turn affects the state of the economy. This sector was severely hit by both the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington and the on-going 20-month Palestinian Intifada. These same factors nearly devastated the tourism sector, which contributes some 11 percent to our GNP.
All in all considerable efforts are being made to revitalize the economy under the prevailing difficult circumstances. Both institutions and individuals need to employ their full efforts to affect change. A key point to examine in such efforts is the idea of a corporate culture or corporate values and their benefit to the air transport sector in particular, and ultimately, to the benefit of the national economy.
Corporate culture can be defined as a package of fundamental attitudes, practices and values, which should be institutionalized as an integral aspect of the modus operandi and the policies of public and private corporations and companies. No institution, public or private, can yield the common corporate objectives of profitability and sustained growth without instituting and practicing these values. These values are "Golden Keys" of modern management and should be treated as the "Five Pillars" of corporate success.
Although these concepts are specifically tied to the air transport sector, particularly the airlines themselves and the civil aviation authority, all but the first value-flight safety-can apply to any public or private corporate environment.
There are two prerequisites: The selection of a competent and qualified board of directors on the basis of their own merit, qualifications and professional achievements. These directors would be compensated adequately to dedicate their efforts to board responsibilities. This aspect becomes all the more pressing in the context of the on-going efforts at privatization and restructuring of public institutions.
The second prerequisite is the creation of an organizational structure for the corporation or company, if it does not already exist, and if it does then to restructure it on the basis of aforementioned values.
The most fundamental responsibility of corporate management is the creation of a streamlined organizational structure by recruiting, training, developing and retaining a highly organized, motivated, cost-effective, very fit but also compassionate productive work-force capable of achieving the corporate objectives as set by the board of directors through the creation of a healthy corporate culture/corporate values and the synergies within and between the human and material resources of the organization.
The organizational structure should be tailored to match specific measurable corporate objectives of the company based on a well-defined mission statement. In a highly developed service industry such as the airline business careful consideration should be given to the process of selection, recruitment, training, retention and promotion of manpower.
Selection and staffing should follow and be subject to implementable job descriptions and function/task requirements based on objective needs of the organization. Performance of the work-force should be measured and evaluated periodically against a well-defined, quantifiable criteria of objectives and a set time frame.
The success of a service industry such as an airline depends largely on the high quality of its work-force whose professional standards should be at pace with those of the sophisticated state-of-the-art technology of the airline business overall. Many airlines in developing countries suffer from a gap between the sophisticated technology they acquire and the qualified manpower in support of such technology. We particularly point to such existing gaps in non-technical but critical areas such as marketing, planning, finance and administration where specific criteria required for the selection of qualified manpower does not exist and if it does, it is blurred and often not implemented. Luckily such criteria are institutionalized for pilots, engineers and other technical areas by necessity and by definition.
This said an examination of corporate values is in order. Nothing is more vital and imperative than flight safety, which can tolerate no compromise whatsoever. Flight safety should never be taken for granted. In an airline environment specific departments such as flight operations, engineering/maintenance, customer services (i.e. ground handling and in-flight services) are directly responsible for flight safety.
Security is just as critical as safety. In fact the ramifications for security breaches transcend the immediate boundaries of the airline profitability, prestige, corporate image and customers-going right to the heart of national security. Therefore safety and security are eternal twins.
Second, the realization of superior customer service is a must on the ground and in the air, including on time performance, imperative due to its vitality to airline success in terms of product marketing and product differentiation. Every member of the airline at all levels, but particularly those interfacing directly with customers, should do their utmost to achieve customer satisfaction. Quality customer service should be continuously developed and maintained for its own merits but particularly for the purpose of creating customer loyalty and repeat business particularly among high yield customers. Service should be based on the concept of "Value for the Money."
The idea of meritocracy is the third pillar. All staff should be selected, recruited, compensated, retained and promoted based upon their own merits. After all "you get what you pay for" in terms of recruiting quality staff. This will directly reflect on their productivity, the quality of service and customer service and customer satisfaction.
Meritocracy creates and enhances institutional loyalty, dedication and ultimately high productivity and high quality of customer services. The selection of key personnel based upon their own merits is very critical. In this context political appointments are certainly not helpful and indeed are counter-productive and should be minimized or ruled out if possible, especially for key positions.
Cost-consciousness should be introduced and cultivated within the organization and engraved in the minds, consciousness and practice of each and every staff member so it becomes second nature to each and every one of them. The ultimate objective of the creation of cost-consciousness across the entire spectrum of an airline is to translate it into a concrete practice of cost-effectiveness.
This can be achieved by designing, deploying and utilizing corporate budgets as tools to achieve strategic corporate objectives. As important as it is to cut costs, is where to cut cost. Cost-effectiveness is not necessarily realized by cost reduction. Therefore cost reduction should not compromise flight safety, the quality of customer service, the quality of marketing/sales and the motivation/morale and job satisfaction of the work-force. If this is not kept in mind cost reduction will become counter productive.
Cost-effectiveness means including the resource of time to achieve corporate objectives. Time management is a critical aspect of cost-effectiveness. Time is money. Every task should be measured and evaluated against a time scale. Seen in this context on-time performance becomes a critical aspect of time management and more importantly of cost-effectiveness for airline operations that are so time sensitive. Delays are very costly in terms of misusing airline resources: Keeping aircraft idling on the ground, incurring ground handling, hotel and catering charges as well as losing repeat business due to the negative image created by such delays.
Obviously delays can and do occur even in first class airlines. The critical aspect here is delay management: The effective management of delay in order to minimize customer inconvenience to the absolute minimum. This is what differentiates one airline from the other.
The preceding four pillars are tributaries of and contributors to the ultimate value of commercial profitability. This value should be an integral part of and a deeply ingrained practice in the minds and hearts of each and every staff member.
In addition to profitability an airline has other value added objectives: National, social, economic and even international ones such as the employment of a national work-force, the generation of hard currency, the promotion of tourism and the carrying of the national flag across the globe. None of these objectives, including the role of contributing to development and growth of the national economy, can be realized without commercial profitability.
For maximum effectiveness corporate values should be introduced, practiced and ultimately institutionalized into a corporate environment as one complete coherent package. The proper implementation of such could prove to be a quantum leap toward greater performance for the Jordanian economy.