Virgin Atlantic Airway’s Employee Treatment


Human resources are widely considered to be critical to organisational success. Companies should strive to develop a motivated and committed workforce in order to improve organisational functioning, boost performance, and successfully implement organisational changes. When planning an organisational transition, it is thus critical to acknowledge the effect it will have on the workforce and attempt to pair the transition with strategies for increasing motivation and commitment.

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Virgin Atlantic is a British airline that is famous for its organisational culture and fair treatment of employees. Nevertheless, in 2011, pilots working for Virgin Atlantic started a dispute over pay, threatening to go on strike if the issue remains unresolved. In particular, the pilots were concerned that the payment has not increased since 2008. Following the global economic crisis, the company attempted to stay profitable, thus refusing to increase the pay for pilots despite their requests. The present report will review some of the fundamental concepts in human resource management, including leadership style, management practices, communication, team building, rewards, benefits, motivation, and organisational performance, using the case of Virgin Atlantic to exemplify some of the ideas.

Improving Employee Motivation

Employee motivation is an important stepping stone to company success. Research shows that motivated workers show better performance outcomes and contribute to workforce characteristics, such as retention, skill mix, and engagement (Muogbo 2013). Employee motivation strategies build on various motivation theories to achieve the best results. For instance, Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory states that companies have to contribute to the fulfilment of employees’ needs to create a motivated workforce (Kaur 2013). For example, by providing fair working conditions, companies contribute to the workers’ physiological needs, while rewards schemes fulfil the employees’ need for esteem (Kaur 2013). In accordance with Maslow’s theory, management practices used to increase employee motivation should include effective communication, rewards schemes, benefits packages, training for employees, fair pay, and more. The pay issue that is presented in the case of Virgin Atlantic, thus, can be seen as the company’s failure to fulfil the employees’ safety needs by providing financial security, and thus responding to the pilots’ concerns with pay increases could solve the problem.

Another theory that is often used to develop motivation is Hersberg’s Motivator-Hygiene Theory. This theory is based on the assumption that work satisfaction and work dissatisfaction are different concepts, and removing the factors causing job dissatisfaction will not contribute to job satisfaction (Alshmemri, Shahwan-Akl & Maude 2017). Herzberg recognises two types of organisational factors. Hygiene factors, including salary, interpersonal relationships, organisational policies, supervision, and working conditions, influence job dissatisfaction. Factors such as the interesting nature of work, growth opportunities, achievement, recognition, advancement, and responsibility, on the other hand, are motivation factors (Alshmemri, Shahwan-Akl & Maude 2017). In the present case, pilots are experiencing significant job dissatisfaction due to low salary. Therefore, increasing their salary is the advised option for resolving the conflict. However, if the organisation was struggling with employee motivation, the management would use practices such as training, career advancement, recognition, and rewards to increase the influence of motivation factors on the workers.

Overall, in the present case, the pilots working for Virgin Atlantic are dissatisfied with their pay, and their concerns are in line with motivation theories exemplified in the present sections. Therefore, increasing workers’ compensation would relieve the situation and reduce job dissatisfaction in the company. Once the pay issue is resolved, the management could implement strategies for improving employee motivation, including reward schemes, career progression opportunities, and improved communication in the organisation.

Leadership and Organisational Transition

There is a variety of leadership styles used in organisations, such as transactional leadership, autocratic leadership, transformational leadership, and laissez-faire leadership. Managers choose an appropriate leadership style based on the company’s goals and needs. During an organisational transition, leadership style impacts the effectiveness of change, the implementation process, and employees’ attitudes to change, thus predicting performance. As shown by Carter et al. (2013), transformational leadership is often used in the context of organisational transition, as it allows to ensure workers’ commitment to change and contributes to the implementation process. Transformational leadership is characterised by the leaders’ ethical behaviour, an individual approach to employees, intellectual stimulation, goal-setting practices, and the management’s inspirational influence on workers (Choudhary, Akhtar & Zaheer 2013). The key principles of transformational leadership are to set a clear vision for the company’s development, create a set of goals to achieve it and stimulate employees to contribute to organisational transition by following corporate objectives.

Virgin Airlines is an example of a company that uses transformational leadership to facilitate continuous organisational change. As can be seen from the CEO’s letter to pilots, the company has a vision for future development and the management work to encourage employees to assist in achieving this vision by providing excellent service and remaining loyal to the company. In the present case, such a strategy helps the airline to avoid losing workers over the pay issue, thus preventing high turnover and encouraging dialogue between pilots and leadership. Once the pay issue is resolved, the company can continue using transformational leadership to enhance performance and achieve future goals. Transformational leadership also contributes to organisational culture, which assists in developing a stronger and more reliable workforce, thus allowing to reduce the possibility of future problems with employees.

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Organisational Structure and Culture within Organisational Transition

The organisational structure has a substantial influence on human resource management. In many large companies, the organisational structure is rather tall, which affects the communication and management of employees. A flat organisational structure, on the other hand, can make it more difficult to control employees, especially during times of organisational transition. Organisational culture, on the other hand, reflects a system of values that are supported and promoted on all levels of management. Organisational culture also influences the outcomes of organisational transition, as it shapes employees’ commitment, motivation, values, and attitudes (Schneider, Ehrhart & Macey 2013). Therefore, while an appropriate organisational culture is essential to the success of the organisational transition, a tall and complex organisational structure can impact both variables, thus becoming a barrier to change implementation and development.

In order to overcome the barrier of organisational structure, it is crucial for companies to consider effective communication mediums. Efficient use of communication channels and strategies can assist in promoting organisational culture and implementing change. The topic of workplace communication today is more relevant than ever before due to the shifts in our communication patterns from face-to-face to online communication. Contemporary organisations use a variety of mediums to share messages, including face-to-face, mobile, e-mail, newsletters, and written letters (Stephens, Barrett & Mahometa 2013). The effectiveness of communication mediums depends on the situation. Information-rich face-to-face communication can be used to resolve conflicts, as it is positively associated with interpersonal relations and employee satisfaction (Men 2014). For regular information about corporate policies, events, and changes, companies can use e-mail communication (Men 2014). E-mail is an effective communication medium that helps to ensure that all employees receive the message and can refer to it if needed. Lastly, general employee meetings are among the preferred communication mediums (Men 2014). This channel can be used to provide information about the organisational transition to a specific group of employees, as it enables workers to ask questions and clarify certain parts of the message.

In the case of Virgin Atlantics, the CEO chose to communicate with pilots using a written message. While it served to show his commitment to resolving the problem, it was not the most effective communication medium to be used in a critical situation. Holding a group meeting with pilots could have helped to achieve better results. Firstly, it would establish face-to-face communication, thus contributing to pilots’ attitudes and interpersonal relationships with the management. Secondly, it would help to initiate a discussion that could help to agree on specific terms, thus resolving the crisis immediately. Another option would be to schedule a face-to-face meeting with a representative of the pilots intending to go on strike. Planning the meeting ahead would allow both sides to prepare their offers and arguments while meeting with a single representative would help to alleviate some pressure and create a friendly and welcoming environment.

Overall, Virgin Atlantic has a tall organisational structure, which might affect the success of organisational culture within the context of an organisational transition. A tall organisational structure affects organisational culture by impairing communication within the company and creating a gap between the higher management and the employees. However, using effective communication mediums can mediate the relationship between organisational structure and culture, thus contributing to organisational transition. In the present case, the CEO chose to use a written letter to communicate with the pilots, which was not the best option available. Ideally, the CEO should hold a face-to-face meeting with pilots or their representative in order to establish a connection, listen to their concerns, and offer a mutually beneficial agreement.

Building Effective Teams

Organisational performance largely depends on the productivity of individual teams and their contribution to the company’s development. Effective teams allow to use of employees’ abilities more effectively and creating a skill mix, thus achieving better results (Wheelan 2014). Teams can also boost workforce characteristics by contributing to employee engagement, motivation, career development, and organisational citizenship (Wheelan 2014). Creating effective teams is thus among the main concerns for human resources management.

Team building is an essential function of HR that can bring great results if used appropriately. For instance, it is crucial to promote positive leadership styles at all levels of management, including team leadership, as inspiring and ethical leaders improve team performance over time (Wheelan 2014). Besides, companies can hold special team building activities, such as games, trips, and training. Group activities promote communication within the teams and encourage competitiveness between them, thus resulting in improved productivity. Moreover, some activities can help employees to develop critical skills that can aid their team in becoming more efficient.

Team building efforts should also be consistent with the organisational culture and leadership style used by the management. For example, if the organisational culture is based on aggressive competition among employees, it is unlikely that team-building efforts will be effective. On the contrary, if leaders emphasise the importance of collaboration and cooperation among employees, the company will yield better results from team-building training. Another essential factor to consider is diversity. Like most large British companies, Virgin Atlantic has a culturally diverse workforce, which might impact cohesiveness and interpersonal relations in workgroups. One strategy for mediating this effect is goal orientation, which provides team members with a shared motivation and creates a sense of achievement (Pieterse, Van Knippenberg & Van Dierendonck 2013). Besides, it is critical to ensure that organisational culture supports diversity to improve the contribution of goal orientation to the performance of diverse teams.

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Virgin Atlantic is a diverse company that supports innovation and collaboration among people from all backgrounds. Therefore, the management can undertake team-building efforts to improve the performance and productivity of workgroups. Using an appropriate mix of team building activities, employees will become more motivated, engaged, committed, and competent in group work, thus contributing to organisational transition and future development.


All in all, the case of Virgin Atlantic can be used to exemplify the majority of key concepts in human resource management. The case portrays the importance of effective communication, transformational leadership, and motivation strategies in achieving excellent organisational performance. The analysis also showed that the conflict with the pilots was somewhat mediated by the company’s organisational culture and transformational leadership style, which contribute to employee loyalty and allows for dialogue between the workers and the management. However, there are also some aspects of human resource management that Virgin Atlantic should develop further, including effective communication and team performance. Using the recommendations provided in the report, the company can resolve the crisis and achieve better performance in the future.

Reference List

Alshmemri, M, Shahwan-Akl, L & Maude P 2017, ‘Herzberg’s two-factor theory’, Life Science Journal, vol. 14, no. 5, pp. 12- 16.

Carter, MZ, Armenakis, AA, Field, HS & Mossholder KW 2013, ‘Transformational leadership, relationship quality, and employee performance during continuous incremental organizational change’, Journal of Organizational Behavior, vol. 34, no. 7, pp. 942-958.

Choudhary, AI, Akhtar, SA & Zaheer, A 2013, ‘Impact of transformational and servant leadership on organizational performance: a comparative analysis’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 116, no. 2, pp. 433-440.

Kaur, A 2013, ‘Maslow’s need hierarchy theory: applications and criticisms’, Global Journal of Management and Business Studies, vol. 3, no. 10, pp. 1061-1064.

Men, LR 2014, ‘Strategic internal communication: transformational leadership, communication channels, and employee satisfaction’, Management Communication Quarterly, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 264-284.

Muogbo, US 2013, ‘The impact of employee motivation on organisational performance (a study of some selected firms in Anambra State in Nigeria)’, The International Journal of Engineering and Science, vol. 2, no. 7, pp. 70-80.

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Pieterse, AN, Van Knippenberg, D & Van Dierendonck, D 2013, ‘Cultural diversity and team performance: the role of team member goal orientation’, Academy of Management Journal, vol. 56, no. 3, pp. 782-804.

Schneider, B, Ehrhart, MG & Macey, WH 2013, ‘Organizational climate and culture’, Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 64, pp. 361-388.

Wheelan, SA 2014, Creating effective teams: a guide for members and leaders, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.

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