HRM challenges in the commercial airline industry


Table of Contents

Recently, the airline industry has been one of the significant volatile industries across the globe. The airline industry is one of the business enterprises whose avenues of performing its duties have changed as a result of the outside forces affecting its normal function. Such forces are not only attributed to extreme bankruptcies or the mergers and acquisitions that have been into the limelight but rather a subject to such challenges as the societal political and economic backgrounds of their customers. It should be remembered that human resource management is the only body within airline industry that is responsible for facing and handling such staffing challenges to meet the ever-changing needs and expectations of the customers. This paper will attempt to address the challenges that human resource managers are likely to face in the airline industry in every part of the world.

Notably, the current needs of the airline industry have been in a constant state of flux and are rapidly changing; therefore, it is recommended that the human resource managers should employ a well-established system that is capable of evaluating the needs and aspirations of its customers in the dynamic changing business environment. Conversely, in the airline industry there exist various levels of positions that range from top executives to pilots as well as the stewardesses to personnel. It is, therefore, important to scrutinize the recruitment process of such employees to bridge the challenges that exist in the management sector. What is most important is the fact that human resource managers job has been so challenging owing to the rapid increase of the changes in the business environment and immense competition. The changing nature of the company makes one question the security of its employees at all levels of position. Therefore, job stability forms another challenge that faces human resource management in this industry (Ulrich et al., 1995).

Change in management: it should be pointed that change in management can always alter the matrix or the power structure that used to exist. In this context, it can create an array of fear and inferiority complex among the entire resource management team. Change in leadership structure will result in an outrageous change in the behavior of the general employees. What is surprising is the fact that human resource managers are advised to deal with such changes to boost the morale and productivity of the employees that is likely to be lowered. For instance, additional training may be required to foster added competencies of dealing with such changes. Ideally, human resource managers in the airline industry face a lot of challenges geared towards understanding and embracing the management changes (Noe et al. 2006).

Advancement in technology: Aycan (2001) noted that the rapid advancement of technology dictates that Airline Company should employ only human force possessing vast knowledge and skills in technological changes. The airline industry has incorporated the technological advancements to make the more competitive and to avoid being left behind. In this light, the general nature of works becomes affected since only employees that are capable of adjusting to such advancement will be recruited. Consequently, during such processes employment as well as unemployment opportunities become available factors that create challenges to the existing human resource managers.

Nature of the employees: adapting to the rapid change in the employees’ profile has also been one of the most weighty challenges faced by the human resource managers especially in airline industries. The working condition in airline industry comprises of the various diverse working population that poses different expectation and mindset. Every personnel in the airline industry have their personal goals and needs that they feel should be addressed. What makes it much challenging is when such individuals put their needs before the attainment of the company stipulated goals. Hundreds of millions of woman have been said to have poured into airline industry as part-time or full-time employees. It is in this respect; one tends to argue that human resource managers in airline companies have to cope up with the new breed of employees. This in itself will require additional expertise in dealing with such emerging situations.

Conversely, for a long time profession related to airline industry has conformed to some technological knowhow and this makes the professional looks so technical and hence attracts minimal trainees. In this aspect, the aging population forms the better part of the entire employees in the airline industry. Cook and Ferris (1986) highlighted that due to less competitive employees in the airline industry, competent workers do work beyond the retirement age. It is, therefore, the work of the human resource managers in the airline industry to employ strategies of dealing with the aging population who to some extent may look more senior than they do. In the process, the professionalism ethics may be violated since a lot of favor will be done to the older employees. Ideally, varied employees pose a lot of challenge to most human resource managers in the airline industries.

Retaining employees: maintaining professional and expert employees is also one of the significant challenges that face the human resource management in airline industries. This factor is as a result of keeping abreast with the productivity of the firm and at the same time ensuring employees are motivated and are subjected to a better working condition. This result to challenges as it can result in low productivity rate and profit margin of the firm. Human resource managers are therefore sometimes finding themselves toned between serving the interest of the employees and fostering the profitability of the airline industries. Cook and Ferris (1986) explained that managers, therefore, should know the need and expectation of every worker with defined guidelines of the job description.

The risk of global operation: airline industry has for a long time been practicing the cross-border or remote communication between its teams. This aspect possesses various challenges that human resource management department should handle. Notably, running a virtual team has a lot of challenges and practice obstacles to the managers. For instance, not all the members will feel comfortable using the suggested technological device. This may result from the time difference that may hinder effective corporation and coordination of the two personnel. It is obvious that human interaction or communication is only effective when it is done face to face. Conversely, natural social bonds become hectic to develop or foster when individuals meet virtually. Ideally, global operations have made it difficult to build a trustworthy environment in the airline industry and hence result to the misunderstanding that human managers should be well equipped to deal with for better performance of the said industry. Indeed communication forms one of the challenges that human resource managers face in the airline industry (Helmreich et al., 1999).


It is evidenced that human resource department is vital in managing various sectors of an organization of which airline industry is inclusive. The advancement of technology has indeed brought a lot of changes, especially in the airline industry. Such changes have contributed to challenges facing the human resource managers since they have to ensure the workforce of the organization works in line with the pace of technical changes in business environment. Some of the challenges that face HRM as discussed in this essay gets attributed to change in management, advancement in technology, the risk of a global operation, retaining employees, as well as nature of employees. It is therefore recommended that various strategies should be employed by the human resource management department to help in curbing the emerging situations and challenges that to some extent may hamper productivity and success of the airline companies.  Ideally, human resource management is a crucial department within an organization that determines whether the firm is capable of making profit or losses. Indeed, it should comprise of knowledgeable personnel that is flexible and can adapt to every changing business dynamic environment.

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  1. Aycan, Z. (2001). Human resource management in Turkey-Current issues and future challenges. International Journal of Manpower, 22(3), 252-260.
  2. Cook, D. S., & Ferris, G. R. (1986). Strategic human resource management and firm effectiveness in industries experiencing decline. Human Resource Management, 25(3), 441-457.
  3. Helmreich, R. L., Merritt, A. C., & Wilhelm, J. A. (1999). The evolution of crew resource management training in commercial aviation. The International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 9(1), 19-32.
  4. Noe, R. A., Hollenbeck, J. R., Gerhart, B., & Wright, P. M. (2006). Human resource management: Gaining a competitive advantage.
  5. Ulrich, D., Brockbank, W., Yeung, A. K., & Lake, D. G. (1995). Human resource competencies: An empirical assessment. Human Resource Management, 34(4), 473-495.
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