Implementing Change in British Airways (BA)


In today’s rapidly evolving environment, change is inevitable for all firms and organisations. Therefore, effective change management is crucial for the successful implementation of a proposed change. In line with this, British Airways (BA) had proposed the consolidation of Madrid’s contact centre where all incoming calls are to be flown to Flyline in Bremen Germany. The main drivers for change included the changing patterns in consumer behaviours towards online booking, the improvement in the efficiency and flexibility of work processes, cost reductions, enhanced competitiveness, productivity savings, and low implementation cost. On the other hand, the main restraining factors included the high cost of employees’ packs and severance packs, loss of resilience, employees’ resistance to change, and inefficient handling of work in a centralised centre. However, the driving forces were stronger than the restraining forces leading to the implementation of the change strategy. The proposed change is an incremental planned change that included modular transformations to the contact centre department. It was identified that having change agents in different organisational levels, employees’ engagement, effective communication, reasonable expectations, measurable gains, and promoting ownership are crucial for the effective management of change. Concerning the management of resistance to change, the alignment of goals and objectives, effective communication, employee engagement, emotional support, and personalised change management approaches are effective in eliminating the adverse impacts. Finally, formal and informal evaluations were done on the implemented change and the findings revealed satisfactory outcomes that align with the main goals and objectives of BA.

In today’s rapidly evolving environment, change is inevitable to all firms and organisations; therefore, it has been acknowledged that the effective management of organisational change is crucial to maintaining growth and prosperity amidst fierce competition levels (By, 2005). In this context, British Airways has proposed the consolidation of Madrid’s contact centre to Bremen, Germany. Being a change agent in this proposed change, this report highlights the different aspects of change management.

2.1 Nature of change

British Airways (BA) has been constantly monitoring and evaluating its working practices under the “Global Direct Program”, launched in 2018. It focuses on enhancing the efficiency of BA’s contact centres by consolidating remote contact centres across Europe and Africa. Accordingly, all incoming calls are flown to Flyline, owned by BA’s subsidiary and is based in Bremen, Germany. After consolidating 4 contact centres, a thorough analysis of Madrid’s contact centre was conducted and a changing pattern in consumer behaviour leading to a reduction in call volumes was identified. Thus, with Flyline’s extensive experience, BA is expecting to maintain the customer service quality while increasing its competitiveness, enhancing its operational efficiency and reducing its costs. The allocated time frame for this change is 4 months.

2.2 Chosen Change Framework

It has been argued that the different theories of change management could be discussed according to three overarching factors namely, the pace of change, how it is introduced and its scale (By, 2005). Thus, the pace of change could be generally described as discontinuous, incremental or continuous, its introduction is predominantly described as emergent or planned change and its scale is fine-tuning, incremental adjustment, modular transformation, or corporate transformation (By, 2005).

2.2.1 Pace of change

To start with, although discontinuous changes are one-time events that are considered to be cost-effective, they trigger routines and defensive behaviour. On the other hand, incremental and continuous change are ongoing changes; thereby, ensuring the sustainability of organisations (By, 2005). Where incremental changes are often departmental and operational changes, continuous changes are rather concerned with organisational strategies (By, 2005). From the conducted analysis, BA’s identified opportunities were mainly attributed to its internal operations; therefore, I suggested the use of incremental change to focus on one problem and attain a certain objective at a time and to incorporate lessons learned to enhance change management’s effectiveness.

2.2.2 Introduction of change

Developed out of economic destabilisation and increased competition levels, emergent changes are real-time, rapid, unpredictable and unintentional changes that are done in response to rapidly changing demands. However, they require high levels of flexibility and adaptability to overcome the encountered paradoxes (Garcia-Lorenzo and Liebhart, 2010). Whereas, planned changes are sequential and implemented after the identification of a certain need through the analysis of driving and restraining factors (Garcia-Lorenzo and Liebhart, 2010). As the needs for change were already identified through the Global Direct Program, the proposed change is a planned change.

2.2.3 Change Scale

As aforementioned, four main change scales are often discussed in the literature. To start with, fine-tuning entails introducing small changes to the work processes; whereas, incremental adjustments involve minor and distinct changes to the management or the organisational strategy (By, 2005). The modular transformation includes major shifts in organisational departments; and finally, the corporate transformation includes radical changes to the overall strategy (By, 2005). Since the proposed change is a departmental change that aims to consolidate call centres across Europe and Africa, it is considered a modular transformation.

Force Field Analysis, developed by Lewin in 1951, is a management tool that aids in the identification of the drivers to change along with potential barriers that could hinder the progress of the proposed change (Toves, Graf and Gould, 2016); thereby, the framework helps to overcome forces against change while leveraging forces that are in favour of change (Smartt, Casey and Ferreira, 2018). Thus, according to the framework, change agents should identify contributing factors, determine the factors that could be positively manipulated and develop action plans to drive a positive change. Although it is predominantly grounded in the dynamics of human behaviour (Toves, Graf and Gould, 2016), recent research has advocated for the use of both external and internal forces (Cronshaw and McCulloch, 2008).

3.1 Driving Forces

  • A change in consumer behaviour towards online booking.
  • simplification of the contact centre processes through the reduction of
    • Administrative work.
    • Treasury limitations.
  • Enhanced process efficiency through the
    • Optimisation of call/work routines.
    • Creation of larger work-pots.
    • Reduction of complexity.
    • Promotion of active workforce management.
    • Reduction of handling time and fluctuations in incoming calls.
  • Productivity savings through the attainment of economies of scale.
  • Enhanced work flexibility.
  • Cost reduction and better asset utilisation with reduced premises and IT portfolios.
  • Enhanced competitiveness due to Flyline’s extensive experience.
  • Reduction in the need for outsourcing.

3.2 Restraining Forces

  • 32 out of the 45 existing employees would be terminated.
  • High cost of employees’ packs and severance packs.
  • High turnover due to increased insecurity.
  • Inefficient handling of work in a centralised centre.
  • Loss of resilience and contingency plans.
  • Recruitment of required languages (Spanish and Portuguese).
  • High costs of flowing calls from one country to another.
  • Employees’ resistance to change.
  • Managerial reluctance to change.
  • Possibility of an increasing queue in Flyline’s contact service.

Although there have been multiple conflicts between the planned and emergent change theories, Burnes, (2004a) had recommended that organisations should choose change approaches according to the nature of the proposed change and organisational context. Accordingly, I and my colleagues have opted for Lewin’s planned change framework that entails three main stages namely, unfreezing, moving and refreezing (Burnes, 2004b).

However, it is worth noting that leading change is a complex process. As stated by Andrews, Cameron and Harris, (2008), failures of the implementation of a proposed change occur due to multiple reasons including organisational culture, professional norms, inappropriate pace, lack of effective plans, uncertainties, and resistance to change. Similarly, Anand And Barsoux, (2017) stated that besides poor execution, diagnosis and wrong change decisions are also reasons for such failures. Accordingly, I along with my colleagues ensured having a proper diagnosis and executive plans.

Also, the roles, characteristics and skills of change agents are crucial for the effective management of change.  First and foremost, it is important to acknowledge that change occurs with the aid of multiple change agents within an organisation (Andrews, Cameron and Harris, 2008); therefore, I emphasised the importance of four types which are senior leaders, middle managers, external consultants, and team-leaders. These agents should analyse the catalysts for change, the underlying quest and the needed leadership skills to attain such change (Anand And Barsoux, 2017). I further ensured the setting of proper expectations and measurable gains, shifting employees’ focus on company-wide performance, and avoiding endless preparations that give the illusion of progress (Schaffer, 2010). Other essential roles include the ability to communicate the need for change, promote ownership, and involve all employees in the decision-making process (Anand And Barsoux, 2017). Thus, I ensured being flexible, resilient, collaborative, emotionally intelligent, assertive, persuasive, empathetic, authentic, ethical, self-Aware and competent.

Although organisational change has become increasingly inevitable, it is yet considered as a disruptive experience that is often met with resistance, insecurity and uncertainties (Garcia-Lorenzo and Liebhart, 2010). It is worth noting that the anticipated resistance could be encountered from BA’s terminated and internal employees as well as from Flyline’s employees. Therefore, the likely causes of resistance to change are:

  • Resistance to:
    • Timing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Allocated duration.
    • Increased workload.
    • Changes in work routines.
  • Scepticism about the need for change.
  • Threats of comfort.
  • Implications on personal plans.
  • Mistrust of initiators to change and lack of confidence.
  • Fear of the unknowns and uncertainties.
  • Natural emotional responses.
  • Increased job insecurity.

Therefore, an effective change plan should take into account the anticipated resistance and attempts to find solutions to promote its positive impact and eliminate its negative effects (Andrade, 2010). Dwyer, (2019) emphasised the development of personal intentions to change along with a work environment that could convert these intentions into actions. Similarly, Hunt, (2015) emphasised the importance of the effective communication of the proposed change, employee engagement, and providing the needed level of employee support during change. Atkinson, (2005) suggested that resistance should be recognised and welcomed as a healthy response; thus, change agents should attempt to sell the benefits of the proposed changes, and personalise the change management approach according to the needs of different employees. Accordingly, I ensured considering all of the aforementioned factors during the implementation of the change strategy.

Planned evaluation frameworks are crucial to track the change’s progress, identify areas of flaws, and to inform future decisions to enhance business performance (Dwyer, 2019). Therefore, such plans should include monitoring and control procedures, data analysis methodologies, the formation of benchmarks and the identification of KPIs to measure the progress (Andrade, 2010). According to the recorded KPIs and comparisons made against the predetermined benchmarks, including comparisons against BA’s aims and industry’s standards, a 37% improvement in the efficiency of work processes was attained. Furthermore, the cost-benefit analysis revealed that cost reductions were higher than the incurred costs revealing that more profits would be realised in the future. Besides formal evaluations, Skinner, (2004) recommended the use of informal evaluations at each organisational level. Therefore, an informal evaluation was conducted through interviews and surveys to gain insights into employees’ work experience along with their perceptions of the progress and achievements. This step was done to foster recognition and gain feedback according to which corrective actions could be implemented. The results revealed that overall, the employees felt the enhancement in process efficiency with no discomforts or major concerns being revealed.

To conclude, change management is a complex and multi-dimensional process that includes several processes such as appropriate diagnosis, implementation plans, managing anticipated resistance to change and emerging uncertainties and paradoxes and monitoring and evaluations. These factors should be collectively considered for the successful implementation of a change strategy.

 

Anand, N. And Barsoux, J., 2017. What Everyone Gets Wrong About Change Management: Poor execution is only part of the problem. Harvard Business Review,.

Andrade, M., 2010. Managing Change—Engaging Faculty in Assessment Opportunities. Innovative Higher Education, 36(4), pp.217-233.

Andrews, J., Cameron, H. and Harris, M., 2008. All change? Managers’ experience of organizational change in theory and practice. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 21(3), pp.300-314.

Atkinson, P., 2005. Managing resistance to change. Change Management, pp.14-28.

Burnes, B., 2004 a. Emergent change and planned change – competitors or allies?. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 24(9), pp.886-902.

Burnes, B., 2004b. Kurt Lewin and the Planned Approach to Change: A Re-appraisal. Journal of Management Studies, 41(6), pp.977-1002.

By, R., 2005. Organisational change management: A critical review. Journal of Change Management, 5(4), pp.369-380.

Cronshaw, S. and McCulloch, .., 2008. Reinstating the Lewinian vision: From force field analysis to organization field assessment. Organization Development Journal, 26(4), pp.89-103.

Dwyer, K., 2019. Managing resistance to change: Engaging and shaping. The RIM Quarterly.

Garcia-Lorenzo, L. and Liebhart, M., 2010. Between Planned and Emergent Change: Decision Maker’s Perceptions of Managing Change in Organisations. The International Journal of Knowledge, Culture, and Change Management: Annual Review, 10(5), pp.147-162.

Hunt, P., 2015. Business Express: Managing resistance to change: Get your team to embrace business change. Pearson Education.

Michels, D. and Murphy, K., 2021. How Good Is Your Company at Change?: A new system for measuring (and improving) your ability to adapt. Harvard Business Review, pp.62-72.

Schaffer, R., 2010. Four Mistakes Leaders Keep Making: How to overcome deep-seated obstacles to change. Harvard Business Review.

Skinner, D., 2004. Evaluation and change management: rhetoric and reality. Human Resource Management Journal, 14(3), pp.5-19.

Smartt, C., Casey, W. and Ferreira, S., 2018. Using Force-Field Analysis as Part of Systems Engineering Strategy to Achieve Goals. INCOSE International Symposium, 28(1), pp.1420-1432.

Toves, P., Graf, L. and Gould, D., 2016. Innovative Use of Force Field Analysis: Factors Influencing Technology-Enabled Change. Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management, pp.85-102.

 

 

Appendix A:

BUSINESS RATIONAL FOR CHANGE

The Madrid contact centre and the customer relations department are part of an ongoing review within the Global Direct Programme, which aims to simplify the contact centre and customer relations business and deliver an effective and efficient contact centre and customer relations organisation.

All options were thoroughly assessed, with a number of different scenarios considered. However, after a rigorous review into issues relating to people, property, IT, customer demand, finance, commercial strategy and state of the business it was decided to move the operation to Flyline in Bremen, Germany.  It makes financial sense to close Madrid now, rather than continuously reducing the size of the operation and introduce a flexible cost base approach which allows us to better manage fluctuations in call volumes and incoming customer relations caseload.

There are a number of reasons for this conclusion:

  • There is an ongoing trend whereby call volumes are decreasing globally. This is due to the corporate goal of increasing bookings online for both direct and indirect customers as well as a natural shift in our customer behaviour.  On average, in Europe, this is at 10%.
  • Economies of scale increase the flexibility of our cost base which is essential for us in order to have a sustainable future.
  • The Madrid calls and CR caseload can be transferred to Flyline within their current property and IT portfolio whilst enabling us to reduce property and IT costs in Spain.

Furthermore, due to the more efficient operations at Flyline, Bremen, we will be able to offer a more competitive contact centre and customer relations operation to our customers whilst maintaining the language capability.

This decision has been purely taken on commercial and economic grounds.

Appendix B

PEOPLE Q&As

When will I have my individual meeting with my manager?

Your manager will be holding individual meetings with each person affected, with HR support. These sessions will be arranged, as soon as possible, with follow up sessions as required.

What benefits will be given to those individuals leaving the business?

The benefits given to those individuals leaving the business will be discussed with you during one to one session with your manager and HR..

How many people are you looking to take out of the business?

We intend to reduce our headcount by 32.

Will there be an opportunity for voluntary severance?

Discussions will be held to determine exactly what this means for you individually in your meeting with your manager. Any voluntary severance will be at the discretion of the Company.

What will the severance package be?

This will be discussed with you in your meeting with your manager.

How many people will be impacted?

All those in the Madrid Customer Contact Organisation will be impacted, however they will have the opportunity to apply for roles in the newly created Specialist Sales Unit, and for the roles available as a result of increase of commercial activity due to the new routes in Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar.

 

 

What support will be available to me through the process?

We will ensure that you receive the necessary support throughout this process.  We will keep you informed at all times and communicate with you on a regular basis.

What assistance will be given to me in my search for a new job?

Affected employees will be given time off to attend interviews subject to business requirements.  Services from an outplacement company will be discussed with you individually.

Will there be other opportunities for Employment within British Airways?

There may be a number of recruitment opportunities within the Company, but it does depend on current vacancies. Currently all vacancies within British Airways are advertised on the Intranet or in the BA News.  Please bear in mind that you need to have the right to work in the countries you are applying for.

Will there be an opportunity to move to Bremen?

Employees, who have the right to work in EU, are encouraged to talk to their Line Manager if they would like to join the Flyline team at Bremen.

If we want to leave earlier than the closing date to start another role is this possible?

No. Unfortunately BA cannot afford to release staff members before the transfer of business unless of course they chose to resign.

If I am one of the people impacted by this decision, when will be my last day at work?

Your last working day will be the day before the transfer to Flyline that is planned for the 31st December 2021.

What will be the staff travel benefits?

This will be discussed with you individually.

 

Are contact centres being closed in other parts of the world?

The Toronto contact centre closed December 2020. Other closures include Rome, Northbook, Istanbul and Lyon contact centres in Europe.  India has merged four centres into one and Asia Pacific is in the process of combining seven operations spread over three countries into one, including insourcing some work previously outsourced. Also the contact centres in the Caribbean were consolidated into Jacksonville (North America Contact centre) in June 2020.  Significant changes have been made elsewhere in the world and BA will continue to review if any further changes are needed.

What about the other Customer Contact Centres in Europe and Africa?

At this time, no other customer Contact Centres in Europe and Africa will be affected. However, we will continue to focus on productivity savings and we will review this decision on a regular basis to ensure we are still operating competitively in the region.

How will our customers be affected by the announcements?

The Customer Contact Centre has a great reputation for delivering excellent customer service.  We expect that our customers will continue to receive the same level of courtesy and professionalism during the transfer of operations to Flyline, Bremen and beyond.

Have the EWC been consulted on this project?

Yes – we conducted a full consultation with the EWC on this project and this consultation has now officially been completed.

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