Talent Management Models, Theories, and Programs Research Paper

Pages: 8 (2520 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Business

Talent Management Models, Theories, And Programs at Continental Airlines

Continental prides itself on a company culture that treats employees with dignity and respect and rewards employees when the airline achieves its goals. -- OC facts, 2010,

The past decade has been a tough one for the global airline industry, and many airlines that were already struggling or which were only operating at marginal profits failed to survive the downturn in travel that followed by terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A few airlines, though, not only managed to survive during the years that followed, they managed to grow their business model in additional markets while continuing to practice sound human resource management practices. Among these few, Continental Airlines stands out as an excellent example of how informed and thoughtful human resource management practices can contribute to organizational growth even in the worst of times.

The purpose of this paper was to analyze talent management at Continental Airlines and, based on this analysis, to develop a talent management best practices that can be used by the company for its employee hiring and retention plan that will results in high performance productivity. The talent management model for Continental is then evaluated for its potential effectiveness in achieving successful organizational outcomes together with a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

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Today, as the world's fifth largest airline and Fortune 500 member (Ladd, 2005), Continental Airlines (hereinafter "Continental" or alternatively, "the company") is modeling the way for other airlines that are struggling to survive during a period of economic downturn through a commitment to using its human resource management function to achieve its organizational goals. Continental, together with Continental Express and Continental Connection, all partner airlines, have more than 3,200 daily departures throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia, serving 154 domestic and 138 international destinations. More than 1,000 additional points are served via SkyTeam alliance airlines, a consortium of 27 member airlines that offer more than 19,000 flights each day to more than 725 destinations in 149 countries around the world (Datol, 2006; CO facts, 2010). The company consistently earns awards and critical acclaim for both its operation and its corporate culture, and while non-market factors make the extinction of legacy airlines unlikely, Continental remains concerned with maintaining its ability to outrun the slowest of its competitors through strategic selection of its leaders.

Today, companies of all types and sizes are trying to design career plans that improve employee morale, as well as create and sustain excellence in their organizations (Moore, 2007). To achieve this objective, human resource managers must identify effective methods that can be used to assess, plan, and develop high-value talent in order to accomplish current and future organizational goals (Berger & Berger, 2003). These considerations are important for all types of organizations, of course, but they especially pronounced in highly competitive environments such as the airline industry. The airline industry was rocked to its foundation following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and some observers wondered if the industry could even survive. Indeed, many airlines succumbed to the overall downturn in global travel in the wake of these attacks (Flouris & Walker, 2005), but a few managed to weather the storm long enough to emerge as key players today with one of the most prominent examples of these being Continental Airlines. For example, an analysis of Continental by Raphael the following year emphasized that, "If Continental Airlines wanted to cut back on its pay-for-performance program, the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002 would have been the time to do it. After all, the airline was dealing with the impact of a terrorist attack, a recession, increasing oil prices, rising labor costs, falling stock values, and declining revenue" (p. 16). Rather that discontinue the practice, Continental continued to spend around $44 million each year as a reward for superior employee performance and the results proved the company's leadership right. According to Raphael, "Staying the course paid off. Despite a few tough months with millions of dollars of losses brought about by 'overcapacity' -- planes without passengers --the plan prevailed" (p. 16). By March 2002, Continental was once again in the black as air travel approached normal levels and employee performance remained high. In this regard, Raphael notes that, "During the first few months of the year, the company had the best on-time record of any major airline in the country. It also had a very low rate of canceled flights" (Raphael, 2002, p. 16). The company's insightful leadership has earned Continental Airlines a number of awards and widespread recognition in the industry, including three consecutive years as "Most Admired Global Airline" by Fortune Magazine as well as being named the number one airline on Fortune's 2006 list of Most Admired Airline industry list (Datol, 2006). Many of these awards were based in part on the company's efforts to recruit and retain minorities. According to Burke and Cooper (2005), Continental has developed alliances with a number of minority associations (e.g., Organization of Black Airline Pilots, Black Flight Attendants of America, Hispanic MBA Association) that were important in helping Continental attract minority candidates (Burke & Cooper, 2005). According to Burke and Cooper, "To retain recruits, Continental instituted pay bonuses linked to teamwork, implemented diversity goals for each business division, and began training to address and prevent potential conflicts based on differences in the workplace. Continental has made Fortune's 100 list of Best Companies to Work for and the Hispanic Business's list of Best Places to Work for Latinos" (2005, p. 37). Continental has succeeded where others have failed because of its commitment to all of its stakeholders, especially its employees. In fact, three of the stated goals of the company are to:

1. Help well-trained employees build careers they enjoy every day;

2. Achieve profit sharing for co-workers; and,

3. Complete discussions with workgroups to reach agreements that are fair to co-workers and to the company (CO facts, 2010, p. 3).

This commitment to the company's human resources has become more challenging, though, as Continental has expanded its operations into far-flung regions of the world as part of its SkyTeam alliance. In this regard, Continental is much like a number of other highly successful organizations that have managed to experience growth despite the challenges facing many industries by expanding its business model to additional international markets, but the company has proceeded judiciously in identifying target markets in recent years (Mohrman, 2007). Like other airlines in the post-9/11 environment, Continental has tended to experience slower growth as a result of a combination of fundamental market and cost structure conditions that are inextricably interrelated to its business model, so the company has managed to achieve slow but steady growth by "carefully, finding expansion routes where its business model is a clear competitive advantage" (Mohrman, 2007, p. 35). Because it is based on a commitment to its stakeholders, Continental's business model is especially well suited for a strategic partnership with its human resource function. In this regard, Mohrman emphasizes that given its multinational scope of operations, Continental relies upon its human resource management services to help employees find a career path that suits them and to provide them with opportunities for growth in ways that simultaneously contribute to achieving organizational goals by matching these individuals with organization and work designs. This is a difficult enterprise for almost any type of organization, of course, but for major companies such as Continental, the importance of this strategic HRM alliance cannot be overstated (Mohrman, 2007). For example, Mohrman emphasizes that, "This is an important focus for HR, because talent management is inextricably linked to organization and work systems design, in a way that each constrains the other. By expanding its focus to include organization and work design, HR multiplies its influence on both people and business performance" (Mohrman, 2007, p. 35). These issues came to the forefront in 2004 when, despite the company's modest performance following the 9/11 attacks, Continental's senior leadership team announced that the company was expanding its operations into international markets in an effort to survive and grow (Hansen, 2006). The effects of this announcement on the company's need for new leaders was profound because of the urgency involved and the scope of the expansion envisioned. According to Hansen, "Continental launched 10 new international destinations in 2005 and used new technology to recruit 3,200 new hires for locations ranging from Argentina to India" (2006, p. 2). Taken together, the foregoing requirements demand a talent management model that can applied to a wide range of cross-cultural settings as well as the wide range of positions that comprise Continental's workforce, and these issues are discussed further below.

Talent Management Best Practices Model for Continental

A talent management best practices model for Continental should begin with recruitment and extend through steps needed for retention. According to Williams (2005), the research to date as well as empirical observations confirm that a talent management best practices model should take into account… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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