Threading the talent needle

The British Airways - Iberia merger has been completed with the new holding company, International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), being listed for the first time on the London and Madrid stock markets today (24 January).

This merger will bring with it new challenges for talent and leadership development in light of an enlarged and multicultural work environment. Kim Reid is Head of Leadership and Talent Management at British Airways. She will be a speaker at the marcus evans Talent Management and Leadership Development Conference taking place on 31 January – 1 February, Barcelona.

Operating in an incredibly changing and unpredictable environment on a daily basis, the airline industry can be adversely affected by a range of unforeseen natural events as was evident in last year’s ash cloud flight cancellations as well as the more recent snow disruptions across Europe. “The impact of that on our business is huge – in the latest disruption caused by the snow we lost £50 million at the end of December,” according to Reid.

“What we have to do internally is make sure we have really good contingency plans in place. Even with the strikes, we knew they were coming but we had to keep operating. We need to have plans in place so we can operate in disruption by taking the decisions and being brave.”

Reid explains that leaders in the organisation must be able to cope strategically, have a high level of resilience while also motivating and inspiring people. They also must possess clarity as to what needs to be done in a crisis and by whom. They also need understanding and accountability and be able to develop at very senior levels for the future global environment that we’re finding ourselves in as we merge with Iberia. We are becoming much more global and have to work across national as well as organisational cultures.”

As a result, talent management is central to business success, she adds. “Talent management is all about linking it to the business strategy. It’s about understanding where a business is heading in the future and what are the skills and capabilities needed to propel the business forward and meet the business plan. If you haven’t got the right skill mix and the right capabilities in terms of leadership it’s a business risk so it should be treated as part of the risk management process of the business.”

Reid is optimistic for 2011 and believes the business environment is showing signs of improving. “It’s getting better and will be better than 2010 as budgets are increasing. Everybody cut their cloth accordingly. It was a wake-up call to do that as you could really examine what the priorities are and what needed to be done. Now we’re looking five years out to what we need.”

The marcus evans Talent Management and Leadership Development Conference will take place on 31 January – 1 February, Barcelona.