A Case Study Virgin Atlantic


This paper discusses leadership in light of people management, using Virgin Atlantic as the sample organization to present a thorough discussion. Leadership is the art of influencing people (termed as followers) towards a common purpose. In this assignment, I have discussed two questions as follows. First is the importance of addressing leadership issues of HR practice & policy as part of the HR strategy. Secondly, drawing on academic theory, I have evaluated the current state of leadership within the organization as well as providing a reasoned proposal for the organizations future practice. Virgin Atlantic, the company in question in this study, is the trading name of Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited – a British airline. The company has its headquarters in Crawley, United Kingdom. The airline began in 1984 by Randolph Fields and Alan Hellary and was named British Atlantic Airways that later rebranded following disagreements between Field and Richard Branson who controls the Virgin Group stake in the company and hence the major part of the airline. As of 2017, the company had averagely 9,823 employees and conducted over 21,883 flights; marking the company as a substantial air company in the United Kingdom. The company has had a fluctuation in the human resource, having increments as well as decrements which is a keynote for the organization's human resource management.


The importance of addressing leadership issues of HR practice & policy as part of the HR strategy

Leadership is the capacity to influence followers (Roehling, 2005) in the organization for the achievement of unison in mindset and behavior towards a commonly aimed objective. Leaders transfer morale and conviction to people so that they become transformed into passionate individuals and teams committed to a goal. Human resource management is the art and science of organizing, staffing, directing, planning and controlling people in organizations. It is the organization’s tool for the identification of staffing needs, the acquisition of staff, motivation of employees and maintaining effective teams in the organization. Human resource managers are therefore indebted and must embrace leadership in every aspect of their practice. HR policies need to primarily integrate leadership in their strategies for fruition to happen in the organization. For this purpose, this section examines Virgin Atlantic’s desperate need for inclusion of leadership in their HR policy and the importance in so doing.

For any organization, leadership serves as such a key function that revolutionizes the effectiveness of the entire organization. This function of management helps to go a long way in enabling the realization of organizational goals (Suriyamurthi, 2013). A prime factor as to why leadership must be included in a company’s HR strategy is that leadership initiates action. Human resource managers are individuals who must start the work in the organization by actually communicating the policies and the instituted plans to the various subordinates from where the work begins. Human resource management professionals must be established on a firm leadership foundation so that their practice will not only be supervisory and “unappreciated” by employees but rather be influencers who instill in the employees the drive to achieve the goals. Of the company. Management whose HR strategy overlooks leadership can only achieve the opposite of business success for they cannot effectively transfer morale to the employees.

Leadership inclusion into HR policy (Boekhorst, 2015) is substantially important for the attainment of a motivated workforce in the firm. Leadership proves itself to play the role of an incentive in the concern’s working. HR managers who operate backed by significant leadership capacity provide motivation to the employees in either financial or non-financial means so that they drive the work done by the employees. This principle avoids looking at HR as a harsh way or directing personnel in the organization and rather holds HR management as a way to facilitate the work the organization must accomplish, but doing it in a calm win-to-win environment. Certainly, employees are more productive when motivated and provided with incentives as opposed to a tense work environment where people are afraid of the worst.

The inclusion of leadership in HR policy (Boekhorst, 2015) helps the productivity of the company rise by giving guidance to personnel, who then develop confidence with the support of the HR team. HR managers must embrace leadership tactics and lay down strategies that shall appeal to the employee to give selfless input by first guiding them on how to do what, and by instilling confidence in the personnel. This is a primary way for human resource managers to drive the organization by empowering the personality and capacity of the employee in the manner that persuades them to operate confidently and with considerable consequent fruition of their work.

Human resource management teams must operate by policies that include leadership (Suriyamurthi, 2013) so as to empower themselves to act as representatives of the organization. A leader acts in full might as an emblem of the entire organization, making pursuits and advances on behalf of the company and for the company. For this reason, companies like the Virgin Atlantic as well as any other company must take their leadership strategy in HR a notch higher for better organizational results. They would then be able to drive the organization to its vision as they represent the company before the employees.

Leadership has a direct effect on the performance of an enterprise (Bratton, 2017). It can, therefore, affect the company's productivity and profitability positively or negatively. The leadership of the sample company: Virgin Atlantic has the capacity to enhance or to derail the company’s pursuit of its vision. Whether a rise or a decline in the company’s profitability and the trend of its volume of operation, the leadership of the company must be held liable for they are in a position to command these visual variables. Other organizational indicators such as the employee turnover in organizations also serve to highlight the state of affairs in the organization's management, and particularly the HR.

To identify the state of leadership in the company, this section uses the various background theories and the following 13-year tabular data to objectively evaluate Virgin Atlantic's leadership performance and to recommend the future practice.

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The table above shows the business trends of Virgin Atlantic for 13 years spanning 2005-2017. The measured variables include the company's turnover, profitability, average number of employees, passengers carried by the airline, and the number of aircraft held. The aspects regarded as of significance in this paper include the profitability and the number of employees per year. One crucial factor, in this case, is the unstable volume of employees in the company.

The airline company has had major fluctuations in their average monthly and hence yearly staffing levels as observed between 2012 to 2017. The company had a sharp rise in the overall human resource by 6% between 2012 and 2013 (Doganis, 2005). This then proceeded to a cumulative 8% decline in the overall staffing volume by the year 2016. This indicates an important factor of the job retention and security of personnel in Virgin Atlantic. The sharp declines in the volume of personnel in the company with alarming percentages as aggregates of 8% of the entire company’s workforce show that the average employee in the company is likely to lose their job. As a result, an employee is likely to be in fear (Miner, 2015) that his job in Virgin Atlantic is volatile enough and can be void of it anytime. This reality in Virgin Atlantic Limited arouses the interest of the Herzberg’s proposed two-factor theory.

Fredrick Herzberg, a behavioral scientist, provided in his two-factor theory (Miner, 2015) that there are some job factors that lead to satisfaction and others that prevent dissatisfaction among employees, dubbing them as hygiene factors and motivational factors. The productivity of employees in the organization must be studied jointly with their level of motivation. Herzberg's proposed two-factor theory mentions that hygiene factors (De Castella, 2015) that include job security, pay, status, working conditions and administrative policies must be present for motivation to exist within the employees of the organization. Their absence in the workplace could lead to dissatisfaction in the workplace and hence adversely affect the capacity of the firm to grow its profitability. Employees in Virgin Atlantic are most likely dissatisfied due to the existent insecurity and unstable employee turnover (BL Holston-Okae, 2018) in the organization. As shown by Herzberg, job security is a necessity for a productive workforce and it is entangled with the individual’s propensity to perform in their job roles.

The importance of job security (Bratton, 2017) for employees in the company is agreed upon by other prior scholars such as Abraham Maslow, McGregor, and John Stacey Adams. People in the company work as committedly according to the measure they are persuaded that they are valuable to the organization and that they are appreciated as responsibility agents for the company’s growth. Employees will surely not work well if they perceive fear in the workplace. They must get confidence built by the input of the HR managers so that they can work optimally.

The Richard Branson led airline statistically proves to have a questionable level of employee retention. The high rate of fluctuation of the number people resources in the firm over the years hints to a likely high tendency to hire temporary staff as opposed to retaining them or acquiring permanent staff for the company’s staffing needs (Bratton, 2017). In this case, the company, therefore, sustains a lowly satisfied (or rather dissatisfied) employee base. Hundreds of employees having no assurance of meeting their low-hierarchy needs such as security and necessities are demotivated and cannot be productive enough for the company.

By virtue of the identified issues in Virgin Atlantic, the leadership of the company needs to take on a few recommendations in their future practice to enhance their level of productivity and profitability (Suriyamurthi, 2013)y. Firstly, the company’s chairperson Richard Branson, who maintains the role of representing the company and directing decision on behalf of the company must cultivate a culture of leadership amongst the managerial teams in the firm (Waldman, 2001). He must enact new policies that enhance the value invested in the employee. By so doing, the company should realize a state where the employees feel like integral parts of the organization and thus enhance their motivation and performance for the airline.

Nonetheless, the airline's top management must in liaison with the human resource management establish a solid plan of satisfying the staffing needs of the company. The company must ensure that it does not enact sharp changes in the volume of the workforce in the but rather focus on a more sustainable and psychologically constructive strategy to harness the capacity of the employees for the benefit of the organization. This must, however, be done in such a way to align with Herzberg’s recommendation of ensuring a satisfied and motivated (Miner, 2015) human resource by guaranteeing the permanency of their job roles by means of advanced job security. Ensuring that the employee is not worried about losing their job in the course of time is key to ignite their passion in pursuit of the goals set ahead of them (Bratton, 2017). Only a secure individual will work unswervingly for the company's success or otherwise, a person will be preoccupied with fears of an unwarranted retrenchment.

As a way to enhance its profitability and productivity, the company Virgin Atlantic (Crane, 2005) must enact Adam’s recommendations of equity theory of motivation. The theory requires that for the employee to be motivated, they must perceive their employment benefits as at least equitable to the quantity of effort they put in their work. At this point, the employees can then bank on achieving higher goals for the company.

Nonetheless, the company’s chief must demonstrate confidence from top to bottom along the organizational structure to dare better company results. Richard Branson, Virgin Group’s commando needs to conduct a confident major reengineering procedure to re-streamline business activity for the company and hence bring to an end the continued losses observed in the company’s trajectory. The repeated (Doganis, 2005) losses call for leadership to re-invent practices in the company and confidently define new strategies to increase business. As company agents, the directors must rethink, omit non-value adding aspects and strengthen operations with a mint of profitability.

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In brief, human resource management strategic plans must sufficiently incorporate leadership for higher effectiveness. Leadership issues of HR strategy, if well covered will revolutionize the people resources of the company for better organizational performance. The inclusion of leadership in the HR strategy helps make the HR unit of the organization work as agents of the company to instill influence in the employee and enhance their productivity. The Virgin Atlantic has been making losses in recent years, taking measures of transferring substantial shareholdings of the Virgin Group as a result of non-performance. The company must, however, take deliberate moves to stabilize its employee population and rethink its business for better profitability. The airline must streamline its operations to reduce losses and increase profits for better sustainability.


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