Cultural Web Analysis of Air New Zealand

Table of Content

1. Introduction

In this paper, we will discuss and analyze the cultural web audit of Air New Zealand in relation to company’s strategy making and organizational culture to identify the areas of behaviours of top management and employees within the organization and with the outsiders. Other aspects include organizational life such as events, programs, assessments and awards and ceremonies in relation to their physical attributes. With the help of various resources and databases, we will explore the company’s power structure and control system and its main constituent of central organizational paradigm.

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Moving forward with the finding, we will then emphasize the main aspects of company that needs to be monitored and sustained in order to remain competitive. Air New Zealand is the national based airline established in the year 1965, with more than eleven thousand employees working worldwide and its travel destinations covers almost all the parts of the world but with the main focus on Asia, Europe, Far East and North America. Some of its major competitors are Qantas, Virgin Airways/ Virgin Australia, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. The reason for choosing this airline is due to its long history, various transformations that took place over the years, critical success and failure events that forced this airline to undergo various restructuring initiatives such as delayering, project based organising, outsourcing some of its business operations and developing alliances which was one of the toughest decisions of their time and changes in leadership that has reflected the company’s image and its employees.

2. Cultural Web Audit

Before we start, let’s understand what culture can be defined as “the set of key values, assumptions, understandings, and norms that is shared by members of an organization and taught to new members as correct”. (D. L. Richard, 2012)

In order to understand what makes an organization unique, we will explore not just the explicit, written rules but also unwritten, subconscious, intangible assumptions and beliefs that shape organization behaviour and are manifested in all facets of day to day life which includes the following:

2.1 Power Structure

Based on the above table, we can identity that different CEO’s in the same company have demonstrated unique leadership quality and power structure to influence the organization. Using French and Raven’s proposed five basis of power which is associated with the core assumptions and beliefs in this company, the CEO had the most influential affect on the employees however, upon having an interaction with one of the employee it has been found that every department has its own team lead who empowered employees with all the necessary resources that is required to get the task done.

For instance, the person with whom I had a conversation mentioned that in IT department, they had freedom to work in office or from home, irrespective of time and can use the company’s laptop to finish the project before the deadline.

Other things which he/she mentioned about the dress code was, employees in the corporate office were allowed to wear formals or casuals based on their interest as there was no restrictions but at the airport all the employees of Air NZ had to wear formal dress with proper business attire which reflected their standards of work and professionalism as there are other competitors in the market such as Qantas, Virgin Australia and many other airlines that operate on shore and off shore of New Zealand

2.2 Office structure

From the article published in Los Angeles Times (2010), it has been found that the office structure of CEO is designed in such a way which is visible from anyone on the floor, covered with recycled carpet and wood trims made from trees that came from sustainable forest. The corporate building which consists of five stories is known as “The Hub” by its employees, mostly built of glasses to cut down electric use by making use of more sunlight. According to the article, there are no cubicle wall to darken the rooms and lights has been designed in such a way that turns on automatically 7:30 AM and turns off by 6 PM with the help of sensors that detect human movement and if no activity is done then the lights turn off automatically after 15 minutes. The internal structure such as office layouts, cafeterias are designed in an open plan layout were desks are arranged in a vertical and round to each other, such that each employee is able to see the other., bringing along a sense of team work and better collaborations to improve communication across all the levels. (Personal conversation, 2013 August)

In theory, this airline demonstrate Adaptive culture, which means “culture characterized by values that support the organization’s ability to interpret and translate signals from the environment into new behaviour responses” (D. L. Richard, 2012)

2.3 Symbolic Aspect

The national culture of New Zealand is similar to olden days were people like to work for few days and enjoy the life because they put greater emphasis on quality of life and the weather conditions are favourable to have a healthy, friendly and peaceful life.

Air New Zealand, national grown organization of the NZ has demonstrated the same culture of being friendly, easy going, empathy, safety and charming experience. (NZ Herald, 2012)

The observable difference of Air New Zealand is the symbol of “Koru” on the plane, is logo which represents new life, growth, strength and peace in the integral symbol in Maori and the observable corporate culture according to press forum on Ranstand award (2012) is the presence of pleasant working atmosphere, employee benefit, interesting job content, strong management, salary and good training for its employees.

The design of Air NZ’s aircraft is very unique from internally than compared to other airlines in which it created in a way so that people feel like home. Seats are fully comfortable in economy class and seats in premium economy and business class are arranged facing each other to create an atmosphere of social gathering and event were passengers can have lunch and talk together.

2.4 Behaviour

Based on the personal conversation with one of the employee from Air New Zealand (2013, August 31) it has been found that the behaviour of the employees within the company is very positive, easy going, respectful and friendly in the office but when it comes to airport and aircrafts all the employees adapt their behaviour professionally specially using proper language and sentences while communicating and failure to abide by the guided values and principles can be very serious offense, this can be proved by the following example. According to article posted on Savvy stew network (2013, July 20) Air New Zealand has fined and fired one of its flight attendant with ten thousand dollar fine for serious misconduct on flight which included acting in an aggressive manner by shouting at colleagues and subordinates, not preparing enough food and speaking in an unprofessional way to the passengers On the other hand, the employee’s behaviour towards outsiders can be experienced as customer centric, disciplined, and this provides an accurate picture of what actions may be taken in given situations based on the company’s standard operating procedure (SOP).

2.5 Organizational life & Events

In one of my discussion question with the employee of Air NZ was regarding the company’s events, awards, learning and ceremonies were he/she mentioned that when an employee joins the company they are provided with orientation session which is common in every company, schools and universities. But here, they highlighted many events like cultural bonding events were one day all the members of the company dress traditionally and come to work.

Other events included food festival, were all the members of the organization feast on various types of dishes. Also, sport activities such as company’s net ball team, tennis tournament were conducted every year for members to participate. Every year award ceremonies are conducted to appreciate the work of best and effective employees

In theory we see that the company is using Maslow’s hierarchy of need theory as its basis to motivate its employees by fulfilling personal- physiological needs, safety, social (love/belongingness), esteem and self-actualization

The company has its own Air New Zealand Aviation institute were employees from various departments and levels are given an opportunity to learn new skills, grow in their career by conducting training events, career counselling, leadership development programs seminars and various other workshops on a routine basis helps employees to grow within the company in different areas of the aviation industry (NZ Herald, 2010).

Externally, we can see that the company is fully living its organizational life by being active and participative in all the various matters that are revolving around the business environment. One of the illustrations is its support for same sex couple, the airlines is sending a direct message to all its stakeholders that the company will be doing its best to fulfil customer needs and wants. On August 19, 2013 Auckland based same sex couple ties the knot at 30,000 ft.

2.6 Training Programs:

Based on the case study analysis conducted by Skills highway with payroll Manager, Sue Travaglia to develop business communication and training programs for its culturally diverse payroll and HR team on delivering topquality services. It has been found that to improve the communication across the organization and its various branches, they have identified the people who required training and in what areas. The scanning of employees resulted in knowing various employees needed to improve their email writing skills and others needed more attention about New Zealand culture, idioms and use of language. With this finding, the company’s top management team designed custom made training programs for each individual employee and provided weekly training modules up to 20 hours with real life examples at workplace. With the assessment results, the top management were surprised and satisfied with the overall improvement in communication. Employees brought more of their personal interest in work with more dedication, positive attitude and created a fun learning atmosphere.

2.7 Myths and Stories

In one in my questions asked during informal conversation with an employee of the company, he/she mentioned that the company often shares successful stories with all the members in the organization. One of the examples that were mentioned during the conversation was the appreciation of flight crew members by various travellers. These types of achievements and results were often shared through various ways such as emails and posters to motivate and inspire all the members to perform better and this was seen in a positive way amongst the employees.

2.8 Organizational structure

Based on the explanation and discussing with employee of the Air NZ (2013), it has been found that the company practices Matrix structure, were the employees are placed based on the function they belong to and the product they are involved in e.g. Project A. In other words, a simple rigid type structure Illustration

Based on the article published on Business wire (2008), Air NZ has outsourced its recruiting, talent management, succession planning and performance management of its employees to Step Stone which is one of the largest global providers of total talent solutions in the form of products and services. Interestingly, Air NZ has also outsourced its other part of business such as training, consulting, organizational performance to RWD technologies In theory, we see this as Project-based organising & Outsourcing, were the “coordination across traditional business unit such as recruiting, training is seen to be essential for creating more competitive, responsive and flexible organization attuned to the need of the marketplace”. (G. Fiona, R. Malcolm, L. Ann, S. Aaron, 2002)

2.9 Basis of competitive success (Individualistic/collective or cooperative) Based on the results Customer experience Index (2013), Air NZ has topped the index in terms of best customer experience in the world. In the same result, the General Manager of the company gave the credit to all the staff around the world who have contributed equal amount of hard work and dedication. This shows that no doubt every individual works hard but the rewards are collectives distributed by giving credit to the entire team.

2.10 Informal ways of working
According to the article published in website, Rob Fyfe (Ex-CEO) himself served coffees and tea on domestic flights and even assisted the crew members in loading bags in the aircraft. This reflected the attitude of top management and culture of Air New Zealand as playful, humble, obedient and equality of its entire staff.

3. Central organizational Paradigm
By looking at the company’s mission and vision statement and speaking to two of its employees, it can be interpreted that it has focused on the need to develop the strategic thinking capacity of their people which involves forecasting, anticipating and being creative by providing opportunity to exchange ideas, information and knowledge from all level of the company that can help to shape its future course. In theory we see this as described by Hamel and Prahalad (G. Fiona, R. Malcolm, L. Ann, S. Aaron, 2002); having three core competencies i.e. customer value which is seen as perceived quality difference or value for money in comparison with similar goods/services. Competitor differentiation – a competence that is hard for competitor to copy and extendability in the form of scope of expansion into other markets using various strategies and initiatives Table

3.1: Air New Zealand’s core competencies

Source: Air NZ Investors day report, 2013.

4. Strengths of New Culture

Based on the article in New Zealand Management (2010), during the tenure of Ex-CEO, Rob Fyfe clearly indicated that he believed in empowering employees with the responsibilities to handle customers, engage with colleagues and suppliers in kiwi manner. Besides, he gives all the credits to its staff and team members in various departments who continuously work on innovative solutions and go out their ways to help the passengers. He also mentioned that the organization doesn’t emphasis on policies and procedure; instead they use stories and real life experience to give the employees guidelines and reference points. By looking at the investors report (2013) and with the help of above examples, we can analyze that the company has clearly demonstrated a new culture by mentioning “New management team in place”, “New functional structure” and “A team of globally experienced leaders with deep institutional knowledge”.

The following represents that the company’s strength of new culture and it’s committed to:

1. Continuous improvement in cost,

2. Delivery and quality,
3. Close customer and supplier relations,
4. Flatter and less compartmentalised organization structure 5. Use of new technology to improve customer value
6. Training, multiskilling and teamwork.

5. Ongoing Concern
One of the major ongoing concerns based on the case study posted on social samosa website (2013) is the Air NZ’s missing strategy in the area of social media websites on face book and twitter. Having personally checked the Air NZ’s webpage profile on face book, it has been found that the company is using face book pages to promote their offers which is done by every airlines but one of the aspect that the company is missing “engaging content strategy” were people doesn’t get any kind of responses to their thoughts, grievance and complains or even any discussion forums. I was able to see that the company never had any interactions with the fans in regards to its post; it is only the airline is talking about themselves or in general or any events. Even if they do communicate, the response speed is very slow which can take up to many days to address the issues 6. Recommendation

After analysing the above ongoing concern, we would like to recommend that the company can focus more on the social media aspect because the company need to make efforts to make people love their brand by allowing them to express their feelings and thoughts in public. When comparing the response time provided by the other airlines such as Jet airways, spice jet these airlines are acknowledging customer issues within 45 minutes (average rate response time) of receiving complain. To support the above finding please refer the below data chart

Source: Social media strategy review: The Aviation sector (2013) 7.


In conclusion, from the above findings, research and personal informal conversation we can interpret that the company is aware about the importance of its people, culture, vision and mission without which it is extremely difficult to achieve any competitive advantage in the business that they offer against their competitors. Through this report, we would like to highlight the company that it is certainly going in right directions by demonstrating high performance work systems which involves integration between organization strategy (hard- structure, system technology and soft – vision, value, behaviours, attitudes) and HRM system to achieve envisioned goals through understanding its culture and its composite parts, that outline the value of cultural web. One important aspect that company needs to look on a continuous basis is the external changing factors such as PESTEL which are dynamic and understand the needs of customers by researching to achieve competitive advantage to survive and sustain.


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Here is the list of questions that were asked during informal conversation with two of the Air NZ’s employees, who provided with their opinions and views about their experiences which has been used as the answers for the above research paper. 1. How many numbers of awards and ceremonies events does ANZ organize for its employees every year? 2. The routine ways in which members of the organization behave towards each other’s and outsider? Is it kind of more formal or informal? Friendly or professional? 3. Are members in the organization are respectful? Or conservative? Does every member in organization have individual groups according to their like minded people? Or members in the company are very freely and get around with any people? 4. How often you see any fights or dispute amongst employees on any topics? 5. How many types of assessments do the company has for its employee’s performance? Does the company provide necessary training and retraining, if the employees are not able to perform well? Or do they just fire the people? 6. What other extra-circular activities does by the company for its employees to enjoy working in the organization?

Or any team bonding activities? 7. Do the employees in the company use many kiwi jargons? Or speak common English? 8. Do employees have to follow certain guide line for talking to top management regarding any matter? or can they easily approach the top guys? 9. Have you come across any success stories of employees since you started working at ANZ? 10. How many times did you see the CEO of the company around the office? Is it more often, or every day? Or ones in a week? Or ones in a month? 11. Do you see employees or your colleagues motivated when they start to work for e.g. do they look energetic, smiley face? Or do they complain about the work at the beginning of the day? 12. How easily can a new employee adapt to the company’s culture. Is it easy to adapt or difficult, does is look same in every organizations that you have worked for? Or did you find any difference? 13. When you joined the company, did they conduct any orientation about their culture, norms, events and activities for the employees? If yes, please provide some clue in the form of examples or name any events or activities.

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