Performance Assessment of Flying Staff of Emirates Airlines

This research project aims to examine the impact of performance assessments on the flying staff of Emirates Airlines. Recent decades have seen significant developments in the area of human resources management. Whilst labour was for many years considered no more than one of the four factors of production, (the other three being land, machinery and capital), contemporary businesses think of the quality and motivation of their workforce to be one of the most important elements of their competitiveness in the larger market (Mathis & Jackson, 2004). Scientific management principles, elaborated by the likes of Fredrick Taylor and Henry Ford, have for long advanced the theory that employees by and large do not like to work and need close watch and strict supervision for optimisation of performance (Mathis & Jackson, 2004).

The closure of the Second World War and the immense expansion of business in the developed economies in the following years led to the emergence of different theories on improvement of employee productivity (Mathis & Jackson, 2004). Psychologists and behavioural specialists like Maslow, McGregor and Vroom advanced theories on improvement of employee motivation and productivity through the use of numerous soft approaches like (a) satisfaction of different levels of individual needs, (b) better communication with employees and (c) greater employee involvement and participation in the workplace (Mathis & Jackson, 2004).

The evolution of various strategies for enhancement of employee productivity also resulted in the sophistication of different HR tools and practices like selection and recruitment, training and orientation, and performance assessment (Lazenby, 2008). Performance assessment, HR experts believe help in developing both organisational and individual knowledge about the various attitudes and skills of employees, which in turn finally determine their performance in the workplace. Such performance assessment helps organisations in various ways to improve employee productivity and can also be used as a strong tool for motivation of employees (Lazenby, 2008).

Performance assessment methods are now being progressively adopted by numerous business corporations, including airlines. Emirates Airlines, the subject of this study is the largest carrier of the Middle East and one of the better known airlines in the world (Emirates Airlines, 2010). The company places special emphasis on providing its clients with comfortable, convenient and enjoyable flying experiences. Much of its success in customer service and satisfaction as well as the operational efficiency of its aircraft depends upon the efficiency, productivity and motivation of its flying staff (Emirates Airlines, 2010).

This dissertation project investigates the impact of performance assistance on the flying staff of Emirates Airlines.

1.2. Aims and Objectives

This research project aims to examine the impact of performance assessment of the flying staff of Emirates Airlines on their levels of motivation. The project has the following objectives:

To examine the different objectives and methods of performance assessment

To investigate and quantify the impact of performance assessment on various areas like employee performance, employee involvement and employee motivation

To investigate the likely impact of performance assessment on the motivation levels of employees of Emirates Airlines

1.3. Research Questions

The research questions for the project are elaborated as under:

Question 1: What are basic purposes and objectives of performance assessment?

Question 2: How can performance assessment procedures be applied to flying staff of eminent airlines?

Question 3: How can performance assessment affect the performance, commitment, loyalty and motivation of the flying staff of such airlines?

Question 4: How will performance level affect the motivation of flying staff of Emirates Airways?

1.4. Definition of Terms



Performance Assessment

Methods used for assessment of performance of organisational employees

Flying Staff

Airline employees like pilots and crew members who work in the air

Maslow, McGregor and Vroom

Very important behavioural scientists

September 11 Attacks

Terrorist attacks on World Trade Centre, New York on September 11, 2001


Function or academic discipline connected with organisational human resources

1.5. Limitations of Study

The study is limited by the resources available to the researcher in terms of time and facilities. Whilst effort will be made to conduct primary research in detail, it is possible that respondents for primary research may not be available as required. Such limitations could affect the quality of research and validity of findings.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Emirates Airlines

Emirates Airlines, which was founded in 1985 with the support of the Royal Family of Dubai, has over the years grown to become the largest carrier of the Middle East. Emirates, apart from being the largest carrier of the region, also finds place amongst the 10 top global airlines in terms of sales and passengers (Airliner World, 2010). The airline flies to more than 100 destinations in 65 countries. The organisation has shown constant growth in sales and profits over the years, the only exception being 2009, when the impact of the global recession resulted in a sharp drop in its profits (Airliner World, 2010).

Emirates Airlines operates in one of the most competitive business sectors of the world. Whilst the airline sector has grown steadily over the last two decades, it has constantly faced various economic and other challenges (Gulf News, 2007). The sector has witnessed the entry of numerous airlines across the world and has become increasingly competitive with the passing of years. Sharp spikes in the price of oil have time and again disturbed the economies of airlines operations, even as the entries of numerous low cost players have prevented industry participants from increasing their fares (Gulf News, 2007). The industry went through extremely difficult times in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in New York, the consequent fall in local and international air traffic leading to the closure of numerous airlines. The ongoing economic depression has also hurt the fortunes of most carriers; the industry has recorded losses of billions of dollars in 2008 and 2009 and expects to just about breakeven in 2011 (Airliner World, 2010).

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Emirates are one of the very few airlines who have managed to achieve profits during the recession, even though the amount of its profits dropped very substantially. The airline is very well known for its quality of service and for its efficient operations (Emirates Airlines, 2010).

2.2. HR Management and Performance Appraisal

Most business organisations carry out some form of employee performance appraisal. Such appraisals are by and large conducted on a yearly basis with managers assessing and evaluating the performance of their subordinates (Buono, 1998).

Gergely and Kovacs (2009), describe performance appraisal to be the estimation and evaluation of performances of individual employees during specific time periods. Such assessment and evaluation help in determining the suitability of evaluated persons for fulfilling their jobs and assignments (Gergely & Kovacs 2009).

Performance assessments of employees are routinely undertaken by many organisations before such employees are provided with greater organisational responsibilities or remuneration (Gergely & Kovacs 2009). The performance assessment process has two important dimensions, one of which is evaluative and the other developmental in nature. Evaluation based on results represents the judgement of performances of evaluated persons during specific time periods (Gergely & Kovacs 2009). Such judgements are made after specific comparison of individual performance with previously specified job standards or objectives. Evaluation for developmental purposes on the other hand attempts to investigate the possibilities and potential of people to take on additional responsibilities (Gergely & Kovacs 2009). Such evaluations are by and large connected to promotions or job reallocations. The main aim of such evaluation is to find the direction in which the skills and knowledge of specific individuals have to be developed in order to improve their performance (Gergely & Kovacs 2009).

2.3. Performance Assessment for the Flying Staff in the Airlines Industry

Members of the flying staff in the airline sector carry out some of the most important tasks of their individual organisations. Whilst the successful operations of an airline is undoubtedly dependent upon the combined efforts of employees on the ground and in the air, the flying crew have the paramount responsibility of actually transporting organisational clients and making their experiences, satisfying, comfortable and enjoyable (Baker & Dismukes, 2002). The efficiencies, capabilities and attitudes of members of the flying crew are vitally important for customer satisfaction and customer retention. Inefficiencies and inadequacies on their part can lead to customer dissatisfaction, with consequential adverse results on company image, sales and profitability (Baker & Dismukes, 2002).

Optimising the performance of the flight crew is thus a major objective of all efficient and well run airlines (Baker & Dismukes, 2002). Most such airlines pay great attention to the selection of their flying staff and develop elaborate and specialised training programmes for their professional and personal development. Performance assessments of such employees are carried out very regularly and enable organisational managements to ascertain different facets of the personalities, skills and attitudes of flying staff (Baker & Dismukes, 2002). Such performance assessments form the basis for promotions, work reallocations and remuneration increases. Appropriately planned and conducted performance appraisals can thus certainly increase the confidence and motivation of airline staff and enhance their performance and productivity (Baker & Dismukes, 2002).

3. Research Methods

3.1. Methodological Perspectives

3.1.1. Determination of Research Method

The research methodology for dissertations in financial and economic areas has to be determined after the consideration of a variety of issues that comprise of the character and time of research and the conveniences and infrastructure accessible by the researcher (Bryman & Bell, 2007). The determination of research methodology requires (a) the selection of proper research methods, (b) the choice of suitable sources of information, and finally (c) decisions on the techniques of research that need to be followed (Bryman & Bell, 2007).

It is of paramount importance to study the character of research and decide on the type of methodology that needs to be adopted for the obtaining of most pertinent results (Creswell, 2002). Social research has experienced debate and dispute over its two significant methods, namely quantitative and qualitative methods. Quantitative and qualitative methods have dissimilar epistemological foundations and are on their own separately proper in different situations (Creswell, 2002). (Please see Appendix 1) Quantitative research methodologies begin from positivist schools of thoughts and include investigative methods that are numerical in nature and aspire to purposely measure responses. Such quantitative methods are useful in research situations that involve the determination of opinions of large populations through suitable sample based surveys, followed by tabulation, statistical analysis and interpretation (Creswell, 2002). Such research is by and large conducted through external researchers who are uninvolved in the subject and who function as channels between the main researcher and the group under investigation. Quantitative research concerns the ascertainment of suitable samples, whose size should be physically manageable for researchers and also represent the opinions of the wider population. The results of quantitative research are generally articulated in numerical terms, which are subsequently interpreted to arrive at appropriate findings and conclusions (Creswell, 2002).

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Sampling is a very important element of quantitative research. Sampling represents the selection of a small and manageable portion of the population under study on the premise that the opinions of the members of the sample will be representative of the attitudes of the larger population. The use of sampling techniques makes the job of researchers easier and manageable, especially where the populations under study are exceedingly large. Social research by and large makes use of two approaches to sampling, namely probability and non-probability sampling. The use probability of sampling ensures that all elements in a population, like persons or households, have similar opportunities of being included in chosen samples, even as it becomes possible to calculate the mathematical probability of their chances of selection. Population elements in non-probability sampling, on the other hand, are chosen on the basis of the researcher’s personal opinion on their being representative of the larger population or simply on the basis of their availability because of their agreeing to volunteer and participate in the research project. An unidentified portion of the population (those who for example did not volunteer) is excluded in such sampling techniques. The convenience sample constitutes one of commoner types of non-probability sample. Researchers often prefer to use population elements who are easily available and can be conveniently studied for the purpose of research, thus the use of the term.

Qualitative research conversely is based on interpretivist epistemology and is helpful in research issues that are incapable of being numerically assessed and are ideally analysed through qualitative examination and interpretation (Maxwell, 2004). Qualitative research is considered to be more suitable in research areas that are multifaceted and profound, cannot be described in numerical terms and necessitate answers to questions that are fundamentally “why” and “how” in character (Maxwell, 2004). Such research is carried out by researchers who are involved in the subject and acquire their information through the application of direct one to one interviews, focus group discussions and other appropriate investigative methods (Maxwell, 2004).

3.1.2. Choice of Information Sources

Selection of research methodology also necessitates the choice of sources of information. Information sources can fundamentally be divided into two categories, namely secondary and primary sources (Neuman, 2005). Primary sources of information represent information that is obtained directly from research subjects. Whilst such information can be acquired in the field with the use of opinion surveys in quantitative research or with the help of direct one-to-one interviews and discussions with focus in qualitative research, it can also be acquired from information that is directly provided by subjects under investigation through their authorised publications, websites, authorised internal policy documents, as well as their speeches, correctly recorded by recognized media organisations (Neuman, 2005).

Secondary information alternatively stands for information sources that are prepared by people who by themselves are not directly concerned in particular research assignments and is obtainable from books, journals, magazines and newspaper reports (Neuman, 2005). Case studies prepared on associated subjects are progressively being considered to be important sources of secondary information. Prepared by experts, case studies deal with issues in detail and usually contain a considerable amount of significant information (Neuman, 2005).

3.2. Research Design

The research issue is complex. With substantial information being available in the public domain, it is felt that focused and carefully constructed library research will be more appropriate for unearthing of appropriate and relevant information. The subject under study is complex in nature and can be well served by the utilisation of both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Carefully constructed questionnaire based surveys with citizens from the Middle East who fly regularly can help in understanding what flyers expect from the flying staff of airlines. Detailed qualitative interviews with representatives of the airlines industry will help in understanding the factors, with particular regard to performance appraisal, that motivate air staff employees to improve their performance and productivity.

3.3. Population and Samples

It is felt that a sample of 15 people who are based in the Middle East and fly regularly will be sufficient to get an idea of customer requirements during flying trips. The sample is non-probabilistic in nature and is chosen with regard to the time and facilities available with the researcher.

Detailed qualitative interviews should be conducted with three people, two of whom should belong to the flying staff and one of whom should belong to the middle or senior management of a Middle East Airline. This will enable the researcher to obtain a holistic and multifaceted view of the subject under study.

3.4. Data Collection

Data collection will be conducted through questionnaires for the quantitative survey and through direct interviews for qualitative analysis.

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Questionnaires for the sample will have to be designed carefully. The questionnaires will be administered by volunteers known to the researcher, who in turn will be provided with detailed instructions on the ways and means of administering the questionnaires. The administering of these questionnaires will in all likelihood occur in airport terminals and the volunteers will have to ensure that respondents are willing answer the questions. The questionnaires will be designed carefully in order to ensure that they can be answered easily and swiftly, and that they do not inconvenience the respondents in any way. The questions will also be framed such that the answers help in cross validation and in location of contradictory responses from the same respondents.

Qualitative interviews will have to be conducted carefully after selecting appropriate respondents and obtaining their approval to participate in the interview. The questions for the qualitative interview will have to be framed in order to obtain responses that pertain to the earlier elaborated research questions. Questions must be carefully constructed and whilst being flexible in nature should have a suitable mix of open and close ended questions. Open ended question should be used to encourage the respondents to discuss freely and openly about the subject under study, whereas close ended questions, which can be answered in Yes or No should be used to obtain specific information. The interview should be discreetly audio-taped in order to ensure that the respondents are not disturbed during the course of the interview.

3.5. Research Ethics

Care will be taken to follow all ethical norms that are important for social research investigations. Care will be taken to ensure acknowledgement of all sourced material. All respondents for primary research will be informed of their rights and their consent will be obtained in writing.

3.6. Data Analysis

Data obtained from surveys and direct interviews will carefully be transcribed on paper and analysed appropriately. The quantitative data will be carefully transcribed, and tabulated. The data will thereafter be analysed with analysed with the help of established statistical tools.

Qualitative data recorded during the interview shall be transcribed into paper with care taken to record the visual and sensory information received by the researcher during the interview with regard to body language, speech inflexions and other expressions used by the interviewee that do not figure in the actual transcript. The information available will be analysed with care to ensure the bringing out of various nuances and hidden meanings that are not reflected in the transcription of taped material. The results of quantitative and qualitative data will thereafter be checked for cross-validation.


Airliner World, 2010, Emirates, 25 Years of Excellence: Building a global network, pp. 28-37. Stamford, UK: Key Publishing.

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Bryman, A., & Bell, E., 2007, Business Research Methods, 2nd edition, New York: Oxford University Press.

Creswell, W. J., 2002, Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, 2nd Edition, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

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Maslow, A. H., 2000, The Maslow Business Reader, (D. C. Stephens, Ed.), New York, Wiley.

Mathis, L. R., & Jackson, H. J., 2004, Human Resource Management, 11th edition, United States: South-Western College Pub.

Maxwell, A. J., 2004, Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach, 2nd edition, London: Sage Publications.

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Appendix 1

Characteristics of Positivist and Interpretive Social Research

Type of Research

Positivist Interpretive

Research Research

Ontological and Epistemological Beliefs

Objective, analytical Subjective, collaborative

search for truth exploration of meaning

Methods for Data Collection

Experiments Surveys Structured Collaborative Experiential

Interviews/Observation Interviews Immersion

Types of Data

Quantitative Data Qualitative Data

(Samdahl, 1999)

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