Reports that there have been lengthy delays for passengers landing at London’s Heathrow airport have been making the headlines recently and have led to questions being asked in Parliament. The story gained added urgency with the Olympic Games this summer. Fears were expressed that Britain’s image would suffer if foreign visitors to the Games were subjected to such delays.
The cause of the problem has been bottlenecks at Passport control. The organisation responsible for managing visitors’ entrance to the country is the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Formerly part of the UK civil service, the UKBA is a semi-autonomous body responsible to the Home Secretary.
Media reports blamed staffing reductions resulting from government requirements for budget cuts; lazy workers; and inefficient management.
A thorough study of the UKBA’s performance by the independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration confirmed there were real problems and that the standard of service was not acceptable. His report identified the cause as a combination of staff cuts with major organisational change, including the introduction of new and untried technology, which was implemented without sufficient planning and at the busiest time of the year (read more here).
Downsizing of staff, reorganisation and the introduction of new technology are all examples of change management, which is one of the most important, yet hardest, aspects of the management of people. It seems to have been the implementation of change rather than the changes themselves which has led to UKBA’s problems.
The website of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the UK professional body for HR managers, contains a wealth of information on HR issues such as change management, and much of this is available to non-members. Worth a look: www.cipd.co.uk