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Work etiquette must change across the board in MAS

Publication Date : 15-08-2014


Cleaning up Malaysia Airlines (MAS) yet again will be no easy task.

Past attempts to put the airline on a path of sustainable profitability had not met with success despite the many surgeries in its structure and business model.

Now, even before Khazanah Nasional Bhd can begin the job of taking MAS private with a view of restructuring the airline, some quarters have cast their doubts if the plan can be successful when so many others have failed.

Khazanah said on Friday that it was offering 27 sen a share, or 1.4 billion ringgit (US$441,500 million) in total, to buy 30 per cent of the shares it does not own in MAS.

But what really frustrates some quarters is that the employees and the unions have been seen as spoilers to the many restructuring plans of MAS. And the employees have been blamed for its dismal financial performance.

MAS reported 1.14 billion ringgit ($359,500) in net losses for full-year 2013, and since it was hit by two tragedies – the disappearance of MH370 in the skies on March 8 and MH17 being shot down over Ukraine on July 17 – this is going to drag the airline further into the red.

This point was again brought up during a recent meeting, as someone senior from MAS hinted that the “management makes decisions and the staff, who are the enablers, have not delivered or implemented what was set out”.

But this has not gone down well with some people.

Let’s not forget that MAS’ cabin crew has won accolades for several years now for being the “best cabin crew in the world”, and that MAS’ on-time performance is in the 80 per cent range the past few months, which simply goes to tell that the unions and its members are not cavemen and women clothed in animal hides running around with spears in hand not doing their jobs.

In an organisation, every employee endeavours to do their best, but of course, there are bound to be the high achievers, trouble-makers, deadwood, followers and leaders. It is really up to the organisation to manage these people and extract value from them. And to do that, there needs to be proper processes, tools, reskilling and retraining for the enablers to make it happen.

If the processes are flawed or have not been put in place, can the desired results be achieved?

Then again, was there guidance from management as to what each and every employee was supposed to do?

MAS should also know what it wants from its employees, who are the enablers. Does it want them to work harder, do they have the right equipment, and are things in place for them to react and deliver the results?

At the end of the day, it is morale which is important, as MAS is in the services industry where its cabin crew needs to serve with a smile, its ground handlers need to bring bags into and out of the aircraft on time, and the check-in counters must serve customers efficiently and with a smile.

As they are the face of the company and the first touchpoint for the customers, they should feel motivated and happy to be doing their job.

Rather than playing the blame game, it would be more graceful to admit defeat and start afresh rather than resorting to finger-pointing and the like.

Since Khazanah is taking MAS private, it has to look at not just the hardware aspect of MAS but also the liveware, which is its people.

The success of Khazanah’s new plan to overhaul MAS, among others, hinges on its employees, as they are the key enablers. What it needs to do is start engaging with the employees and their representatives, and indeed, some effort has been made towards this end.

People are at the heart of any organisation and no matter how much hardware changes are made, if the people do not embrace change, it would be difficult to achieve success.

There have been so many failures in engaging the employees in the past, but one thing many in MAS remember fondly is the way former MAS managing director Idris Jala had touched their hearts and lives. The happiness index then was showing better results than now.

This time around, even prime minister Najib Razak wants all parties to work to make the overhaul of MAS a success.

If Khazanah wants a positive outcome, then the employees must be happy. It is work etiquette that really matters, as happiness is the precursor to doing a good job and overall success.


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