Strategic Human Resource Management & Virgin

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Virgin stands as an example of the benefits and success to be derived when top management realise that simply managing people is not sufficient, but investing in the human element that is responsible for all aspects of the operations, will reap tangible rewards.

Virgin approach recognised that human resource management should not just be approached from a series of procedures, polices and systems but should be balanced with a keen interest in the people of the organisation through which key objectives are met.


In 1970 Richard Branson initiated the Virgin firm as a distributor of records. Today, after establishing itself in the airline, cellular phone and financial industries (just to name a few) Virgin continues to successfully explore and invest in diverse and innovative businesses. Interestingly, for a company that is obviously marketing and business savvy, it’s Group Motto “Our people come first” , (IBS Research Center, 2009) speaks to the influence and impact of its strategic human resource management.

This report looks at the success of the Virgin Group of Companies through the eyes of strategic human resource management by firstly analysing the organisational culture that nurtures success and high performance. Richard Branson’s leadership and management have significantly contributed to Virgin’s culture and as such the correlation between both will be explored. Thirdly, the models and theories utilised to shape and manage such a dynamic workforce will be examined. Finally, recommendations on cost cutting measures from a human resources management point of view will follow.


The common theme at all Virgin companies is that the human resource capital is important and is the major component of its brand. As such, the Virgin culture revolves around communicating the core values, instilling the right attitude; maintaining acceptable behaviours and engaging staff. From all reports, the dominant organisational culture at Virgin can be described as constructive. Using the descriptors arising out of a research conducted in 2004 by Human Synergistic International, the general culture of the organisation fits the profile based on four specific key behaviours (Gourley, 2004):

1.Achievement (set goals, pursue a standard of excellence)

At Virgin, employees are not only encouraged to be innovative; they are expected to explore new ways of achieving. Management are given the resources and empowered to develop and grow new business and innovation, excellence and performance are rewarded and celebrated.

2.Self-Actualising (be creative, learn and grow)

A key component in the human resources management system is that of assisting employees at all levels to realise their full potential. In contrast to many other organisations whose appraisal system is likely to lead to negative consequences in the event the employee fails in a particular role, at Virgin staff is given the opportunity to excel at another Virgin company or in another role (Knowledge@Warton, 2005). This method, along with other personal developmental efforts, not only assist staff in maintaining key basic needs as espoused by Maslow, but encourages them to "the full use and exploitation of talents, capacities, and potentialities. " (Abraham-Maslow n.d.).

3.Humanistic Encouraging (be supportive and helpful one another)

Team work and collaboration are key aspects of the culture at the Virgin Group and helps to balance any counter productive output of high achievers. While the organisation operates as a conglomerate of companies, inter-team and inter-company networking and communication are common especially for problem solving efforts.

4.Affiliative (build relationships with one another)

A natural outcome of Humanistic Encouraging as well as the personality and style of the founder and owner, Virgin’s human resources efforts are such that creates the...
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