Kenya Airways chief executive Sebastian Mikosz has hired five new executives from Poland — his home country – signalling a looming shake-up of the airline’s senior management.
It is not unusual for an outsider CEO to bring in a group of individuals upon taking charge of a corporation, but management experts said taking on board such a large number of expatriates in senior positions that early in his tenure could be counter-productive.
Kenya Airways insiders said the decision has already caused tension among workers who see it as a purge of individuals hired under the leadership of former CEOs Titus Naikuni and Mbuvi Ngunze under whose watch the airline nosedived to near bankruptcy.
In an email to staff, Mr Mikosz announced that the five expatriates were hired from his former employer, LOT Polish Airlines, effective September 1.
They are Monika Kietyka-Michna, Edyta Kijewska-Teny, Magdalena Serwach, Marcin Celejewski and Micha Mierciak.
Their jobs at KQ, as the airline is popularly known, was not specified, but the email explained their experience and previous roles at Poland’s national carrier.
KQ did not comment on this story, but Mr Mikosz’ said in the email that the new executives came as part of a restructuring plan that seeks to return the airline to profitability.
“As Kenya Airways is finalising the restructuring process and is about to embark on its mission to profitability, I decided to strengthen the Transformation Office with a team of airline professionals who have accomplished similar goals before,” Mr Mikosz says in the email, adding that the new team will report directly to him.
Take Over Key Operations
This means the expatriates have effectively taken charge of KQ’s key operation areas and that the CEO is counting on them to achieve his objectives.
The emerging power shift has reportedly led to the departure of at least three senior KQ managers while KQ’s director of flight operations Noel Malinda has left the position to resume flying.
“The role of the team will as well be focused on training our young talent and help me improve our processes – therefore they might contact you directly to involve in realising the key projects for KQ,” Mr Mikosz said.
Ms Kietyka-Michna, a former chief corporate officer at LOT Polish Airlines, has knowledge of strategic management in back office operations, while Ms Kijewska-Teny understands data and IT systems having previously worked for Poland’s national carrier as programme manager for implementing its business process management software.
Ms Serwach is a corporate lawyer with experience in corporate governance, cohesion and compliance of internal corporate procedures.
Mr Celejewski, an “author and implementer of growth and development strategies”, previously worked for LOT Polish Airlines as chief commercial officer.
Mr Mierciak is a procurement expert and centralised the purchase function at Poland’s national airline.
Boost Performance and Revenues
The new team has been tasked with implementing key objectives throughout the company, including creating, driving and guarding cohesion of KQ strategy.
They will build a reporting system to enable the monitoring of key performance targets and providing fair and transparent information on company performance.
They will monitor and support the execution of all functional and project actions of the company, including special projects set by Mr Mikosz.
The team is also expected to focus on boosting the revenue of KQ throughout the company and improving the airline’s customer experience.
The entry of Mr Mikosz’s team signals the company’s belief that negligence or incompetence of its top leadership played a role in its slump to losses that wiped out shareholder wealth.
Scores of KQ’s executives and non-executive directors have left the company in the past few years, including former finance director Alex Mbugua.
Prior to hiring Mr Mikosz, who established his turnaround credentials at LOT Polish Airlines, KQ chairman Michael Joseph doubted if there was a Kenyan capable of reviving the Nairobi Securities Exchange- listed firm.
Mr Mikosz’s appointment marks the return of an expatriate CEO since Brian Davies, a Briton, led the company for seven years until 1999.
Mr Mikosz, who would have had to build his knowledge of Nairobi’s aviation top talent from scratch, has in turn also opted to tap his compatriots to cut the learning curve.
The new CEO is betting on KQ’s recent debt restructure to buy him time to get the airline back on its feet.