Airline Industry’s Human Resource Objective

Abstract

Human resource is the core competence of success in the airline industry. This is because the industry is very competitive, sensitive and high-tech. This paper will explore Human Resource Management in an airline industry: Singapore Airlines. It will incorporate various aspects of human resource management covered in the module. They will include: strategic human resource management, employment law and global culture of HRM, HR planning process and effectual work analysis and design, recruitment and selection, performance evaluation and compensation, compensation and benefits, training development, labor relations and discipline process, and safety and health matters.

Introduction

Human resource management (HRM) is the division of the organization that deals with the management of human resource (Clardy, 2007, p. 340). At the moment, Human resource management in its most basic form emphasizes on building competitive advantage through the strategic use of contemporary HRM techniques to develop competent personnel. This characterization aims to sum up the view of the present companies subscribing to the idea of employees being the most significant asset (Lawler & Mohrman, 2003, p. 17).

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Similarly, human resource is the core competence of success in the airline industry. This is because the industry is very competitive, sensitive and high-tech. The impact of Human Resource in the industry is massive. It not only affects the organizational structure, culture and strategy, but also numerous business operations within and outside the company’s premises (Appelbaun & Fewster, 2003, p. 1).

This paper will explore the Human Resource Management in an airline industry: Singapore Airlines. The paper will incorporate various aspects of human resource management covered in the module. They will include: strategic human resource management, employment law and global culture of HRM, HR planning process and effectual work analysis and design, recruitment and selection, performance evaluation and compensation, compensation and benefits, training development, labor relations and discipline process, and safety and health matters.

Overview of the Singapore Airline

Singapore Airline (SIA) is a widely recognized and celebrated brand name in the air transport industry for over 50 years. This is attributable to its route network that covers over 90 cities in more than forty countries and up to date air transport system. In addition, SIA is a member of the Star Alliance, which has increased its global presence to roughly 140 countries. All in all, the company’s strong brand name is mainly attributed to its excellent customer service Experts also attribute this to the company’s values and culture. Singapore Airline has impressed many people due to its creativity, diversity and constant growth. In addition, the company has been able to meet customers demand, as well as gaining competitive advantage in both local and international markets (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 591).

Strategic Human Resource Management

Human resource can be defined as individuals’ contributions to an organization in terms of efforts, skills and capabilities. Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) in Singapore Airline is employed to manage the human resources in order to maintain a strong competitive advantage in the global airline industry. Essentially, SHRM entails the management of employees’ contributions to the company so as to achieve its objective of becoming the leading airline company in the global market. This has been realized through proper planning and selflessness of the employees (Ivancevich & Konopaske, 2013, p. 4; Wirtz, Heracleous & Pangark, 2008, p. 6).

Like other service sector, the airline industry has found it very hard to draw, maintain and afford highly competent staff. The supply of quality service sector human resources is constantly diminishing due to lack of service sector ethics among the youth, half baked training and the decreasing supply of pilots. At the same time, the demand is increasing due to the growth of the service sector (Appelbaun & Fewster, 2003, p. 3). For this reason, Singapore Airline’s HR strategies are geared towards achieving high degree of commitment to the company. The company gauges worker’s commitment in terms of loyalty, willingness to put more effort on behalf of the organization, sticking to the values of the organization and desire to remain in the organization (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 591).

In order to achieve competitive advantage through human resources, Singapore Airline’s HR strategies take the form of continuous learning, in which at the limit, preparation and execution becomes impossible to tell apart. The HR strategies generate and maintain excellent business designs capable of taking advantage of the company’s strategic landscape and business environment. This is achieved through a self-organizing process of the individual employees. In addition, the company acknowledges the role of strategic HR planning and the formation of networks (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 591).

Human resource management strategies of Singapore airline are also based on two elemental premises that have been evolving since the deregulation of the aviation industry in the late 70s: one, the increasing international concern for airline safety; and two, ever-growing expectation of the consumers with regard to service quality and diversity (Wirtz, Heracleous & Pangark, 2008, p. 6; Appelbaum & Fewster, 2005, p. 1). Studies have shown that aircraft accidents and poor service delivery are mainly attributed to human error. Poor workmanship can lead to loss of clients, loss of market, loss of company’s assets and, most of all, loss of human life (Appelbaun & Fewster, 2003, p. 4).

In such a safety- sensitive and client- centered industry, the traditional models of human resource management are not applicable (Eaton, 2001, p. 22). Singapore Airline uses strategic HRM to drive marketing strategies that help it to achieve a competitive advantage in the global airline industry. The company has achieved this by aligning business-level strategy with HR and marketing. In addition, the intrinsic elements of Singapore Airline’s HR strategy play a very important role in the company’s capacity to realize its business strategy of excellent service in a secure and cost-effective manner (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 592).

Employment law and the global culture

The Singapore Airline’s HR practices conform to the national and international labor laws. In addition, the company policy and laws impose strict penalties on any form of discrimination against employees and clients. Since the company has global operations and hires multi-cultural flight crew, cultural factor is a very significant element in the company’s Resource Management training (CRM). The company recognizes the diversity among cultures and the significance of national sensitivities. All these are emphasized in the Crew Management Resource training. The training focuses on the use of standard phraseology as the working language to eliminate the language barrier (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 593).

Singapore Airline is synonymous with the girl wearing sarong kebaya (the company’s famous logo). The young, elegant, friendly and kindhearted girl on the SIA’s famous logo represents the culture that the company forever wants to devote to its customers. Therefore, the company’s culture binds together all the cabin crew irrespective of the nationality, race or culture (Wirtz, Heracleous & Pangark, 2008, p. 2).

HR planning process and Efficient Job Evaluation and Design

HR planning is a process of coming up with strategies to manage the aspects and competencies of personnel to match the organizational goals and objectives (Lawle & Mohrman, 2003, p. 15). Singapore Airline’s HR planning involves preparation of an inventory of the existing workforce and identifying the current gap, identifying present and prospective requirements, and satisfying the requirements. However, with the current scarcity of competent labor, the shortage of real talent and the rising employee’s requirement, achieving this objective has become very difficult. Nonetheless, the planning process determines the composition of the personnel needed to realize strategic goals. The planning process ensures that the recruitment and selection practices match with the existing policies and programs (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 594).

Recruitment and Selection

Recruitment refers to the process of identifying potential candidates for the current or foreseeable position. On the other hand, selection is the process of picking qualified and competent candidates from a pool of new applicants (Lawle & Mohrman, 2003, p. 15). Singapore Airline has adopted an extremely rigorous and stringent recruitment process. The company targets individuals who can empathize with customers, and those who are jovial, welcoming and modest. The candidates must meet a number of criteria beginning with screening for age, corporeal characteristics and academic qualifications. After the screening, the candidates goes through numerous interviews, uniform tests, water confidence check, a psychometric test, and even attend a party organized by the company (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 595).

The preliminary interview involves group interviews for general evaluation and English test to evaluate proficiency in the language. Most of the company’s business is conducted in English. Therefore, English is a fundamental requirement. The next step involves one-on-one, detailed interview intended to assess the candidates’ suitability for the job sought. Some of the qualities evaluated here include teamwork, management, zeal, communication and presentation. This is because the company requires more than just technical skills. Soon after, the candidates undergo psychometric tests to corroborate the previous results (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 595).

The uniform test enables the panel to assess the candidate’s appearance in the company’s uniform (sarong kebaya). The assessment includes posture, walk and the overall look. Selected applicants proceed for water confidence check, where the applicants are made to jump into water from a high ground. The test is meant to assess their level of confidence during crisis. Subsequently, the candidates that have passed the water test proceed to another round of interview with the company’s management. The candidates get to meet the top managers and the senior staff (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 596).

The next stage is the last interview. The last interview gives the company an opportunity to clarify any pending matters. Similarly, it provides the candidate with an opportunity to raise any outstanding issues. At this stage, the company encourages candidates to speak with their recruitment contacts to clarify certain matters. Last but not least, the candidates are invited for a casual tea party that provides the management with a chance to further assess the candidate’s interpersonal skills and conduct (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 596).

Out of nearly 20,000 applications received yearly, only 600-1000 applicants are selected. The chosen applicants are put on probation. Normally, three quarters of the candidates on probation are absorbed. The scrupulous selection process makes sure that the company acquires the best. Despite the stringent rules and procedures linked to the recruitment process, many young people across the globes apply to join Singapore Airline because of its status and glamour associated with its crew members (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 597).

Training and Development

Singapore Airline places significant emphasis on training, which is the core of the company’s HR strategy. According to the company’s CEO, “Singapore Airline invests a colossal amount of money in infrastructure and technology, but, at the end of the day, it requires human resource to drive it”. Therefore, the company has set up a wide-ranging approach to HR training and development. Basically, the company offers operational training and executive training. Almost half of the Singapore Airline’s HR budget goes to functional training and retraining (Wirtz, Heracleous & Pangark, 2008, p. 2).

The freshly recruited candidates are required to undergo four months training, which is one of the longest and most comprehensive training regimes in the industry. The training provides the candidates with the necessary skills and competencies that conform to the company’s policies and goals. The company’s wide-ranging and holistic training entails not only safety and operational matters, but also exquisiteness, connoisseur of good food and appreciation of wine, as well as the art of communication (Wirtz, Heracleous & Pangark, 2008, p. 2).

The company’s career development system links it with the company’s philosophy of “service excellence”. The model allows employees to develop skills and competence in a number of fields or build expertise in a single field. The promotion and reward are based on individual performance. The career development path of Singapore Airline is as follows: employees who have worked for a year or two can be promoted to an assistant; those who have worked for more than two to four years can be promoted to senior positions; employees who have worked for the company for more than five years can be promoted to senior management positions. The two main fundamental components of career development in the company are exact and prompt performance evaluation and use of models that enhances opportunities and innovation (Wirtz, Heracleous & Pangark, 2008, p. 2).

Performance Evaluation and Compensation

Effective teams are normally a condition for excellent service. In view of this, Singapore Airline aims to create a team spirit among its crew members. The crew members are formed into teams consisting of 13 members. The team members are scheduled to travel together as often as possible to build team spirit and identify with each other. Each team has a team leader. There are also check trainers who supervises 12-13 teams and regularly fly with the teams (Wirtz, Heracleous & Pangark, 2008, p. 3).

The company’s performance assessment programs are a blend of excellent practices, strategies and ideologies. The performance appraisal programs develop and mature consistently, in order to provide the staff with the best guidance achievable. The programs are designed to facilitate dual communication. In other words, the program allows the employee and the evaluator to discuss and concur on the set goals and assignments. At the end of a given project, the two are allowed to sit down and talk before the evaluation process commences (Wirtz, Heracleous & Pangark, 2008, p. 3).

This approach enables the employees to play an active role in the performance appraisal process, for instance, in setting up goals. The approach encourages success both from an individual and company’s point of view. The approach also guides workers and help them to comprehend the company’s expectation. In addition, they offer required flexibility and space for ingenuity and employee development. Lastly, they act as controls and assist employees in understanding organizational goals and objectives. As already been mentioned, the company’s rewards and compensation are based on individual or group performance (Wirtz, Heracleous & Pangark, 2008, p. 4).

Compensation and Benefits

Compensation and rewards are the key levers that a company can use to motivate its staff. Job satisfaction of employees in the service industry depends on the working condition. Improved working conditions in this case encompass work promotions, boosting morale of employees, financial rewards, fringe benefits and compensation, and realistic working hours. Singapore Airline uses various forms of reward, which include 50 percent annual bonuses in accordance with performance and allowances for special occasions, for instance, weddings, birthdays and leave. Singapore Airline’s compensation and reward system are greatly aligned with the desired mode of conduct. Its key elements include onboard assessment, work relations, and individual brilliance (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 597).

Labor relations and Discipline process

According to the local and international standards, the Singapore Airline pay is relatively low. On a number of occasions, it has led to disagreement between the workers representatives and the executive. In 2007, the airline caught global attention when the crew members downed their tools because of the proposed remuneration. The dispute was settled by the Industrial Arbitration Court. The company’s disciplinary processes are based on the international labor laws. Members of staff have to be served with two written warnings before being dismissed (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 58).

Safety and Health issues

As already been mentioned, most aircraft accidents are as a result of human error, and, therefore, health and safety matters are taken very seriously by the company. Singapore Airline’s Crew Resource Management training (CRM) overemphasizes on health and safety of the crew members and the passengers. The crew members (including the pilot) normally undergo regular medical checkup. The checkups include physical and psychological examinations. In addition, all the crew members and the passengers are insured (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2012, p. 596).

Conclusion

Human resource is the core competence of success in airline companies. This is because the airline sector is a very competitive, sensitive and high-tech industry. The impact of Human Resource in the industry is massive and insidious. The company has employed the contemporary Human Resource Management (SHRM) strategies in order to maintain a strong competitive advantage in the global airline industry. Essentially, SHRM entails the management of the employees’ contributions to the company so as to achieve its objective of becoming the leading airline company in the global market. This has been realized through proper planning and massive investment in the company’s employees.

References

Appelbaun, S.H., & Fewster, B.M. (2003).Human Resource Management in the global civil aviation industry: A survey and analysis of recruitment and selection, organization development, and education, training and development practices. Montreal: Concordia University. Web.

Appelbaum, S.H., & Fewster, B.M. (2005). Human Resource Management Strategy in the Global Airline Industry-A Focus on Organizational Development. Montreal: Concordia University. Web.

Clardy, A. (2007). Strategy, core competencies and human resource development. Human Resource Development International, 10(3), 339-349. Web.

Eaton, J. (2001). Globalization and Human Resource in the Airline Industry (2nd ed). Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing Ltd. Web.

Ivancevich, J., & Konopaske, R. (2013).Human Resource Management (12th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin. Web.

Lawler, E., & Mohrman, S. (2003). HR as a strategic partner: What does it take to make it happen? Human Resource Planning, 26 (3), 15-29. Web.

Wirtz, J., Heracleous, L., & Pangark, N. (2008). Airline: managing human resources for cost-effective service excellence. Managing Service Quality, 18(1), 4-19. Web.

Wirtz, J., & Heracleous, L. (2012). Airline: managing human resources for cost-effective service excellence: Case Study. Bingley, West Yorkshire, England: Emerald Publishing. Web.

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