Human Resource Management at Singapore Airlines

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Human Resource Challenges

Many human resource (HR) departments face multiple challenges and obstacles, which may require a strategic approach to resolve. The HR in Singapore Airlines is one example where, despite effective practices, the department has to pursue objectives conflicting those of other departments (Wirtz & Heracleous, 2016). The company seeks to achieve strategic goals such as service excellence and cost-effectiveness, for which the HR department has to align its recruitment, selection, motivation, training, and retention of the workers. Therefore, it can be argued that the major challenge or obstacle facing Singapore Airlines is the alignment of human resource management (HRM) practices with the organizational goals and strategy.

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From a theoretical perspective, the problem of strategic alignment has been explored by multiple researchers. The main argument and conclusion reached by the previous studies include that that aligning HRM activity with the corporate strategy has a direct effect on the overall performance of the businesses (Kuipers & Giurge, 2017; Han et al., 2018; Kidanemariam, 2016). Other concepts which have been found to support the argument HRM has direct influences on employee performance include strategic human resource management (SHRM) and green human resource management (GHRM) (Harrison & Bazzy, 2017; Leidner et al., 2019). The main theme among these studies is the fact that many companies experience conflicting objectives between HRM and other functions. Additionally, the HRM function is responsible for handling employee matters, and the employees are responsible for organizational performance. Therefore, aligning HR activities, including recruitment, training, and development, and retention of top talent, is and should be intended to help businesses remain competitive.

At Singapore Airlines, HR has been organized to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage to help the company outperform other airlines for decades. Therefore, the role of HR is critical because the managers have to provide the firm with employees who fit the performance requirements of the company. Currently, the problem is complicated by the emergence of the COVD-19 pandemic. Many HR practices have been significantly affected by the pandemic, which makes it difficult for the entity to continue with its corporate strategies. For example, hiring new workers has been frozen as a result of COVID-19 (Syed, 2020a). Pay cuts have also been initiated for senior leaders as a cost-cutting approach to help survive the outbreak (Syed, 2020b). With such conditions, it can be argued that HR is facing even greater obstacles preventing the department from helping the company pursue its strategic objectives. Even under normal circumstances, the challenge of aligning HR initiatives with corporate strategies is a serious issue.

Human Resource Planning Process

Human resource planning (HRP) is one of the critical HR practices in any organization. The main aim of HRP is to determine the current and future manpower needs and their fulfillment (Samwel, 2018; Fogarassy et al., 2017; George, 2017). Therefore, HRP can be said to be one of the top priorities for HR managers. Additionally, other HR activities such as recruitment, retention, development, and compensation can only be achieved once an effective plan has been developed. At Singapore Airlines, the HRP process has not been expressed, meaning that it can only be inferred from those practices observable from the department. In this case, it will be assumed that the company follows the standard process in planning for its workforce needs. Such a process has been outlined by George (2017), which comprises three phases: identifying the number and type of workers needed, determining the availability of staff, and developing specific courses of action in hiring. The application of these phases in Singapore Airlines can be informed by the fact the HR department is keen to help the airlines pursue its strategic objectives.

The first phase of the HRP process is where the HR department of Singapore Airlines determines the number and the type of employees needed in the future. Such an action can be undertaken by considering several organizational factors, including upcoming vacancies from retiring employees or changing job roles. Corporate growth both domestically and internationally could also be one aspect that raises further employee needs. According to George (2017), the first phase comprises the creation of new jobs, increases and decreases in positions, changes in organizational structure, elimination of current jobs, and normal attrition. In short, the first stage in the HRP process can be referred to as job requirement forecasts. The second phase involves determining the availability of the desired workforce. After the HR at Singapore Airlines determine the new job requirements, it has to explore the domestic and global labor market to estimate whether the needed types of workers can be found. George (2017) highlights that the second stage involves availability forecasts, both internal and external.

Lastly, the third phase entails taking the specific steps needed to fill the employment requirements as established in the previous two stages. A demand and supply approach is used, as explained by George (2017). When the demand and supply are the same, then no action will be needed. However, supply is reduced and increased when the demand is less or greater than the supply, respectively. At Singapore Airlines, the third phase is more visible than the first and second because it is the stage where actual measures are taken. In addition to the recruitment needs, it is also important to acknowledge that HRP involves planning for other HR activities, including training and development, compensation, and retention. According to Singapore Airlines (n.d), activities such as training for cabin crews and the employee selection processes at Singapore Airlines are geared towards maintaining performance. Therefore, it can be argued that the HRP process in this company takes into account the performance as part of the job requirements.

Promoting Staff Welfare

Staff welfare is a critical subject for HR managers across all industries. Many empirical studies have been conducted to highlight the need for employee welfare programs and their effects on such aspects as performance (Harshani & Welmilla, 2017; Vadnala & Kumari, 2017; Ravi & Raja, 2016). Many welfare programs are intended to ensure that the employees have the best possible work environment, which may include employee assistance or support programs and work safety initiatives (Attridge, 2019; Jonathan & Mbogo, 2016). The most important to note is that staff welfare is how a company takes care of its employees.

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Even though not many staff welfare initiatives have been made public by Singapore Airlines, it is important to acknowledge that the company is considered to be among those with the best employee perks. According to “From free air tickets to unlimited annual leave” (2019), the employee and their dependents enjoy hefty benefits, which include 90% discounted flight tickets, free tickets, lifetime travel benefits, training facilities with such features as sports infrastructure and a gym. The company is keen to maintain the health and fitness of its workers, which comprises venues for relaxation during the weekends and days off. Work-life balance is a critical aspect of employee wellbeing, as explained by Ropponen et al. (2016). At Singapore Airlines, the evidence of work-life balance has been presented in several reviews in the recruitment websites, including Glassdoor and Indeed.

Employee Development

Employee development is another critical role carried out by the HR department. The main aim of employee development practices is to ensure that the workers possess the desired competencies to help them perform. Additionally, staff development can be defined as the process in which the skills of the workers are developed and improved through initiatives such as training and development (Zakaria et al., 2017). The effects of this practice have been studied extensively where the impacts on development on turnover have been explored (Hall, 2019). General conclusions have been reached, including that development presents companies with an employability paradox where improving worker skills could also increase their risk of leaving the on (Nelissen et al., 2016). However, it should also be acknowledged that companies develop employees to improve their performance, which in turn improves the overall organizational performance.

Employee training and development is a critical function at Singapore Airlines, which comprises the major mechanism through which the company develops its employees. Many people have credited the success of the company to the competency development practices (Sharma, 2020). According to Madison (2019), Singapore Airlines has developed training courses to ensure that all workers have an agile, customer-centric, and data-driven mindset. Aspects such as technical manning have evolved to include modern digital features, including data science and cloud management. Such posts have required the company to offer appropriate training courses to ensure the data scientists and cloud administrators function effectively.

Worker training has been a defining feature for Singapore Airlines, as manifested through the extensive training courses and programs. An observation made by reveals that training at the company is continuous as opposed to a one-time activity. Singapore Airlines holds the perception that daily contact with customers can be draining on the one hand. On the other hand, customer expectations tend to always be rising, which means that those staff directly in contact have to keep adjusting. Therefore, continuous training is used as a solution to this challenge. The HR department has established four training divisions comprising the cabin crew, commercial development, flight operations, and management development. In each of these, classroom training is supported by full-scale simulations and on-the-job training exercises. The focus is to always keep workers updated on the new and emerging consumer needs and expectations. To further illustrate the company’s emphasis on training, an academy called Singapore Airline Academy has been developed to offer training services to both the company’s workers and other businesses (Pande, 2020). Customer service training for hospitality companies is the main objective of the academy.

Developing Own Skills

Another critical question regarding HR practices is what role the employees play in developing their own skills. A key feature of the training and development at Singapore Airlines is the presence of both classroom and full-scale simulation infrastructure. As explained above, all the initiatives are taken by the company through the training divisions. In many cases, it can be argued that the main role of the workers is to take the initiative, possess the right attitudes, and utilize external learning opportunities. The fact that Singapore Airlines employs highly educated staff means that the workers pursue outside learning before being hired. However, very little is known regarding what employees do to develop their own skills upon being employed by the company.

Many companies seek to tune workers’ skills to match the current job requirements. The same case can be seen with Singapore Airlines despite the fact the company always looks into the future to forecast any emerging training needs. However, one key observation with the company’s professional development is that many opportunities are presented to the staff, who are then expected to exploit them. Additionally, the company offers workers sponsorships for those who wish to pursue higher education. Singapore Airlines’ Continuing Education Sponsorship Program is voluntary for the workers, which means that the employees’ role is to express the desire and intention to learn, after which all the necessary support is offered.

Conclusion

Singapore Airlines has an HR department that is dedicated to ensuring the company remains competitive in the regional and international airlines industry. Therefore, the main challenge the HR function faces is to ensure all practices and procedures are aligned with the corporate objectives. Very little information regarding the company’s HR activities is publicly available. However, this paper has managed to establish the company’s HRP process and staff welfare proportion. The aspect of staff development is apparent from the comprehensive and extensive training programs offered by the firm. The key observation is that continuous training facilitates the ability to update the skills and competencies of the workers in direct contact with the customers.

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References

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Harrison, T., & Bazzy, J. (2017). Aligning organizational culture and strategic human resource management. Journal of Management Development, 36(10), 1260–1269. Web.

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