Most of the people around the world would be familiar with the sarong kebaya uniform worn by the Singapore Air stewardess of the Singapore International Airlines (SIA). It gave birth to the image of the ‘Singapore Girl’. Tracing back to its roots, SIA was previously known as the Malayan Airways Limited which was incorporated on 1st May’ 1947. It was operating in the then Singapore Kallang Airport with flights to Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Penang and over the next few years, it went to places in Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar. On 16th September 1963, the airline changed its name to Malaysia Airways Limited with the Federation of Malaysia incorporated. 1st October 1972 sees Malaysia Airways Limited splitting to the current Singapore International Airlines (SIA) and Malaysian Airlines System (MAS). After the split, SIA ownership was transferred to the Singapore Government under its investment arm Temasek Holdings. Even though SIA was a government owned company, it had to pay taxes and make itself profitable. As SIA did not have any domestic routes to rely on unlike MAS, it had to strategize its business and had to come out with a branding that will make itself visible in the airlines industry. SIA’s fleet of aircrafts in the beginning had only a handful of old Boeing 707s and 737s, so it had to acquire more fuel efficient aircrafts. SIA added Boeing 727s and 747s to its fleet of aircrafts and started long haul flights to London, San Francisco and a few other Indian Subcontinent and Asian countries which are mostly long haul flights. In 1976, SIA formed its subsidiary SilkAir which serves the short haul flight to mostly Southeast Asian countries (Singapore Airlines, 2013). SIA till date has also other airline investments in Tiger Airways (49%), Virgin Australia (10%) and the most recent Scoot which was formed as a budget airline by SIA to break into the budget airline industry. SIA focuses on two main important assets in their business. One of the emphases SIA placed was the acquiring of new cost efficient aircrafts which are more fuel efficient and low maintenance unlike older aircrafts which require higher maintenance. Another emphasis that SIA place is its branding on the differentiation strategy which is also their core competence (Johnston, 2009). In-flight service is SIA is branded with the image of the ‘Singapore Girl’ which till date is still being branded in the differentiation strategy. Human capital are essential to SIA as it places high emphasis on its service quality both in the front line desk as well as the in-flight service and its strict criteria on selection, training and empowerment to uphold its brand and image. What makes SIA so successful and making it one of the top airlines around the world is its sustainable competitive advantage that has managed to be replicated repeatedly within its internal operations. Many other airlines around the world find it difficult to replicate the human resource management practices that SIA have done successfully. We look at three human resource management strategies that SIA has imposed mainly ‘recruitment processes’, ‘training processes’ and the ‘empowerment strategy’. Each of the processes satisfies the criteria for the core competence of SIA’s sustainable competitive advantage which competitors find it hard to replicate. Recruitment Process
Every company starts with the recruitment process to select their human capital for their businesses. SIA’s imposes a highly rigorous and stringent selection on their recruitment process as hiring the right people to uphold it brand and image is crucial for SIA. Hiring of cabin crew is no different. Cabin crew applicants are required to meet a list of the minimum criteria set by SIA. The initial criteria will focus on their age ranging from 18-26. SIA wants to create the image of young and vibrant pool of cabin crews who are friendly, humble, cheerful and are able to commiserate with the passengers onboard. Applicants will...
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