En Route to Transformation into a Digital Airline: Exclusive Q&A with Faz Kamaruddin at AirAsia

May 16, 20177:53 am1296 views

Scaling new heights of success at the recent launch of #TalentConnect series at AirAsia’s RedQ headquarters, we chanced upon this opportunity for an exclusive interview with Faz Kamaruddin, Group Head of Talent at AirAsia.

Connecting dots on understanding the workplace culture at one of Asia’s largest airlines, to probing deeper on the secrets to talent management and retention, impact of economic slowdown on recruitment in the aviation sector, to employee engagement strategies and composition of women leadership in senior boards, we glean through facts that not many know – which makes AirAsia get the balancing act right, en route to transforming into a digital airline. Read on…

  • Shed light on the AirAsia work culture to nurture talent development in the aviation sector.

‘OneAirAsia’ is the motto keeping our 20,000 Allstars around the world excited about working in AirAsia. Here, development is about moving within and across divisions and locations, gaining experiences and contributing to the company’s bottom line along the way.

Faz Kamaruddin, Group Head of Talent at AirAsia

Faz Kamaruddin, Group Head of Talent at AirAsia

If you are working as a cashier in a finance department today, you can be the company photographer a few years down the road. If you are a procurement engineer today, you can be heading a team driving green and sustainable practices in the near future. Or if you are a cabin crew today, you can be the captain commandeering flights several years from now.

People managers in AirAsia nominate their top talent to further their studies and the company sponsors them. Many of our Allstars have thrived in the organization by delivering their best performance and exploring their own potential.

  • How difficult is it to find talent for key job roles in the aviation sector such as recruitment for airline operations, customer service roles, marketing professionals and so on?

The key to remember here is to look for passion, drive and agility. Passion for the brand and care for people, coupled with a drive to achieve great results are key ingredients to building a strong foundation, in becoming a successful talent in AirAsia.

Regardless of the role, we are continuously looking for people who want to challenge themselves, better their own best and grow with the company.

  • Has the global economic slowdown impacted the aviation sector in Asia, with regards to shortage of talent supply and availability of skilled workforce? How does the management cope with uncertainties?

People who are hungry for challenge, a chance to discover and enhance their true talents, strengths and core personal values will always find a way to join AirAsia. We are talent magnets and we find talents from our travels around the world.

  • Does the airline provide equal opportunity to all applicants, irrespective of the gender, race, religion, ethnic groups etc? What are the gender diversity and inclusion initiatives implemented at AirAsia?

AirAsia celebrates individuality. What is required is someone who has the passion, a go-getter and a hard worker with the right knowledge. There are a wide range of opportunities for those who fit these requirements. At AirAsia we encourage our Allstars to be who they are, chase their dreams and live their best lives in the organisation. Our aim is to leverage on our diversity and be strong, together.

See: Singapore Views Diversity with a Difference, But Still Lags behind Other Asian Markets

  • As the airline industry embraces IoT and Big data, is AirAsia keen on hiring data scientists to reap the benefits of big data and cater to increasing customer demands?

We are constantly looking out for new and innovative technology to manage our data and digital presence. We have taken a big step just recently by hosting our first ever hackathon – AIRVOLUTION 2017: Spearheading Innovation in ASEAN. The event saw 20 teams from ASEAN countries come together at our global headquarters RedQ to find the best solution for the challenge – ‘how to profile AirAsia fans based on their digital social footprint to improve customer experience’.

We look forward to have more innovative ideas to enhance our customer experience. This is the key as we embark on our drive towards digitalisation.

Undergraduate commerce students from Hong Kong UST Business School in a panel discussion with AirAsia's management

Undergraduate commerce students from Hong Kong UST Business School in a panel discussion with AirAsia’s management

  • What are the business expansion plans of AirAsia in the next five years?

Low fares and rising incomes are driving the travel surge in the Southeast Asian region. Investing in technology is one of our initiatives that give us a huge advantage and will be of great help to reduce costs and grow revenue. Our affiliates in Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries are also part of our engines of growth. Key on our horizon is to sustain the growth momentum and to transform into a Digital Airline.

  • How is the management team at AirAsia working towards bridging the gap between customer expectations and perceived improvements?

We always welcome feedback from both guests and Allstars in order to improve our operations and offerings. What we also do is not only improve but think of ways to change, how things are carried out conservatively in the aviation industry through innovative, digital solutions.

We are doing this by moving towards more decisions that are data-driven. Apart from customer data, which goes into personalisation, we are also keen on operations data so that we can take better actions in order to improve work efficiency. This can help us serve our guests better.

Visitors from Malaysia Maritime Academy at AirAsia's TalentConnect Series

Visitors from Malaysia Maritime Academy at AirAsia’s TalentConnect Series

  • Detail on the importance of training and development programs at AirAsia to groom employees for senior leadership roles and get them conversant with latest technology trends.

Training and development programs are components of the bigger philosophy of Talent@AirAsia. This means a strategic approach to talent attraction and retention, which includes partnerships with universities and colleges, action learning and project work.

My focus is to bring more learning out of the classroom and into interactions at work, through coaching, mentoring and technology like gamification.

  • What are the cyber security measures followed at the company to protect customer data, and employee data?

We comply with various regulations like the Personal Data Protection Act. We work closely with our Group Chief Information Officer and the IT team to ensure, as we journey towards more technological innovation, the processes are in place to ensure security of our customer and employee data.

  • What is the percentage of women in senior boards and leadership helm at AirAsia? Does the company encourage more women into the workforce? Share with us some of the key initiatives to attract women back into the world of work.

Women lead in AirAsia. This includes roles such as the Chairman of the Board and the CEO.  At the leadership level, women lead in areas to include procurement, finance, operations, people and commercial. There are female pilots and female licensed aircraft engineers who are amongst the jewels in the male-dominated field.

AirAsia Berhad CEO, Aireen Omar, is driving the #GirlsCanDoAnything campaign, which is a women empowerment CSR initiative to encourage young girls to achieve their dreams. There is room for many more women to join us in the various fields available. The bigger picture is all our colleagues, regardless of their gender, are capable of achieving greatness.

  • What are the employee engagement strategies and talent retention measures followed at AirAsia on the operational fronts to retain key talent?

Tony (AirAsia Group CEO, Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes) always tells us that we can’t sit in our office and lead. We need to get down to the floor and understand what’s going on. We have to inspire and motivate. With our mobile workforce, who are mostly our guest-facing frontliners, there are regular check-in sessions and dialogues to keep everyone updated on policies and news, and to understand ideas and issues that need prompt action.

Open communication inspires many of AirAsia’s engagement and retention strategies, to include staying connected, organization-wide, using our own internal social media channel.

Come to our office on Mondays and you will see yoga group practicing. Tuesdays are Zumba days, while Thursdays are for bootcamp on the RedQ rooftop. When we travel across the group, we also join our colleagues in their own events and activities. We don’t just get together for work meetings.

  • Tell us more about the recent launch of #TalentConnect series by AirAsia

We were receiving queries from various local and international institutions, as well as corporate organisations for educational visits to gain insights of our business models and operations. This inspired us to ask ourselves: what if there is a safe space where our Allstars can connect with experiences and ideas?

This is the essence of #TalentConnect: a platform for engaging people via learning and sharing insights on the fast-paced aviation industry.

We are happy to receive positive feedback from various parties who have joined us for the first few series at our headquarters, RedQ. We have hosted visitors from universities in Asia, Europe, corporate visitors and also entrepreneurs.

  • What is your advice for the aspirant job seekers looking for a dream career to work with AirAsia and be a part of the aviation industry in Asia?

I will ask two questions:

  1. If there is a dream role for you in AirAsia, what would it be?
  2. If you could work on a dream project in AirAsia, what would it be?

Find your compelling story and come tell us what your dream career is. “It always starts with you.”

Also read: Amadeus Strengthens its Airlines Leadership Team in Asia Pacific

Content rights: This exclusive interview content is produced by HR in ASIA. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in this interview is prohibited. You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content. 


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