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Mon 22 Oct 2007 09:21 AM

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You're hired

Emirates’ Sophie Panayiotou explains how the airline is coping with pilot and general staff shortages.

Question:How are airlines in the Middle East coping with pilot and general staff shortages?

Expert:Sophie Panayiotou
Emirates' senior vice president of HR and business support

Luckily our pilot turnover figure is just over 4%, so we don't have much of a problem keeping them. It's getting harder to bring them in and that's why we are going to different airlines and countries. We are doing something like 20 roadshows this year to recruit pilots, so we are actively going out there instead of waiting for applications to come in. The road shows are taking place in the US, South Africa, Middle East and Australia. Cabin crew roadshows are also taking place, with one in Brazil recently as we are looking at the South American market.

For the pilots, we have a website with the job package that details what we offer. There's a lot more detail than other airlines, and we really try to present ourselves as best we can to give as much information so people can make an informed decision. Our human resources operation is based around the world and we are using all offices to help with recruitment. For example, our HR manager in the UK, who looks after the US and South American markets, is now making contact in Brazil and Argentina so we have people looking at other markets.

Apart from pilots, we are also looking to bring in engineers and senior professionals, such as lawyers and doctors. The Chinese want lots of pilots and there is a shortage, but traditionally we would bring them out from British Airways or some of the other airlines and Europe. However, we now have to look elsewhere. We have to look at different markets and ways of doing things, because you can't just rely on people sending in their applications.

The advantage for us is people want to be in Dubai because it's a lifestyle thing. As a company, we invest in people and train our staff. It's key for us to keep them motivated and see what the issues are. We look at fitness and attendance trends to find out whether there are any issues, and don't wait until some has left. We also look at the exit details when people leave to try and find out where they are going and why.

Our budget this year will cover 7000 new recruits in all areas. We are recruiting for all the new aircraft coming in, so there are new initiatives in place to get people on board. This year, we have less planes coming in than previous years with about 12 on order, while in 2008 we will have 25, so the recruitment numbers will be much larger then. Our staff turnover is very low and that's not just pilots and engineers but also cabin crew of which we have 9000. Turnover is generally much higher for cabin crew and call centre staff, so our figure overall is quite good.

The recruitment process can be quite expensive and we are looking at different ways to get people in. We have found the traditional methods and markets are proving harder to recruit from in the UK and Australia. It doesn't mean skills aren't out there - we just have to look at different places and markets. For more senior positions, we are doing more with recruitment agencies because we are finding it difficult to get the right people. We do a lot of web advertising rather than the traditional newspaper adverts.

One thing we are finding is that more women are trying to get into the industry. We have some female UAE nationals that have joined the engineering apprenticeship programme. It is progressing slowly, but the general attitude is changing. Sheikh Mohamed has made a difference by putting women in senior positions in the UAE, which helps.

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