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Cathay Pacific soars with its employee experience


Since its establishment in 1946, Cathay Pacific Airways has seen dramatic changes in the aviation sector. But one thing that has remained constant for Hong Kong’s national carrier is its commitment to recruiting the best and brightest staff and rewarding them with a rich employee experience.

One aspect in which Cathay Pacific has excelled in recent years is with its career website. With any good website, the company is trying to sell a brand. But it should also be focused on the user.

Cathay Pacific believes there are three parts to that. One is striking an optimal balance between simplicity and functionality – everyone has a very low tolerance for things that are confusing. Being informative is key and also reflecting the brand and organisation.

The true test of any career site is it has multiple functions to make the search and application process simple. And the airline has the figures to back this up – it has had a 200% increase in click-throughs and a similar rate just below that for conversions on the career site.

Cathay Pacific has operations in more than 30 countries and uses in-country recruitment in each jurisdiction through a single career site. When an organisation is working with so many different nationalities, involving so many different roles, it needs to keep things simple.

Streamlining the mass recruitment process

The world knows the way forward for online is mobile so Cathay Pacific’s starting point for recruitment was mobile. Mobile devices are easily the firm’s strongest source of traffic, across all markets, and especially in Hong Kong where 80% of applicants are between the ages of 20 and 29. Being mobile-friendly and savvy, slick and clean was extremely important.

Cathay Pacific recruits hundreds – if not thousands – of frontline employees, and hundreds of pilots a year – qualifying this as a recruitment strategy on a mass scale.Each of these groups requires a different strategy. Cabin crew and airport staff are mainly young Hong Kong graduates, so social media is a particular focus through popular media channels.

For pilots, a different approach is required. There’s still a social element, but the airline uses a lot more programmatic search and Google analytics with the process.

Pilot careers tend to be long term so Cathay Pacific has talent communities for its pilots. There are also LinkedIn groups for people who are interested in the airline and interested in becoming a pilot.

The organisation also regularly contacts groups of cadets or school students to help them understand more about its business and brand, and also what’s involved with the life of a pilot.

Achieving gender balance and fast-tracking hiring

Cathay Pacific is mindful that, historically, women have ruled themselves out of becoming a pilot, given it’s been such a male-dominated industry. A total of 95% of pilots are male, right across the whole pilot community. But the airline is out to change that. The organisation is actively targeting women and making being a pilot a career that’s appealing and possible.

A challenge the airline has factored into its mass recruitment strategy is the Hong Kong is such a competitive market – particularly for service-industry jobs. Unemployment in the city is just 2.8% so prospective employees have plenty of choice.

So being fast is key. It’s possible to become cabin crew at Cathay Pacific within three weeks of applying. So it can all happen very fast – a major factor in the airline’s successful mass recruitment.

Pre-boarding, onboarding and off-boarding

Cathay Pacific has also been active in enhancing the employee experience. The airline has what it calls its digital employee experience programme – that’s including all of Cathay’s HR technology – starting at the career site, all the way through to the pre-boarding and onboarding process, right through to off-boarding.

The employee portal is personalised and based along the lines of geography to provide targeted content. There’s an app that can push content to people and tell them that new things are coming. The digital aspect is critical to the airline’s overall employee experience.

Cathay is now also working on an off-boarding portal. So if people decide to move on or retire, the airline can acknowledge their journey.

Former employees are given a choice as to how much engagement they want with Cathay after they leave. If they want to receive the airline’s bimonthly magazine they have that option. If they want to become an active alumni, that’s also an option.

It’s all part of trying to make it a supportive off-boarding experience, allowing former employees to leave feeling good about the experience.

Information provided by Tony Reynolds (pictured above), General Manager Employee Experience, Cathay Pacific Airways

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