Dhaka : Biman Bangladesh Airlines Limited is in the midst of grave crisis due to severe shortage of properly qualified, skilled and efficient manpower, at all levels.
Biman is going to be 46 years old in January 2018. The management of the airline has not only wasted all these years, by failing to build an efficient management cadre in adequate number, but also continue to ignore its importance.
Factors having direct bearing on success of airline include the best use of technology, communications, aircraft and equipment. The current management and manpower situation in Biman is pathetic. The professional capability of existing management is poor and there exist acute shortage of qualified manpower at all levels.
Industry insiders consider that current Biman management is the weakest in its history. The productivity of existing manpower is one of the lowest because of low efficiency and skill level of critical work force.
The situation is so alarming and if immediate corrective measures are not taken, the huge investment in modern fleet, will go waste.
In the absence of normal infusion of new blood, through regular management cadre recruitment (direct officer), the national flag carrier is now faced with an enormous vacuum in this regard.
Asset or liability
People are the greatest asset in service industries like airline. Under the current economic environment, airlines must maximise operational efficiency and reduce expenses. Now, more than ever, establishing the proper staffing levels has become essential.
It has become essential for airline to equip itself with the tools, needed to plan optimal and cost effective manpower levels, required to efficiently optimize a projected operational plan.
There is absolutely no doubt that a different set of managerial skills and qualities are needed, if airlines are to survive in the new environment. In this environment, airline managers are required to have new skills and qualities to face different types of priorities.
The profile of the airline manager of the current century is much different from that of the I980s and 1990s. New generation of airline managers are being forced to deal with under capacity, declining number of high yield passengers, low cost competition, strategic alliances, advances in technology and a continuing wave of deregulation and liberalisation.
Airlines all over the world have already become busy adopting a more long-term outlook in their attempts to manage the future efficiently and successfully. The objective is not just to equal their competition in every aspect of the service offering, but to exceed the service quality of their competitors.
The current (as on October 2017) manpower strength of national flag carrier is 4,726. Of this number, 2,832 permanent, and 1762 casual employees are working inside the country and 132 are working overseas.
In head count, the number is disproportionately higher. Judging from quality, current manpower of Biman is more a liability than assets.
Albeit there is more manpower than Biman need, there is vast shortage of properly qualified, skilled and efficient at mid-management level_ Assistant Manager, Manager, Deputy General Manager and General Manager-positions.
According to information supplied by Biman, of the 353 approved posts in mid-management level, 303 are held by persons, promoted from lower level (Non-officer cadre) and the rest by persons recruited directly as officers.
A great neglect
While airlines all over the world are trying to get ready to face the reality, Biman, unfortunately, failed to equip with qualified, skilled and efficient manpower.
Ten years ago, in 2007, Biman was turned into a Public Limited Company and showed promise of bright future. Unfortunately neglect continued and instead of brightness, greater darkness engulfed the airline.
Biman said in the 45 years history, the airline has recruited about 200 as direct officers. But the nature and manner of recruitment suggest that it was never meant for developing management cadre.
The airline has 08 directorates-(1) Admin, (2) Marketing and Sales, (3) Finance, (4) Flt. Ops, (5) Customer Service, (6) Eng. and Material, (7) Planning (8) Procurement and Logistic support. Under these directorates, there are 108 important departments manned by Manager to GM levels officers.
Of the so-called 200 directly recruited officers, over 60-the highest_ were recruited for Engineering. There was recruitment made for various departments against departmental vacancies, as well as sporting quota. The total also include, recruitment of more than 10-mostly from defense services_ for senior management positions-manager and above.
It is really unfortunately to note that development of human resources is yet to receive the kind of attention, it deserves. Since its birth in January 1972, barring insignificant exceptions, Biman has failed to recruit proper manpower mainly because of disagreement between the management and unions.
In 1980, the Biman management and unions concluded an agreement on the question of fresh recruitment. The two sides agreed, that 35 per cent of the vacancies, would be filled by direct recruitment and the rest by promotion from lower level.
In 1984,12 years after its creation and fours after signing of agreement, Biman recruited its first batch of management cadre officers. 11 joined in this batch. They were for marketing and sales_ the key department of any airline. 14 years later in 1998 another 10 joined as management cadre officers. There were also few isolated recruitment..
It may be noted that of these directly recruited officers only about 13 are now in services. Others have gone into retirement. Biman say a total of 50 directly recruited officers are still in service. In addition to the 13 mentioned above, the number include various isolated appointment in different departments.
Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, the management of Biman failed to make the recruitment as agreed. Opposition of the unions is the reason. The present vacuum in management is because of that and with no back up executive cadre to follow, the situation has become serious.
It seems very strange, but it is difficult to understand why the management of Biman repeatedly succumbed to the pressure from unions. One of the reasons is political support to the unions.
In 1993, Abdul Muyeed Chaudhury, the Managing Director of Biman, made all arrangement to recruit in the management cadre. But his effort ended in failure because, the then Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism instructed him not to go for the recruitment. Incidentally, it was the minister, who as MD Biman, signed agreement with the unions in 1980.
The action of the minister suggests that the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism is no less responsible for the present predicament of the national flag carrier.
Hiring the efficient
Good people are the lifeblood of any organisation. That's common knowledge. But knowing how to find and identify them is not. So far, the management of Biman has not been able to make smart hiring decisions and follow the proven systematic hiring process. The airline has never been able to find and hire management staff, it can depend on.
Moreover, due to lack of training and proper grooming, positive attitude is generally missing from the work force of Biman. In addition to build self image, there is urgent need to take steps to develop a positive attitude in the workplace, and beyond.
Innovative workforce is needed to meet the challenges of today's changing business environment. They help companies maximise the efficiency and productivity through wide array of services and e-capabilities.
Present day airlines need a variety of creative service delivery options. In developing manpower, primary focus must be on staffing quality as intently as one focus on core business. Whether one needs one administrative assistant or 1,000 IT consultants, the process of recruitment must be the same.
Most of the successful airlines engage in some form of manpower planning. Doing this well is essential. Modern day airlines require large numbers of skilled people who are able to continuously match changing demands. This is an especially serious challenge for both large and small airlines that invest in the development of their own people to meet growing needs.
In danger of going waste
Biman has made huge investment in new aircraft-10 Boeing B777-300ERs, Boeing B787s and Boeing B737-800s. With this modern equipment joining the fleet, one can hope for start of a new era-an era of quality services, efficiency and profitability.
But situation is alarming. The need is immediate corrective action to halt the downslide and save the national flag carrier from fatal damage. There is no alternative but to immediately start infusion of new blood and intensive training programme to elevate level of efficiency and improve standard of services.
A crash programme must the undertaken immediately, to infuse new blood, to inject skill and efficiency in operation, not only to fill-up current void, but also to help Biman sustain the efficiency.
It is indeed a great irony that Biman was born without any aircraft, but a set of qualified manpower, specially at the executive level. Now the airline is in the process of having a modern fleet, but no qualified manpower to run those efficiently.