5 questions with Calum Smith, Senior Vice President of Airswift


Calum Smith, Airswift’s APAC Senior Vice President, talks about the impact that Digitalisation has had on both Airswift and the recruitment industry. We also delve into why technology has actually led to an increase in demand for local talent, and why expats still have a crucial role to play in a modern, global market.

Can you tell us a bit about the impact that digitalisation has had on Airswift and the recruitment market in general?

Digitalisation has affected all areas of society in recent years and our industry is no exception. In staffing, the biggest impact has been increased visibility and greater access to information for candidates, clients and competitors. This can be through specific sites such as LinkedIn or wider digital information channels that have appeared in recent years, meaning that the value placed by our clients on simply finding a candidate has diminished.

In an age of surplus information, the real value lies in how we interpret this information and ensure that it is valid. Our clients now place higher value on the ongoing support and additional services we provide outside of recruitment such as global mobility, which includes services like migration, destination support and travel. This is now a core Airswift service line, which we provide to over 50% of our client base.

Secondly, digitalisation has increased the need for speed. Accessing candidate pools outside of time zones to provide a quick and high quality service will be a major advantage. We provide our global resource capability through three delivery centres in Malaysia, Azerbaijan and Brazil. This ensures complete market coverage round-the-clock.

In addition, there is always a need to have people as facilitators within the structure. It will be the organisations that recognise the right blend of people and technology that will be the future market leader within staffing.

Would you say that digitalisation has had an impact on the quality of the local graduate intake over the past few years?

Digitalisation has increased access to information to everyone across the world – and this includes graduates in some locations disproportionately, as they tend to be the quickest to embrace new technology. As graduates across both developed and developing economies have become better informed, they have an even more globalised view of the world from a professional context.

Digitalisation has also seen many more graduates enter the workforce with aspirations of spending at least some period of time outside of their home country right from the start.

Localisation has become a hot topic in recent years. What would you say are the biggest factors contributing to this phenomenon?

One of the main factors is technology. It has connected individuals and businesses over time zones and geographies. This has led to a more transient workforce with talent flowing more readily around the globe.

So there is also a whole new generation of educated and experienced international graduates from developing nations, now a decade or more into their careers – and we’re seeing many of them return to take up roles in their home country.

Another factor is that localisation grants organisations a social license to operate in a region. By prioritising their commitment to the development and engagement of local citizens in the leadership structure, organisations demonstrate social responsibility and become connected with that country and its community.

Are there any specific sectors in which Airswift is investing in, to keep up with the increased demand of local talent in APAC?

Airswift is heavily investing across Asia Pacific, operating with staffed offices in 14 countries and nearly 200 internal staff members. We, like many of our clients, have a strong commitment to developing local talent and where there are skills gaps, supplementing this with non-local resources. Our consultant workforce in Asia Pacific comprises around 50 nationalities deployed across 17 countries. I expect to see our mix of nationalities increase as workforces become even more globalised.

With that said, Airswift runs a graduate program in specific countries, such as Papua New Guinea, to ensure we are continually growing local talent in our business. Alongside this, a number of our blue chip clients utilise our expertise, particularly within developing markets, to help facilitate graduate schemes.

What would you say are the biggest challenges of localisation? Will we be able to overcome these barriers?

Corporate standards can prove as a challenge for localisation. Cultural nuances can vary so organisations need to ensure its global corporate standards remain consistent in areas such as procurement and human resourcing practices. Communication can also be a challenge because many staff are multilingual, but the common language changes in different locations can cause issues. It is, therefore, important that everybody is fully supported and working together.

Another consideration is whether the role is ready to be localised. Does it require specific technological expertise not available in that region? Perhaps it relies on a skillset only available overseas.

It’s also easy to forget that the expat still has a crucial role to play. Individuals with exposure to the business in different parts of the world are valuable, as they bring decades of technical experience in different terrain. Therefore, organisations need to find the balance that’s right for them since there is not one right answer for this.

To find out more about Airswift, visit their website: https://www.airswift.com/