Worldwide Resources – Charles Pfauwadel, Country Manager – Singapore
Charles Pfauwadel of Swift Worldwide Resources Singapore speaks about his company’s presence in the city-state, the human resource context in the economic super-centre and how his business helps oil and gas companies connect with the right candidates. In particular, Swift’s own internal training policies for its own staff, and its energetic efforts to seek out subsea skills are featured in this interview.
In December 2012, you became country manager here in Singapore for Swift Worldwide Resources. What attracted you to the company, and what have been the key steps forward you have taken since arriving?
I was brought to Swift for a number of reasons, the first being to grow the expatriate business. I joined in the middle of a downturn for the industry, at which point Swift had been reliant mostly on local business and small contracts, and we wanted to re-emphasis our global reach.
Another objective was to strengthen the client base- not only increasing the number of clients we have, but also spreading our business across further disciplines- diversifying and reducing risk by moving from solely supplying staff to oil and gas major companies to including EPC companies and service companies.
Personally, I was happy to join Swift because it is a global company, growing at 20 percent annually for the past five years and it would allow me to connect and engage with many people globally. Coming from a smallerentity, this was rather exciting as was the opportunity to be responsible for this business’ growth, opening new offices and facilitating partnerships across the region.
How are you differentiating Swift from your competitors?
Swift defines itself as the ‘biggest oil and gas family’ out there. Our company culture expounds this; Swift employees are known as ‘Swifties’ and our business regularly engages with events and activities to bring our staff together and to make the company more cohesive. When we have personnel joining a new project – we recently had four gentlemen start working at the same time on an FPSO in a Singaporean shipyard- we bring them to the office to sign the contract over breakfast. They meet the entire Swift team and this intimate nature to their start and shows how much we care about our people.
There are three factors where Swift seeks to lead; in staff retention- keeping our contractors and staff happy. Often in this business, people jump ships. The second is rentability- or profitability. High margins are important and we do not hesitate to turn away local, low margin opportunities to focus on our main clients. Lastly, we seek a leading reputation. A high level of service is essential for this.
To expand on the first ‘R’- retention, Swift also has internal training. Every new employee is sent to Houston for a onemonth training. This is part of the process of bringing staff into the Swift family and encouraging retention of skills and abilities. Since this process was started, attrition rates have fallen from 50 percent to 17 percent.
How do you develop your client relationships?
Swift retains a personal relationship with its clients, and organises numerous social events where contractors and clients can mix. Ensuring we are supplying the best quality candidates, even in this competitive environment, means that our clients trust our advice and offering. There are 4,000 human resources companies in Singapore– so staying close to our client is important. We do not supply only candidate C.Vs to our clients, but references and justification as to why the candidate would be suitable. We seek to address exactly our client’s needs.
How tight is the labour situation in Singapore; to what extent is any shortage exacerbated by labour laws around the region?
In Singapore, we are fortunate to work in a mature industry. The likes of Keppel have had their shipyards around for the last 50 years. The local workforce is replete with skills applicable to such industries, and Singaporean universities are adding to the available skills here. The labour here is motivated and able.
Whilst it is easy to recruit these workers, there is always a danger of losing these workers to competitors. Frequently, there are examples of workers changing project overnight just for small gains in their salary or conditions. This is something we continually strive to avoid.
Are any skills in particular scarce at the moment?
There is one discipline at the moment which is particularly valuable—subsea skills. This is a wide area of activity, but with the many fields being developed and more complex and challenging projects moving forwards to secure more marginal resources, individuals able to secure success in these projects are ever more valuable.
The shortage of staff in this area is something that Swift is seeking to address for its clients. Each of our recruiters has a target to build a pool of subsea candidates. Once a month we meetto re-evaluate our progress on this front and to review the status of progress in these industries.
What are the trends most profoundly affecting movement of staff globally in this industry at the moment?
In one word, globalisation. In the case of the oil and gas industry—Some developments can cost up to20 billion with hundreds of suppliers involved across a mulplicity of countries.
We recently completed a project with Swift contractors working in seven different countries and collaborating towards the success of one field development.
Swift assists the client by taking up all the back office work that would have been required to move these staff around- securing workers, transportation, logistics work permits and visas for example. We allow the staff to move seamlessly between the differing locations where the project is being pushed forward. This is a principle strength of Swift.
How is Singapore as a hub for Southeast Asia allowing skills to flow into this region?
The ease of doing business here in Singapore is exceptional, and this facilitates staff moving here. Many other countries do not have this same open market, or flexibility. Singapore is extremely competitive, but should one receive some business, there are fewer obstacles to executing a project here than anywhere.
From here, it is easy to travel and manage local networks.
How is your own management style secure Swift’s future growth?
There are a few things. I would like to highlight the ‘family feeling’ that I seek to continue to promote. I want staff to be part of creating the future of the company. This does not mean that we give a safe job to everyone- Swift is a very KPI-orientated company-. With this emphasis on success, however, we also prioritise nurturing our staff, and encourage them to grow in their role.
In five years, Swift aims to triple the size of the business in Singapore– seeking to continue over 20 percent growth annually. This will require more staff, and development
Innovation is also a part of our company’s efforts to push forwards. Utilisation of IT tolls is a route to improving the company’s performance further in my opinon. This includes automated timesheets and programs which will streamline our operations across different timezones.