female co-pilot, aviation workforce issues

For aviation leaders, one might think that “managing airplanes” takes up the most of their time. But in reality, the majority is spent on managing people—and related workforce issues.

Here at Aviation Personnel International (API), our motto is “It’s about PEOPLE.” And because we deal with all things people—hiring, outplacement and compensation consulting—we’re often the go-to source on such topics. The big ones include employee retention, hiring challenges during the talent shortage, as well as “diversity, equity & inclusion” (DE&I).

Because these people-related themes are so important, NBAA annually devotes an entire issue of Business Aviation Insider to address them. For example, in the Jan/Feb 2022 publication, API’s Sheryl Barden and Jennifer Pickerel were interviewed for separate articles. Likewise, Jennifer was tapped for her thought leadership in a recent NBAA podcast.

“Greener Grass” Mentality

In this month’s “Business Aviation Insider,” Sheryl surfaced some key workforce issues in “New Challenges to Workforce Retention.” These challenges have become even more pronounced since  Covid affected us. The  fallout from the pandemic has made holding onto employees more difficult than ever.

Chief among the issues is the idea that the grass may always be seen as being greener in some other hangar.

This belief will not disappear, Sheryl said. But, she offered, there are ways to help ease employees’ urge to move. It’s a question of “selling the job” to current employees, she noted. “We all have different priorities,” she said. “There are those who might be motivated solely by money. Others by the ability to be home for their kids’ ballgame, and still others may prioritize growth opportunities.”

“Pilots, especially, are most concerned with the long-term benefits of their job, Sheryl added. “We can’t point to them and say, ‘This is where you’ll be at the end of your career’ in business aviation, quite like airlines can.”

She cautioned, “Without question, the pandemic will reverberate across our industry for years to come. Now, more than ever, people want greater predictability,” she said.

Finally, she noted that she doesn’t think the industry ever accepted what was occurring five years ago regarding employee retention. “Even today, I still run into people who say the workforce shortage isn’t real,” she concluded. “Retention is an aviation director’s most critical job today, and it’s getting harder and harder.”

For additional thoughts on this topic, check out Sheryl’s article: “Hangar-Hopping: Is the Grass Really Greener?

“DE&I” as a Necessary Factor of Hiring

In the same NBAA publication, API’s Jennifer Pickerel was interviewed for the article entitled “Inclusion Best Practices For Hiring.” The thrust of it is that diversity, equity and inclusion are central to attracting talent in today’s competitive labor market.

“Diversity is external,” explained Jennifer who co-chairs NBAA’s DE&I subcommittee. “It’s looking at people from outside your organization to bring in.” On the other hand, she added, “Inclusion and equity are internal. If you don’t have a true culture of inclusivity, you might be able to recruit a diverse team, but you aren’t likely to retain them.”

Jennifer shared that job descriptions should focus on specific qualities. Those that will make a person successful in a position, and not necessarily a minimum number of years of experience. A focus on time-specific experience could discourage younger candidates from applying, she explained.

She also added that it’s easy for an interviewer to “go off script” with a candidate with whom they have a lot in common. An off-topic discussion can create an unintentional bias toward a particular candidate. One that can cause an interviewer to discount other candidates’ qualities.

Both Jennifer and Sheryl have shared extensively on matters related to DE&I. Following are additional articles on the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion:

The Business Case for DE&I

AINsight: Diversity Hire vs ‘Best Candidate’ Status Quo

Hire for ‘Cultural Add’ vs. ‘Cultural Fit’

Focus on Inclusion, Then Hire for Diversity

BizAv Employment Outlook

Last, in a recent NBAA “Flight Plan podcast: “The Business Aviation Employment Outlook for 2022,” Jennifer again shared her trade expertise. Along with another industry colleague, she spoke about what we can expect—employment-wise—in the months ahead.

The podcast focused on how the past two years have demonstrated how quickly employment trends can swing from one extreme to the other. How, for instance, will the job market for business aviation respond in 2022? What will happen in an environment with several promising trends, but also some uncertainty?

Jennifer is optimistic in that regard. “I think we’re going to see corporate operators having to get a lot more creative and open-minded about the level of experience of those they’re hiring,” she offered. “For prospective jobseekers, it’s a very good time to go into business aviation.”

Experts on Workforce Issues

Long before joining API, I’ve admired Sheryl Barden and Jennifer Pickerel for their expertise in “all things people.” And I’m grateful to be a part of an organization where our team’s messages are highly regarded voices among our aviation industry colleagues, media and event organizers.

If you’d like to hear more people-related thought leadership topics, I encourage you to read Sheryl Barden’s monthly guest articles. They appear in AIN Alerts. Her earlier content can be found online at ainonline.com/sheryl-barden.

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