One of the most difficult tasks of a business aviation hiring manager is attempting to explain the unique complexities of the profession to his/her team—especially to the corporate HR representative, recruiter or a family office representative.
In a follow-up to Sheryl Barden’s blog “Six Ways to Partner with HR,” we’re providing some pointers to help you communicate to your hiring partners understand what you do in business aviation. We encourage you to show them how you’re a bit different from the other departments within the organization.
Helping them to understand what a “day-in-the-life” is like, along with the regulatory aspects of aviation, will help strengthen your relationship with HR and other decision makers.
Plus, they’ll be more knowledgeable about what it takes to become a bizav pilot, maintenance professional, scheduler, dispatcher and/or flight attendant.
Your Reason for Being
The number one point you’ll want to communicate to your HR team and family office is business aviation’s reason for being—that your team is ultimately here to serve the mission of the company or the principal.
This priority is all about ensuring alignment up, down and across the entire company spectrum.
To further that alignment and strengthen two-way communications, we suggest inviting your HR or recruiting partner to the hangar to literally observe the differences of the team in that environment. Help them understand why hiring someone in aviation is different than hiring a senior accountant, a facilities employee or someone in sales and marketing.
Let them meet the team, see the plane, and try to help them recognize that operations is not a traditional nine-to-five “office.” It’s built of multi-million dollar assets, after all, and it’s all about convenience for the traveler and operating scheduled flights. That means that the full team won’t always occupy the hangar during regular business hours. Instead, they might work early mornings, late nights and regularly on weekends and holidays.
The Unique Paths to Business Aviation
One of the things you’ll want to impart is how the team has a broad makeup, meaning that the aviation professionals will likely have very different paths before joining your team.
Each functional group will serve as its own microcosm, with unique regulatory requirements and training paths. Yet, the common denominator for anyone in the flight department is that they have a passion for aviation.
Following are some of the major distinctions we find among three main professional aviation categories:
Turning wrenches might once have been a path to maintenance, but now it’s about leveraging technology to fine-tune complex avionics and entertainment systems.
Maintenance professionals come to business aviation from various career paths, whether it’s working for a Part 145 service center or an aircraft manufacturer. They’re highly paid technologists and, by the time they’re working on private aircraft, they almost always have their Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) certification, and they often have their Inspection Authorization (IA) certificate from the FAA.
Explain these distinctions to your partners, so they understand why the maintenance role is so critical from a safety perspective. Tell them that the maintenance team works even when the aircraft is traveling, and that these professionals will be as busy during that time as when the aircraft is in the hangar. Let them know that in many cases, they’re also required to work multiple shifts to support the a/c.
It’s important to explain that business aviation captains may have been through a number of jobs. For example, in order to meet the minimum number of flight hours to join a business aviation team, a captain, first officer or chief pilot must also have a varied background. Some pilots come into business aviation with a military background and some start their pre-bizav careers as a flight instructor, which is a great way to “build time” in the cockpit. There are also those who come into our industry having flown for a regional or main line carrier.
Unlike another professional who accumulates more than 2,000 hours after working full-time over the course of a year, it might take a pilot 10-12 years of regular flying to amass 4,000 hours of flight time.
Explain the difference between a Pilot-In-Command (PIC) and Second-In-Command (SIC), along with the connection between health and flying, and why a first-class or second-class medical certificate is important to their careers.
As you know, flight departments operating two or more aircraft commonly employ a scheduler or licensed dispatcher to process trip requests as well as all of the changes involved: time, passengers, ground services requests, etc.
It’s important to explain to your hiring leaders that the scheduler function is vital to the aviation operation because they are the “hub” of the department. They are the “eyes and ears” of the flight department, and many times are the only staff member (or team member) at the hangar, who serve as the key contact to the leader of operations. This detail-oriented role, often performed by former executive assistants, will interface with various departments, including maintenance, the flight deck and the cabin crew. They wear many hats, are very process-oriented and are very comfortable with the customer-service aspect of business aviation.
It’s Okay to be Different!
So, to recap, you should schedule a meeting between the key stakeholders and the HR team. In that meeting you should have the following objectives:
- Explain your aviation organizational chart with its different titles, roles and reporting structures. Share your vision, mission and values, and how they relate to corporate or family/private key stakeholders.
- Explain that pilot and maintenance training is a regulated part of aviation—not something that can be cut for budget reasons.
- Offer to take them to an NBAA convention or to a local business aviation safety day/regional event at your field.
- Suggest that they network with their HR peers who support other flight departments, in order to learn best practices in compensation, benefits, training and recruitment.
- Invite your HR partner to visit the hangar for a “day-in-the-life,” to see the aircraft and work on developing a good relationship with the team.
As Sheryl Barden pointed out in her blog, by now, you realize that effective communication skills are a cornerstone of almost every corporate function—including within the HR and aviation departments. As she noted, with so much riding on communication, it makes sense to put more thought and effort into honing our skills and interacting much more closely than we have in the past with our HR points of contact.
What are some of the ways you help to explain to your partners the unique qualities of your flight department? If you’d kindly share some of them, please do so in the feedback area below.