Pay is important, but when it comes to landing and retaining qualified business aviation professionals, experts point out that culture is imperative.

It’s a topic directly tied to the industry’s future. The workforce landscape in the coming years will be challenging, according to statistics. A 2023 report by CAE projects 32,000 new business aircraft pilots will be needed over the next decade to meet growth and replace retiring aviators. The report also predicts some 74,000 new business aircraft maintenance technicians will be required in the same period.

Some of those gaps could be filled by members of demographic groups that represent a small percentage of the current workforce. For example, fewer than 10% of licensed pilots are women, according to the FAA. Among aviation maintenance workers, the percentage of women is lower – in the single digits, according to a report from the FAA’s Women in Aviation Advisory Board (WIABB).

“The biggest barrier that discourages women from entering and staying in aviation careers is culture,” says WIABB Chair Heather Wilson in the report. “Women don’t feel like they belong.”

“Culture is essential,” says Jennifer Pickerel, vice president at Aviation Personnel International. “You have to pay competitively to attract people. But to retain top talent, you have to offer a complement of pay and healthy culture. What is a healthy culture? One where people are heard, respected and treated equitably.”

“Money will not always keep them around, or at least not for long,” says Jay Boykin, vice president of finance transformation/diversity, equity and inclusion at Gogo Business Aviation. “We have to change the way we do business if we want to compete with the airlines and other industries to attract talent.”

Listen to your employees, say advocates. Respect them. Be curious. Experts say it’s smart to be aware of psychological safety. This includes ensuring that individuals feel comfortable asking questions, learning from failure, admitting mistakes, asking for help, sharing ideas and vocalizing safety concerns.

Psychological safety is “being able to speak up, to address an error without fear of retribution, and to be one’s authentic self,” the WIABB report says.

“Treating people with dignity, valuing their contributions, listening to their perspectives, and recognizing and appreciating how their different perspectives, experiences and world views add value,” Boykin says.

“When people feel respected, they are more motivated and engaged,” he adds. “Companies that have environments where respect is a cornerstone retain more employees – and can attract key talent.”

The new generation “wants to know why they are doing the work they do. Why it matters.”

Gogo makes a concerted effort to maintain its positive culture. “Each year we conduct an employee engagement survey,” Boykin says. “Once we receive the results, our leadership is very intentional about understanding those results. We recognize there are always areas for improvement.”

Boykin adds that culture in the workplace “is not a destination. It’s something that companies constantly have to work on.”

Review NBAA’s resources surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion.

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