Did you know that, as a corporate aviation professional, your Human Resources partner is one of your flight department’s greatest resources?

A challenge is that some HR professionals feel like they’ve drawn the “short straw” when given the hiring responsibility for the corporate aviation department. It’s not easy—aviation has some very unique challenges as it doesn’t fit into the typical workday schedule.  But some HR partners actually want to get to know the aviation team and learn how to support its somewhat unique needs.

Complicating matters is that, oftentimes, the aviation leadership thinks the best strategy when dealing with HR is to just keep quiet and not say anything more than is necessary. But that becomes a disservice to the entire department, if and when a problem arises.

If HR isn’t already clued into your business and your somewhat unique needs, it’ll have to be brought up to speed – FAST! That’s why smart aviation leaders actively engage and communicate with their HR partners before there is the potential for serious problems. Learn why a “cultural fit” is important to corporate aviation leaders here.

Six Ways the Flight Department Can Better Partner with HR

1. Educate your HR partner on the role’s requirements.

An HR professional thinks of an employee as 2,080 hours of productivity a year. This is based on a 40-hour work week. If you are looking for a pilot who has a minimum of 4,000 flight hours, HR immediately thinks they need two years of experience. But, as we all know, 4,000 hours of flight time usually takes a pilot anywhere from eight to 12 years to accumulate. Help put into things into perspective for your HR partner. Take the time to explain what it takes to “build time,” and the out-of-pocket expenses for education, certifications and ratings, as well as the “cost” of building time at a regional or freight carrier.

2. Explain training to your HR partner.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires corporate aviation pilots to attend annual simulator training, which is very costly to the company and requires a significant training budget—much higher than the training budget of any other department in the corporation. A great way to help your HR Partner understand the need for technical training—and to justify its cost—is to take them on a visit to FlightSafety International or CAE SimuFlite. This can really put things into perspective for HR representatives! Let them fly the ‘sim’—they will have a new appreciation for what your team does.

3. Educate your HR Partner on the technical requirements.

HR specialists might not know precisely what they’re reviewing when it comes to technical requirements. For example, if a flight department is seeking to hire a pilot with experience flying a Gulfstream IV who has 3,000 flight hours, the HR professional responsible for screening résumés might overlook a stellar candidate with 2,980 hours. So the upshot is that your HR partner really need to understand what it is that flight department employees do, and they have to be educated regarding just how specialized business aviation jobs can be.

4. Educate your Partner on the benefits of corporate aviation.

If your HR partner truly understands your purpose and the benefit the corporation gains from the aviation department, he or she will be much more adept at supporting and defending aviation as a necessary tool for the enterprise. Generally, at this level, the HR professional and his/her peers likely consider it to be an executive perk. Education will help gain you much needed support.

5. Incorporate HR as a part of your process.

As we all know, it’s difficult to fully comprehend what anyone actually does, workwise, until you’ve walked (or flown) a mile in their shoes. It’s even more of an issue with corporate aviation departments, because they regularly hire professionals who don’t fit the standard corporate mold. That’s why HR professionals often find it difficult to label or specifically define the roles and responsibilities of aviation professionals. HR metrics oftentimes don’t apply well to the flight department in particular, as they relate to job titles, salaries, scheduling and time off. To help him or her get a better understanding, consider inviting your HR partner on a complex trip. Give him or her a role as a member of the flight team for two-three days to help them realize just how much ‘extra’ work is required to keep the mission running smoothly. Let him or her experience and observe everything from maintenance and dispatch and handlers to the line-service professionals who clean, cater and fuel the aircraft. The HR rep will soon see that your aviation team is required to assess risks and make critical decisions every day to ensure that they protect the corporation’s most valuable assets—its leadership.

6. Communicate with your HR partner before issues arise.

Sometimes it’s hard to make challenging employees understand that there are issues, and even harder to make them “get it” when things start to go awry. Aviation leaders often think they’re doing the right thing, but with the increasing complexity of HR-related laws, it’s easy to take a misstep. A wrongful termination or a discrimination lawsuit can easily stem from a situation not being handled in compliance with employment rules. And that can surely turn into a “career-limiting move” for you! That’s why engaging and communicating regularly with your HR partner is key to your success.

Your Turn

By now, you realize that effective communication skills are a cornerstone of almost every corporate function—including within the HR and aviation departments. 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 ways you communicate with your HR partners to educate them on the “ins and outs” of your flight department? We’d love for you to share your feedback with us in the comments below.

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