2020 is a year we will never forget. It is a year that will change everything forever, most dramatically: aviation, careers, and education. Earlier this month I sat down with Arpad Szakal, a career transition coach at the Centre for Aviation Psychology, to answer his questions on how students and early stage professionals can navigate a career storm.
Today, we switch roles and I interview Arpad on how organisations can keep the next generation interested in aviation, a career could be at risk of losing its appeal due to anxieties about job security. Read on to see how aviation can stay attractive in 2020 and beyond.
Where do you see the opportunities in the aviation industry today?
For the foreseeable future, job opportunities will not be with the traditional employers of the sector such as airports, airlines, and other service providers. Growth and innovation will be led by the nimbler start-ups and scale-ups which are tackling the industry’s biggest challenges. Smaller organisations will need tech savvy next gen talent to help them design products and services that can help the sector adapt and thrive in the post-COVID-19 world.
NextGen talent hoping to enter the aviation/travel industry in the next few years will be forced to think differently as job opportunities will be with the smaller players who will have an important role to play in helping the air transport industry respond to the impacts of COVID-19.
Some examples of innovative and growing start-ups in the travel/aviation sectors include:
The US based business leverages machine learning to predict flight disruptions and automatically rebook travellers’ flights ahead of time. Pilota recently launched a new FlySafe product to help passengers better plan their journey. The platform uniquely combines the traveller’s flight preferences with real-time data to empower the customer to compare flights based on safety, flexibility and reliability.
London-based start-up BotsAndUs developed a customer experience robot for in-terminal passenger assistance. The robot, called Bo, is able to autonomously engage with passengers and take them to their preferred locations (gates, lounges, stores or other facilities), creating a unique airport experience. The robot will take on the work of customer-facing staff and free them from simple but time-consuming duties so they can focus on solving more complex issues.
The Israeli start-up helps airlines recover from flight disruptions, retain their customers and reduce costs by enabling their passengers to self-manage the entire process through an AI-based virtual assistant. RubiQ’s Disruption Recovery Platform monitors real-time flight data to anticipate which passengers may face a disruption, calculates the optimal alternative flight, and instantly notifies them via email, SMS, or the airline’s app. Passengers can then easily confirm their alternative flight or choose a different one through RubiQ’s intelligent self-service virtual assistant.
What are the key traits of an attractive aviation organisation?
Legacy businesses in the sector are sometimes perceived as being ‘old school’, which means they have difficulty competing for talent against newer companies in the tech sector. Aviation businesses can ensure that they don’t miss out on bright, motivated and tech-savvy talent by following these key principles.
1. Have a Strong Corporate Culture
Companies must embrace a training, mentoring, and supportive culture. Aviation businesses should strive to build a workplace which is dynamic and where people feel involved in the decision-making process and where people are encouraged to share ideas to drive innovation. Provide young talent with opportunities to look for and actively seek out role models and mentors within the organisation. For workplace coaching and mentoring to really work and drive results, it must resonate throughout your entire company—at every level and in every conversation.
2. Provide flexibility in everything (not only work hours)
Today, mobile technology makes it possible to choose the way they work best. In particular, NextGen talent appreciates the option of working remotely, on a part time basis or the ability to choose and flex their hours. In the post pandemic era, allowing young talent to decide when and where to do their work will also enable aviation companies to save significant costs.
3. Appeal to the digital nomad
By offering global exposure to diverse locations and travel opportunities to young talent, aviation organisations can ensure that they continue to be aspirational brands. GenZ’s “wanderlust” can be perfectly catered for and utilised by airlines and travel companies. In order to attract GenZ, organisations will need to efficiently blend work and play by offering a stimulating work environment.
4. Live by their values and have a strong sense of Corporate Social Responsibility
Having strong Corporate Social Responsibility programs in place that give back or take care of the environment will be a key attractiveness factor that will make one aviation organisation stand out from the next as GenZ’s focus on the environment and sustainability is higher than previous generations.
5. Hiring & HR Practices
Refresh recruitment and focus on growth and development. Aviation companies could take the current situation to revamp and bring some creativity into their recruitment and recognition programmes. The sector could focus more on the non-monetary forms of compensation like sense of purpose, opportunities for growth and development and collaborative work culture. GenZ are looking far beyond money when considering their next employer.
6. Champion diversity
Companies in the aerospace sector should actively go out and seek talent with skills, experience and ideas from other industries. This is important to foster innovation and a different way of thinking. The industry also needs to do a lot more to actively engage females to bridge the gender gap. This is especially true in careers such as pilots, aircraft maintenance workers and aerospace engineers.
7. Rewards & Recognition
Introduce transparency about the role and its long-term prospects. GenZ appreciates clarity and honesty around a role’s expectations, progress, pay, and benefits. The best way to avoid having to deal with dissatisfied employees is to be clear with them from the beginning in terms of where the role may lead to in the future. Introducing a specific promotion timeline for employees might bring even more clarity and certainty for young talent.
8. Accelerate the promotion track
By offering customised career paths for GenZ employees, aviation businesses can ensure that they remain competitive in the war for talent. The provision of stretch targets for top performers can ensure high employee engagement levels and improved retention metrics.
9. Provide constant feedback
Annual appraisals and performance reviews are no longer suitable to successfully manage the next generation of aviation professionals. Setting clear performance targets and the provision of regular (real time) structured feedback sessions can ensure that there is a dialogue between managers and team members. Regular feedback can also enhance trust and collaboration across the organisation.
10. Provide health & wellness programs
Supporting health and wellness initiatives by providing discounted memberships or reimbursement of fees will encourage employees to do things that work for them to keep them healthy, both physically and mentally. As a LEAD indicator this can lead to things like fewer sick days, lower absenteeism and reduced medical claims on the corporate insurance program. Healthy, well-rounded employees are also less likely to get burnt out.
Why should companies treat candidates like customers?
Today, GenZ are presented with a lot of opportunities that are potentially as attractive as a career in the aerospace industry. Businesses in aviation are competing for talent with sectors well beyond aviation. In order to not only recruit but retain tech savvy talent, firms will need to treat candidates like customers. Employee experience starts from the very first interaction with a recruiter and/or hiring manager and can make or break the experience.
Helping candidates see themselves as part of the organisation from the earliest stages of the recruitment process will enable them to be more engaged and invested in the process. Caring and learning about their aspirations and having career development conversations will help aviation businesses create a culture where globally minded and highly qualified individuals will actually aspire to work and be part of.