A proactive and agile recruitment strategy has never been more important as we emerge from the pandemic.
The trials and tribulations of the past two years are well documented. Aviation lost a lot of skilled personnel. Retaining existing staff and recruiting the right people to maintain the momentum of the recovery has become mission critical.
James Parker, Director of Aviation, Transport and Logistics at Venari Partners, warns that airlines are not out of the woods yet. “There could be more attrition to come,” he says. “For many of the younger generation, this is the first big shock to the industry that they have witnessed. They are questioning whether it is the right industry to be in and they are looking elsewhere.”
At the same time, aviation skills have become more transferable. Take the logistical requirements of such companies as Amazon, for example. An aviation background is highly prized.
There are, however, solutions to help an airline, or any stakeholder in the aviation value chain, attract and retain the best talent.
A good start is building a talent pool. Recruitment can never be about just filling jobs. The aim is to engage with talent in advance of them making a move. It allows an airline to build for the future.
“Recruitment needs to be flexible,” says Parker. “And it must be pro-active. If airlines identify a talent, then they need to forge a relationship and think strategically. There should always be roles for good people.”
In essence, airlines need to understand where the best talent is coming from to ensure they have a strong pipeline of talent coming through the ranks. Do they have a Chief of Maintenance successor, for example?
The recruitment process also needs to be more akin to a customer experience. Allowing the company culture to shine through the narrow tunnel of recruitment is a proven methodology. Associated with this is the speed of the recruitment process. Long wait times are not a good sign in any aspect of the industry. Seamlessness is the name of the game.
This extends beyond the job interview and into the first few months of the new placement.
“The idea of a recruitment experience and helping people understand the industry is quite new for many aviation companies,” says Parker. “The traditional mindset that says people never leave aviation and that it is best to recruit from within needs changing. For many new recruits, there will be a transition period that needs to be managed carefully to assist retention.”
Diversity is another area that cannot be ignored. Airlines are working hard to understand that the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) demographic can add significant value and breadth to the talent pool. Investing in DE&I can take many routes. It can mean a proactive recruitment strategy, examining how competitors achieve diversity or understanding which internal functions lack diversity. Some airlines do this better than others, but ultimately more work must be in done in this space.
“The traditional mindset that says people never leave aviation and that it is best to recruit from within needs changing.”
A final factor in the recruitment process, and perhaps the hardest to implement, is the issue of salaries. Simply, airlines need to pay more for the top talent. In general, says Parker, base salaries are increasing, and bonuses are becoming less formalized. But the fact is that if other industries pay more, airlines will lose or fail to attract talent. This may be a bitter pill to swallow in the financial climate, but top talent will always bring value.
Success in the job
For staff in situ, as well as new employees, aviation will also need to look closely at remote working, a concept that has become especially popular due to the pandemic. “It is an interesting debate for airlines,” says Parker. “People want that flexibility and if you dismiss the notion of remote working you will immediately have a smaller pool of talent. But, of course, senior leaders especially need to be visible. And some aviation jobs simply can’t be done remotely.”
The solution again lies in being agile. If an airline recruits from abroad, for example, does the new employee need to move immediately? Perhaps the transition can happen over 12 months, allowing them time to get to know their new home so that the final move is easy and doesn’t affect their focus on the job.
Innovative thinking will also allow aviation companies to address key areas of recruitment, such as technology experts. Tech Hubs in diverse locations may be a way to access talent from around the world.
“Recruitment and staff retention are absolutely vital to the industry’s recovery and future resilience,” concludes Parker. “Airlines and aviation stakeholders can get this right if they are creative and break free of the traditional mindset.
It has been a challenging two years but with every challenge comes opportunity and we are entering into an exciting time for aviation.”
James Parker, Director, Aviation, Transport and Logistics, at executive search firm Venari Partners