By Arpad Szakal*
Navigating Today’s Aviation Talent Landscape
‘The Great Resignation’ movement of 2021 caused a significant shift of power from the employer, to the people they are looking to hire. This trend impacted the aviation industry with significant consequences on attracting and retaining talent.
The past couple of years gave people the rare opportunity to reflect and think about what they really wanted to do with their careers and lives. As a result, some left the industry to pursue new careers, and others turned to freelancing or self-employment.
Now that businesses in the aviation sector are once again looking to invest in new talent to help drive recovery and growth, there simply aren’t enough candidates out there to deliver the skills and expertise required. This is evident across all levels of seniority.
The rules of the talent game have changed. While executives are demanding (and receiving) higher compensation, we have experienced that many of them also want more flexibility, and sense of belonging to the culture of their firm to accept a permanent role.
In light of these changes, what can aviation companies do to attract & retain talent?
- Start the Hiring Process Early
Clients are spending more time at the outset before launching searches to get all the internal stakeholders in agreement. Savvy candidates can smell misalignment from a distance. Hiring organisations must create a compelling narrative regarding the opportunity, the broader business strategy, and the compensation package early on in the process. As a search firm, we observe that when it comes to recruitment, the most successful organisations invest a lot of time on aligning stakeholders to create an impactful story outlining the opportunity and benefits for candidates. Being transparent also builds trust and helps reduce any risk of miscommunication.
- Rethink the Ideal Candidate Profile & Expand the Talent Pool
To compete successfully for today’s talent hiring organisations must think more creatively about candidates. What about the nontraditional candidates who aren’t even on your radar? These might include “boomerang” employees—those who return to a business after leaving—and others currently doing part-time, consulting or contract work or leading their own one-person start-ups. Next-gen and step-up candidates from the lower ranks in an organization, who may be less proven but are highly capable and motivated, become more appealing. Don’t overlook the importance of promoting within and give employees ‘stretch assignments’ to train them into future leadership roles.
- Don’t Eliminate Candidates Too Early In the Selection Process
If you come across a solid candidate, but aren’t quite sure they are the solution to your challenges, keep them engaged. It is quite painful to run a full process only to realize that one of your earlier candidates (or top performers) was the best solution out there after all. In the current market, chances are they will no longer be available if you didn’t keep them in the process and take them seriously throughout.
- Think About Retention at the Hiring/Onboarding Stage
Setting up a reliable and effective onboarding process is critical. Onboarding should consist of relevant and purposeful training, regular feedback and check-ins, along with practical support for the new hire. A smart onboarding process can reduce attrition and helps new team members understand an organization’s subtle rules & processes.
- Think Beyond Pay: Offer Benefits & Perks that Actually Help Your Employees
Perks & benefits are a huge incentive. The office will become a more attractive destination for your staff if you provide help with costs such as: parking, transportation as well as meal plan options. An increasingly diverse workforce requires flexibility, imagination and innovation from its employer’s reward and recognition programme. Traditional one-size-fits-all employee benefits schemes no longer work.
- Conduct ’Stay’ Interviews
Don’t wait until exit interviews to ask your staff what they like (and dislike) about their position. Stay interviews are a great opportunity to ask employees what matters most to them. You will have the chance to make changes based on their feedback and they will be less likely to leave as a result. If they crave growth & long-term career progression, show them the way. Listening to your employees, anticipating and addressing their needs and concerns is a great first step in building longevity in the workplace.
- Prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB)
We have observed that if an organisation isn’t diverse and doesn’t promote inclusion & belonging, their retention rates will likely be impacted. They often struggle to attract talent too. Diversity, equity, inclusion initiatives start with leadership. Employees imitate what they see from their leaders. Ensure your leadership team is committed to building a culture of inclusion and belonging is a great first step.
The way forward
Now more than ever, the aviation sector must redefine attraction and retention strategies to build a competitive value proposition for their employees. The longer they wait, the more burnout they will create among existing employees, potentially leading to even more attrition.
 The Great Resignation describes the elevated rate at which U.S. workers have quit their jobs starting in the spring of 2021, amid strong labour demand and low unemployment.
(*) Arpad Szakal is a Principal Consultant at Cormis Partners with experience delivering senior-level searches for clients that include FTSE 100, Fortune 500 and DAX 30 companies, as well as private equity firms and their portfolio companies. He has a broad industrial background with a special focus on C-Suite and senior management assignments within infrastructure, transportation, and energy.