By Arpad Szakal*

The aviation industry is increasingly recognizing the value of diversity and inclusion in driving success. Private equity firms involved in the sector have a unique opportunity to lead the way by implementing actionable strategies that attract and retain diverse talent. Below are some practical steps for PE firms in the aviation industry to foster a culture of diversity & inclusion. 

Connect with the Broader Talent Pool:

Break free from traditional networks and actively seek diverse candidates. Explore similar companies, industry publications, and influential speakers to identify talent from various backgrounds. Consider partnering with diversity-focused search firms or organizations to expand your candidate pool effectively.

Tap into Adjacent Industries:

Think beyond the confines of the aviation industry. Look for candidates in adjacent sectors or areas of potential growth who possess transferable skills. Their fresh perspectives can ignite innovation and unlock new opportunities within your firm.

Define the Right Skill Set:

Reevaluate your hiring criteria and focus on the skills required for future growth. Move beyond titles and prioritize competencies that align with your organization’s strategic direction. Hiring for the right skill set ensures you have the right people in place to drive success.

Spot Rising Stars:

Identify talented individuals currently in No. 2 roles at larger companies who are eager to step into leadership positions. Seek out candidates with a diverse range of experiences, including prior board roles. This combination of skills and insights can fuel your firm’s growth trajectory.

Craft a Compelling Value Proposition:

Stand out to top-tier diverse candidates by articulating a compelling vision and demonstrating a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion. Incorporate diverse perspectives in your search committee and convey the value you place on a diverse team.

Assess Soft Skills:

Go beyond technical qualifications and assess candidates’ soft skills, such as emotional intelligence, teamwork, and conflict resolution skills. These qualities contribute to effective leadership and foster a collaborative and inclusive work environment.

Nurturing the Talent Pipeline: Embrace a Broader Spectrum:

Rather than limiting interviews to individuals from the same schools and conventional pathways, it is essential to cast a wider net and delve deeper into the talent pool. By initiating a comprehensive and inclusive recruiting effort from the outset, private equity firms can engage a rich and diverse range of candidates. These proactive efforts can begin at the graduate or undergraduate level, collaborating with organizations such as SEO (Sponsors for Educational Opportunity) and Toigo, which are dedicated to fostering diversity in the business realm.

Request a Visionary Presentation:

Take interviews a step further by asking finalists to present their vision for the first 90 days based on their understanding of your business. This exercise showcases their strategic thinking abilities and helps you gauge their adaptability to new environments.

Adopt a Functional Matrix for Board Roles:

Analyze your current board composition to identify functional gaps. Look beyond conventional choices and seek leaders with specialized expertise, such as legal, customer success, or mergers and acquisitions. Diverse functional perspectives will enhance board effectiveness.

Foster Mentorship & Sponsorship Opportunities:

Mentorship and sponsorship empower individuals to uncover valuable skills and strengths, with mentors offering guidance and advice, while sponsors specifically drive upward mobility by promoting opportunities within the organization. By fostering open discussions, networking, goal-setting, continuous education, and career advancement, you can support employees in pursuing their aspirations.

Pair newly hired executives and board members with industry veterans within your private equity firm’s network. These mentors can provide guidance, support, and valuable connections, aiding the success and retention of diverse talent within your organization.

By implementing proactive measures to embrace diversity and inclusion, private equity firms within the aviation industry can drive innovation, enhance risk management practices, and attain financial prosperity. It is crucial that we collaborate in our efforts to establish an aviation industry that fosters inclusivity, leveraging a wide range of perspectives and experiences. Together, let us strive towards building an industry that thrives on diversity and embraces the transformative power it brings.

(*) Arpad Szakal is 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.