2020 has been brutal for the aviation sector. When travel came to a standstill, aircraft were parked and many across the industry were furloughed. Fast forward several months and flights are now operating – albeit at a fraction of capacity – and businesses are restructuring.
The long-term outlook remains positive. In the macro environment, aviation is still seen as a high-growth industry with passenger numbers expected to increase by over 5% per annum up to 2037, with over 8 billion travellers each year. This is fuelled, in part, by a growing middle class and the opening up of new routes and geographies. However, it is also due to new aviation technologies that have come to the fore.
This means that, while the industry may need a new talent strategy to support these future expansions, the current workforce remains critical to take the businesses forward.
In our webinar series, Coming through the Clouds, Aon’s David Barrett hosted a discussion alongside Peter Bellew, chief operations officer at easyJet, Joan Vincenz, managing director of corporate safety at United Airlines and Paul Hagy, SVP, global corporate treasurer at Aon Corporation.
Here are six considerations when looking at current talent.
1. Rethink Remuneration and Benefits
Our webinars discussed how airlines responded in the weeks after the pandemic became global. Companies had to think creatively about how to protect their businesses and support their people. Financial support models helped companies and staff through the initial weeks, with firms looking at ways to balance the cost to the business with support for individuals. Some airlines looked at staff incentives and benefit packages to offer new ways of supporting the workforce’s health and wellbeing.
It was a time of survival. There was no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting workers. Models varied between location and companies, but leaders were working as best they could with stakeholders and governments to find a way to support their people.
As Peter Bellew from easyJet commented in the webinar, it was about “making sure that you don't do something in the short term that endangers the overall business for the longer term”.
Work continues in this area, as firms work out how best to retain and reward current employees.
2. Explore Upskilling and Reskilling Possibilities
For some, roles will no longer continue as they were. Reductions in current roles – or changes in technology – will create opportunities to reskill the current workforce. For some, new talent may be hired in. For others, a program of re-examining existing talent and how this can be redeployed could save both time and those costs associated with attracting new talent.
3. Focus on Employee Communication
A difficult and uncertain time is not the time to go quiet on employees. Honesty, transparency and regular communication are needed to provide security where possible.
4. Implement Remote Working
Remote working had, for many, always been seen as something not relevant to the sector. And yet, when needed, the technology was put in place to make it happen. People adapted well, with many reporting an initial uptick in productivity. However, the return to the office was welcomed by some – and this is a key factor to consider as there is a tendency to see remote working as the panacea to all issues. Not everyone has the home environment, personality or role that suits virtual collaboration and being away from colleagues. Perhaps now is the time to look at the roles and the people and see where their needs can be met.
5. Acknowledge This is a Hiatus
Despite the immediate impact of the pandemic, there is a shared confidence that this disruption is a hiatus. Companies will be actively seeking talent to build sustainable growth for the future of aviation within just a few years. Indeed, the shortage of certain roles will not disappear.
Experts predict that the sector will need 645,000 pilots in the next two decades. Despite raising the pilot retirement age, there are still too few in post and attracting new joiners – although vital – is increasingly challenging. Attracting applicants from diverse backgrounds will remain critical. With just 5% of current pilots being women, we need to address the limited exposure during early career conversations in schools, the lack of funding and a pilot’s mobile lifestyle.
There is also a growing need to attract engineering and technical capability across the sector to compete against the appeal of innovative software companies with flexible working practices and career opportunities.
6. Reemploy Those You Have Had to Let Go
Airlines with strong balance sheets and also those which have made hard choices may be in a good position to recover and reemploy those they had to let go. It is important to retain communication with your alumni and get back in touch when you can.
We have been working with clients across the aviation sector to help them plan for the future. What actions are you taking? Contact us to see how we could support you.
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