July 22, 2020

Kevin Horan was working in the human resources department at a major airline years ago when the “diversity movement” began. “Back then, it was really just a mechanism to attract employees to meet affirmative action goals,” said Horan.

Fast forward a number of decades and Horan is now the chief corporate soul officer for scheduled Part 135 operator JSX. “We have customers, not passengers, and crew members, not employees, who are the soul of our company,” explained Horan. “That’s why we renamed HR to be ‘corporate soul.’”

JSX prides itself on being a diverse and inclusive place to work, and Horan said that has contributed to the company’s unusually high employee retention rate. “Having an open and inclusive environment, where there are no holds barred to communication, is a huge selling point in attracting and retaining people,” notes Horan.

The diversity of the JSX management team – in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and culture – demonstrates to current and potential employees that the company walks the talk. JSX “crew members” also have an active diversity and inclusion (D&I) program, IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equality & Awareness). The IDEA group meets monthly, helps guide some of JSX’s activities and makes suggestions to company management.

Horan has been focused on getting JSX involved in industry associations such as Women in Aviation International, the National Gay Pilots Association and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, and with student groups involved in STEM and others that might not realize that the aviation industry isn’t just about being a pilot or flight attendant.

The Part 135 operator, whose flights are picking up after the COVID slowdown, attends job fairs at events not often frequented by aviation employers, such as the National Black MBA Association and those held by HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities).”We speak on panels, volunteer our time, and staff booths,” said Horan.

At Garmin International, with thousands of “associates” spread across 32 countries, HR Vice President Laurie Minard said, “diversity is integral to us.” Associates are encouraged to get involved with a number of resource groups – examples include veterans, women’s business, LGBTQ, Hispanic/Latino, Black/African American, among others – that meet monthly and have specific plans and goals. Some hold lunches or events for employees and all provide an inclusive environment, according to Minard.

Last year, a Garmin Women of Aviation Week was held, which included both speakers and outreach. “Throughout the week, we interacted with more than 1,000 students through activities, tours, flights, and demos,” said Minard.

Garmin also holds an “involvement day” where associates set up as many as 50 tables with information on opportunities as diverse as gardening or learning a new language.

The company also is instituting a Garmin Day of Service on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which will be a paid day off for associates to provide service in their community. Any donations made will be matched by Garmin. “Authentic actions are really important to people and are huge in retention and recruitment,” said Minard.

Jo Damato, CAM, NBAA’s vice president of educational strategy and workforce development, said that the association is committed to fostering an inclusive culture throughout the business aviation community and is actively involved in a variety of D&I programs and efforts.

Specifically, NBAA’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, comprised of a wide cross-section of NBAA member volunteers, is focused on action items that will create an awareness of the benefits gained through having a more diverse and inclusive industry and sharing success stories of member companies where this is the case.

“The bottom line is diversity attracts diversity, and we know that the more diverse and inclusive an organization is, the better that organization performs,” said Damato. “Diversity of thought is really what we’re after to achieve high performance results. We can better accomplish that by welcoming professionals who bring their own perspectives, based on their unique experiences, to the workplace.”