April 25, 2020

When it comes to workforce development in the aviation industry, what a difference a couple of months makes. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted the personnel management focus from a dire workforce shortage to how to effectively engage current employees during the crisis.

“Everyone is working so hard to save our industry and to make sure we will come back even stronger,” said Jo Damato, CAM, NBAA’s vice president of educational strategy and workforce development, noting that adapting to workforce challenges is critical to surviving the COVID-19 crisis.

Webinar panelists all agreed on the importance of communicating regularly with employees – especially those working virtually – and keeping them engaged.

“Stay in touch via frequent emails, let employees know what is happening, ask them if they have everything they need to do their job,” said Laurie Minard, vice president of human resources at Garmin. “Communication is key.”

“At Signature, we are making sure that employees still get face-to-face time, even if it is virtual,” said Brian Irizarry, instructional designer for the training and procedures department at Signature Flight Support. “We are doing lots of virtual meetings and even had a virtual spirit week.”

Managers need to be transparent with their employees, but it’s also important for individual contributors to be transparent with their supervisors.

“It’s important for employees to realize that they still have a responsibility to contribute and to ask questions,” said Hannah O’Malley, talent programs specialist at Gulfstream Aerospace. New hires are also still in the pipeline. “All the things that were important to them – such as training and development – may now be virtual, but it is still there,” she added.

Darrel Stern, senior talent acquisition and campus programs manager and community relations manager for Embraer NA, emphasized the importance of continuing to communicate with job candidates and to be mindful regarding the recruitment process.

“We have to have compassion and understanding with these new individuals, and we all have to get ready for the uptick together,” said Stern. He recommended reaching out to as many resources as possible, such as colleges and other educational partners, and staying connected via LinkedIn and other professional networks.

“It’s about us as an industry coming together collectively and organically,” said Stern.

With aviation industry internships currently in short supply, O’Malley recommended that students and individuals seeking a career in aviation develop or improve as many skills as possible that might be helpful in the future work environment.

“Getting skilled at virtual connecting, working as a team and even thinking strategically are all important,” said O’Malley. “Look at ways to set yourself up for the future by honing these skills now.”

Webinar panelists also emphasized the need to communicate positive news.

“We sent out some thank-you videos some of our associates did for healthcare workers and others,” said Minard. “We are trying to be creative.” Irizarry noted that at Signature, some employees are involved in making masks and helping local food banks.

“The humanitarian aspect is so important,” said Damato. “We [in the business aviation industry] are pivoting to show how we care for communities and how we contribute.”

Panelists agreed that human resources professionals at aviation companies can help navigate the “new normal.” Said Minard, “We are a safe haven.”

This webinar, titled “Managing Workforce Challenges During COVID-19,” is just one in a series of educational opportunities NBAA has planned for the coming weeks. Learn more, register for upcoming webinars and view recordings of past webinars on the NBAA News Hour site.