Jan. 8, 2015

A flight department’s safety culture hinges more on how its leaders handle people issues than on the policies and procedures that make up its safety management system (SMS), said Bob Hobbi, president and CEO of ServiceElements.

“We now live in a world of more and more complexity, and that means that people issues are a much larger share of what an aviation leader deals with,” said Hobbi. “And an organization’s culture is 99 percent people issues: how you lead people, motivate them, train them, measure their performance and so on.”

As a co-chair of NBAA’s upcoming Leadership Conference, Feb. 24 to 26 in Tucson, AZ, Hobbi will discuss “The Impact of Leadership on Safety Culture” in a live webinar with Chris Broyhill, transportation director for Exelon Business Services, on Jan. 28 at 1 p.m. (EST).

“If you don’t have the leadership that supports it, SMS is just a program, and it won’t do much for you,” said Broyhill, who has studied the effect of leadership on safety culture for a PhD program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

In Broyhill’s research, and in his experience as a military aviator and flight department leader, he’s found an industry-wide consensus that top management support is essential for a healthy safety culture and an effective SMS.

This is true even for flight departments undergoing registration with the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO).

“There’s little doubt that an SMS must operate within a dynamic safety culture to be effective,” said Broyhill. “However, if there are people out there who think, ‘Well, we need to get on this IS-BAO bandwagon and then we’ll have a safety culture,’ it actually takes much more aggressive action by the company leadership.”

It is the person in charge of an organization who is responsible for the care and feeding of its safety culture, in how they deal with people issues on a daily basis. “You can’t just hand the IS-BAO manual to the safety officer and say ‘Good luck with it,'” said Broyhill. “You, the leader, need to make it happen.”

That’s why the Jan. 28 webinar is so important, explains Hobbi. “Safety culture should be more than a buzzword,” he said. “It needs to be a living, breathing part of an organization.”

Register for the webinar today.