Not only is it challenging to find new skilled labor in this market, but it’s difficult to find individuals who can grow and develop. That’s why DE&I initiatives can help meet the ever-increasing demand for talent and are key to developing a successful, sustainable workforce in any industry, including business aviation.
While diversity efforts get a lot of attention, experts say inclusion efforts are at least as important as diversity initiatives. In fact, focusing on diversity without an inclusive culture is like starting a book based only on the cover. Diversity without inclusion is incomplete.
“Diversity is external. It’s looking at people from outside your organization to bring in,” explained Jennifer Pickerel, vice president of Aviation Personnel International and co-chair of NBAA’s DE&I Working Group. “Inclusion and equity are internal. If you don’t have a true culture of inclusivity, you might be able to recruit a diverse team, but you aren’t likely to retain them.”
Joe Seymour, chief pilot of Boeing Executive Flight Operations, said, “A strong culture of inclusivity is one where all team members feel seen, heard, valued and respected. This culture of inclusivity is essential to our ‘speak up’ culture. It is very important that we create an environment where people can see themselves.”
Where to Begin?
To create an inclusive culture that supports diversity efforts, experts recommend starting with a review of job descriptions. Be sure the language is gender-neutral and does not skew to a particular type of person or discourage some job candidates from applying. To help identify any unintentional biases, consider including multiple team members in the process of developing job descriptions.
Pickerel says job descriptions should focus on qualities that will make a person successful in a position, not necessarily a specific minimum number of years of experience. A focus on time-specific experience could discourage younger candidates from applying.
Also, studies have shown that women are less likely to apply for a position if they don’t meet every requirement listed, so personnel experts suggest listing “must have” candidate qualifications (such as regulatory requirements) separately from the “wish list” of attributes.
Leon Holloway, director of team member services at Duncan Aviation, says his company recently reviewed and revised its job descriptions, and he believes that effort paid off because those changes have resulted in more diverse candidates applying for open positions.
Highlight DE&I on the Company Website
After reviewing a job listing, the next step for most candidates is to visit a company’s website, which often is the first opportunity for an organization to underscore its commitment to DE&I.
Experts encourage employers to be public and authentic about their DE&I intentions in all online forums. Prominently posting the company’s official commitment to DE&I on its website and explaining inclusion efforts in job postings and on recruiting websites demonstrates transparency and indicates accountability to jobseekers. And affirming a company’s commitment to diversity should not just be about gender or ethnicity, but include embracing people with different orientations, the differently abled and those who are neurodiverse (an individual who has a less typical cognitive variation, such as autism, ADHD or dyslexia).
Intel’s approach is a good example. The company has a detailed, transparent website describing the company’s current make up and diversity goals. Smaller organizations might have less data to display, but any size organization can share its values and aspirations.
“Inclusion starts with recruiting, is advanced through hiring, but then is solidified through employee retention, development and progression. ”
JOE SEYMOUR Chief Pilot, Boeing Executive Flight Operations
Experts advise that company leaders and team members also stay in touch with their local communities, working with community leaders, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations to identify underrepresented populations. These relationships can be fertile ground for recruiting efforts.
Communicating a company’s interest in attracting more diverse job candidates is important. Be sure job openings are posted where under-represented populations will see them. Urge team members to help get the word out when a position opens up, asking them to go beyond their “friends and family network.”
At Boeing, current team members provide some of the best leads for new recruits. “Our team is one of our best tools,” said Seymour. “They post and repost listings through their own social media accounts.” But most important, he said, “they are the best representatives of our culture.”
Make Interviews Inclusive
Once qualified job candidates have been identified, DE&I experts encourage employers to make sure their interview process is inclusive. Draft standardized interview questions designed to be inclusive, and then stick to those questions in the interview process.
While it can be easy for an interviewer to “go off script” with a candidate they seem to have a lot in common with, off-topic discussions can create an unintentional bias toward a particular candidate and cause an interviewer to discount other candidates’ qualities, noted Pickerel.
“Anything we can do to break down unconscious bias is important,” said Seymour.
Experts also recommend using diverse resume-screening and interview panels. Small organizations might find it challenging to create a diverse panel, but they should choose individuals for panels who are sincerely interested in and committed to DE&I.
Holloway also recommends reviewing benefits packages to ensure they’re inclusive. Verify that benefits work for the wide range of couples and family structures in the U.S. today. Consider health insurance, compensated family leave policies and less common benefits like adoption, daycare or even aging parent assistance.
Onboarding Diverse Hires
Finally, experts suggest that organizations train their employees on how to receive people from diverse backgrounds. This includes instruction on how to identify and combat discrimination and unintentional bias. Appropriate training can also help a team create an inclusive environment with differently abled or neurodiverse team members.
Organizations that are leaders in DE&I offer their new hires assistance and specialized training. For example, some new hires might benefit from use of interpreters or English as Second Language classes. Holloway says some new hires might be highly skilled and had successful careers in their own country, but they are not able to speak English well when they arrive in the U.S. Duncan Aviation provides resources for these individuals to be successful in their new environment.
It’s important to track diverse hires starting with the company onboarding process through at least the first year of employment to identify potential inclusion gaps in company culture. Experts suggest asking team members direct questions regarding how they feel the organization is meeting DE&I goals, and leaders should be open to receiving honest answers. A true commitment to DE&I requires a level of vulnerability from both the company and team members.
Perhaps the most important advice is to consider inclusion initiatives an ongoing process, not a single step. “Inclusion starts with recruiting, is advanced through hiring, but then is solidified through employee retention, development and progression,” said Seymour.
Review NBAA’s diversity, equity & inclusion resources at nbaa.org/diversity.