Private aviation entities are working to retain personnel, and attract new talent.
Both the commercial and private aviation industries are faced with generational challenges when it comes to personnel retention. Older pilots are retiring faster than pilots from Generation Z and the Millennials can replace them.
To prevent private aviation personnel from quitting, it is important to understand the following:
- Why private aviation personnel quit
- How you can keep new talent even if your company isn’t prepared to offer higher salaries yet
- The priorities of personnel among generations entering the workforce, or those eligible to become the industry’s next generation of pilots, techs and attendants.
Why Private Aviation Personnel Quit: Understanding the Challenges the Industry Faces
Many factors have contributed to making a career as a pilot less attractive to current generations that private ones. These also lead to personnel moving on. The first factor is compensation. There was a time when getting a pilot’s license was a reasonable path to a large salary and a high-status career.
However, there are industry-wide challenges of retaining pilots who find that the red-eye hours and declining salaries and benefit packages don’t add up to the lifestyle of their dreams. This is particularly true when
Are all employees mercenaries? Are you doomed if you can’t offer the best compensation plan on record to pilots?
Far from it.
Have the Right Conversation About Salary with Your Pilots
First of all, out-paying the rest of the industry ignores one simple, crucial factor: cost of living. It’s pretty easy to pull salaries from a different airline, and compare it to current compensation when approaching a superior about a raise.
Research has indicated the highest-paid pilot jobs tend to align with areas that feature the highest costs of living.
To give you a sense of how big a difference that makes, California’s cost of living is 52% higher than that of Florida. Not all salary conversations start with an apples-to-apples comparison, and it is important to respectfully lay that case out.
What Influences Pilots and Personnel to Stay Beyond Salary?
Your average on-the-ball HR department aims to bring salaries and benefits comparable to about 75% of what the industry offers. Once you’ve done that, explore some of the less tangible things you can offer.
What Are Some Intangible Benefits You Can Offer Private Aviation Personnel?
Do your team members have greater control over their schedules the longer they stay with your team? That relates to the work-life balance we mentioned earlier. Can you plan for key members to be home for the major holidays? Can you eliminate micromanagement the more reliable your flight crews become? It’s not easy to put a price on a respectful workplace culture.
Here’s an interesting story about a pilot who delayed flights because his schedule didn’t leave room for a decent meal. Granted, these aggressive schedules tend to hit early on in the careers of aviation personnel. Again, identifying issues like this and offering, at best, a goal of a better lifestyle in the future can help bolster struggling team members.
No matter how aggressive your schedule is, it seems worthwhile to go the distance for making sure flight crews get their basic needs met. Get creative. Can you offer meal vouchers or gift cards to great destinations even if schedules are locked? The airline industry is closely knit. Word gets out pretty quickly about an industry that works to deliver that type of quality of life to personnel.
But Will That Really Make a Difference?
Research on aviation employee satisfaction indicates that the answer is yes. Studies by Aviation Personnel International show that employee retention goes up when companies:
- Have a clearly-defined culture with an upbeat and positive overall vibe
- Make transparency and addressing employee concerns a priority
- Understand the importance of a good work life balance
This starts with little things like gratitude frequently shown towards employees, but it manifests in more important features such as internal mobility. Internal mobility helps retain aviation employees in every role because people know they have options other than leaving if they are frustrated in their current role. It creates numerous visible role models of people who “found their place,” within the company, and reassures people that no one is stuck. Corporate videos and outreach are excellent tools to develop your culture.
Implementing a culture of this tends to begin with smaller management teams. They need to know that retention is a priority. Believe it or not, many employees are willing to go an extra mile if they feel heard or appreciated.
For some airlines with decent retention numbers, work/life balance expectations starts right in the interview process. This reduces anxiety on the part of employees, and eliminates surprises later on. The private aviation industry tends to be a little more flexible than commercial airlines. That means that one-to-one approaches, which are far more realistic than any cookie cutter solution. Note that work-life balance always ranks high in terms of Millennial and Generation Z priorities in a workplace.