Tips for Recruiting and Retaining New Employees in the Business and General Aviation World


“Your workforce is your most valuable asset. The knowledge and skills they have represent the fuel that drives the engine of business – and you can leverage that knowledge.   – Harvey McKay


The aviation industry like many other industries, and maybe even more than most, is changing at a rate that is hard to fathom, let alone trying to stay ahead of the change. We find this is especially true when it comes to dealing with people and understanding the differing needs of the generations in the workplace. There is a generation of experienced professionals that is aging out of the workforce over the next few years. In fact, the Aerospace industry has one of the largest proportions of Baby Boomers (born 1940’s to mid 1960’s) compared with other industries (such as banking, pharmaceuticals, IT)*.

People are the source of a company’s competitive advantage, its performance and its success. However, it is an increasing challenge for organizations within the B&GA industry to fill these positions with employees that have all the necessary skills and the characteristics that are essential for a strong team and culture: dependability, leadership qualities and core skills (human interaction, communication, team players).

You have probably heard the fears within the industry about the potential shortage of qualified pilots. This also applies to other job functions within our industry and means that attracting, hiring, motivating and retaining individuals and teams is becoming more challenging.


Generation Y individuals (born 80’s and 90’s) already in the workforce have a whole different set of expectations and guiding motivations. Leaders, supervisors and managers are feeling the pinch of trying to understand, manage and motivate this new generation of workers while trying to meet increasing demands placed on them by the marketplace to get things done faster, cheaper and better than ever before.


One of the challenges we are also hearing from leadership and hiring managers is that typical new job applicants, are not as technically skilled as they were even ten years ago. This is especially true in the AMT field where A&P school training is limited, and modern technology changes faster than it can be taught in the schools.

So, it is also becoming more difficult to find professionals with the exact technical abilities for the job description. Job descriptions have become broader and many of us are tasked with doing more, faster and with less resources than ever before. So, individuals, teams and departments have a wider scope of job responsibilities within their typical work environment.


How do we hire, motivate and retain our teams in this new environment?

What should be the important questions to ask and things to look for to build and maintain a culture of service to each other and to our customers that will be competitive, safe and a place that we can be proud of? The assumption we will make is that you already have an engaged and motivated team. This is an important pre-requisite to hiring and maintaining the best young professionals. Open communication, along with engaged and empowered team members that motivate and inspire each other is a necessary component to being able to hire new professionals…. and be able to keep them.


The culture of your organization is something that new hires will need to assimilate into. How do you find people that are a good fit for your culture? There are some professional recruiting companies in the aviation industry (like API and JPI) that do a great job screening aviation professionals, so that is a good place to start. Hiring people for personality is more relevant than hiring for experience. If the person has the right attitude, there are ways to get them up to speed on the technical requirements of the job. If the person does not have the right attitude, no amount of training, coaching or mentoring is going to make the person fit in and work out. There are many personality tests that are useful when hiring new team members. There are also questions and techniques that can be used to try to discover the attitude/personality of a person interviewing for the job at hand. Some people are very well skilled at interviewing. They can make themselves look very good in the initial interviewing process—beware!


Ask the interviewee situational questions, where he/she has to describe circumstances that they dealt with to resolve a situation. This will give some insight into how they might react in stressful situations or situations that the job might require. Here are a few examples:


  1. “Give me an example of when you took action when those around you were waiting for someone to tell them what to do.”
  2. “Describe a situation when you intervened to help recover a customer service issue.”
  3. “Tell me about a time when a customer was not happy with something you did and you turned the situation around.”


These types of behavioral questions will tell you more about the person and how they would handle a situation.


One tool that we recommend using when trying to ascertain the type of person who is applying to serve in your company is simulation, or role-play. Simulators have long been used in aviation to train professionals on technical skills. Simulation is also a useful tool for working through people or company culture issues. Give a potential new hire a couple scenarios that have been past difficult situations in your work environment. Ask how they would deal with them. Here are a couple examples:


  1. You have recently been promoted to Captain. Your company’s CEO wants to depart out of Aspen, as scheduled at 1300MT but weather conditions are prohibiting the aircraft from departing. According to the weather forecast the departure minimums will not improve until 1600MT. He is pushing crew members and operations because he has a very important meeting to attend. What would you do?


  1. A customer/owner scheduled a flight prior to the aircraft going into inspection. There was an unexpected repair. The part was not in stock and needed to be ordered. This delayed the release from maintenance, and the aircraft was not available for the flight. Owner demanded to go as scheduled and advised maintenance to finish the repair after her flight. What would you do?


By giving the potential new hire some real life scenarios, it gives you a glimpse into what his/her thought process and moral compass are when making decisions. Does it fit with your organizational culture? Take your time in deciding even when under pressure to hire quickly. The people that you bring onto your team are vital to the continuation of the organization and the well being of the team. If you have a good thing going on—you need to guard it with a vengeance. Training young team members, or any new hire, is easier when they have the type of attitude/personality that fits your organization’s culture.


One final item to remember: when interviewing a Gen Y (or anyone else for that matter), tell them what your team does to have fun. What do you do for team building at your organization? We have to become more people oriented and understand what makes people want to work at (and be loyal to) an organization. That is how we will attract them….and keep them.

This topic was lightly tapped into today. There are many guidelines and techniques for effective hiring the new generation. ServiceElements works with large and small organizations to develop and fine-tune their organizational cultures. Please feel free to contact us if you need additional assistance with understanding the behavioral piece of building/maintaining your service culture.



  • Source: PWC/Saratoga Institute


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