Above The Wing vs Under The Wing Training Focus
Posted: 2/29/2012

This type of training, we will call “Above the Wing Training.” This includes all the technical training required to keep our aircraft flying safely and securely in the air. Some of this specialized training occurs in technical schools (or the military) prior to the employees being hired to their positions. Ongoing technical training may be done by outside professionals proficient in the specific requirements. Much of ongoing training is also learned on the job or internally from co-workers or supervisors. This internal training is necessary for employees to understand the particular way that the organizational culture calls for things to be done.

However, there is another type of training that we call, “Under the Wing Training.” This type of training has received more attention in recent years—with good reason. Most of the challenges that come into play when dealing with the organization’s culture, customers, employees and co-workers involve communication issues and people skills. These “skills” are quite different from technical skills.

The aviation industry is quite strong in developing and nurturing technical skills. However, this industry has been a bit slower to accept competency training in what are typically referred to as “soft skills”. The term “soft skills” has a negative connotation to it. Being soft is usually associated with being weak or inadequate. “Core skills” more adequately describes these necessary proficiencies. Just as the bodybuilder understands that a strong “core” of the body is essential to being successful at strengthening other muscles in the body, we must come to the realization that “core skills” are the foundation of our service strength (or weakness).

Once an organization has committed to improving the quality of developing its people’s skills, there is the issue of how to best develop a training initiative that (1) will help propel the company to a higher level of performance and (2) that delivers results of undeniable value. The bottom line and goal for learning is the delivery of results.

Getting to that objective of delivering results is difficult when training is implemented internally (by people within the organization). Politics between employees in the organization could prevent human core skills development or organizational development training from being effective. Those individuals developing the curriculum /facilitating the learning may be seen as having an “agenda” to fulfill since they are from within.

Also, as an example, taking someone away from their job in the organization to develop/facilitate a customer service program is keeping them from doing what they were hired to do. There are training organizations (like ServiceElements) that do this training as their core competency. They are up to date on the latest studies and findings in their subject specialties. Someone who does an aviation job and is then asked to develop/facilitate may not have the background or core competency of training and facilitating in the diverse subjects involved with human service and core skills training. Even companies with a training staff have difficult remaining proficient in applying core skills to aviation issues and settings.

By utilizing an outside training company for “Under the Wing” training–the foundational training–the front line also sees that the organization is committed to improvement and development of a service culture. Assigning someone within the organization may be viewed as a “cheap” way to show that steps are being taken to improve service. Unless leaders are willing to walk the talk and look for the best possible alternatives for training, then employees may not take the training seriously. When this happens, the training is doomed before it even begins.

Learners’ commitment to setting and attaining high-quality goals depends on their self-motivational beliefs. If employees understand from leadership that there is value to the task or skill or that it will benefit their work/personal life, they will be more committed to the initiative. When the learners are committed, then the outcome expectancies are much higher.

When considering “Under the Wing” training or human interaction/organizational development, it is important to look to the experts (like ServiceElements!) who can help make a real impact.