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Adapt and Engage: Overcoming the Great Resignation in Aviation

In a well-lit factory, an aviation maintenance technician — wearing a red had, glasses and dark coveralls — stands on a ladder while repairing the tail of an airplane.

The Great Resignation — the surge of voluntary quits which started during the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 — remains a serious issue for employers. It’s a challenge impacting many in the airport and aviation sector. Even though the pandemic has begun to abate, workers have shifted their priorities in favor of quality of life and that’s one reason the Great Resignation isn’t going away anytime soon.

Despite increases in commercial, charter and cargo flights — quits are still a significant challenge for aviation companies as they try to hire the best operations personnel, aircraft mechanics and technicians.

There were 187,000 resignations in the transportation, warehousing and utilities sector in March, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the second-highest number recorded in over a decade.

We spoke with Director of Strategic Sales, Tony Sanzone, who has over 16 years of experience in aviation to learn what employers can do to keep the best workers on their team. 

Adapt to a candidate's market and make them feel valued

Sanzone states that companies can’t approach their staffing challenges the same way they did prior to 2020. 

“Other industries are realizing that the talent in aviation is very much in demand and aviation maintenance mechanics and electronics technicians have skills that are very transferable,” says Sanzone. “Larger companies outside of aviation can often offer better schedules, pay and environment -- so it’s important that aviation companies be engaged with the concerns and experiences of their workforce”

Aviation and airport operations work can be notoriously rigid since most of the behind-the-scenes work occurs on nights and weekends. However, the companies that can make slight changes to their onboarding, upskilling and overtime offerings stand a better chance of overcoming the industry’s unique staffing hurdles. 

Listen to your employees concerns and experiences

Even if your talent has shown no interest or inclination in leaving your company, introducing opportunities for them to voice their concerns and talk about their work experiences will make them feel valued. Create opportunities for employees to regularly communicate their feedback. It can also give you a better idea of their individual experiences and goals.

“Aviation is a very transient and diverse workforce. They tend to move around and often come from either a commercial environment or military environment and move to a corporate MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul). The companies that ask about those past experiences and how they align with current objectives have a way to learn best practices and be more efficient,” says Sanzone. 

Recruiting firms can also play a crucial role in getting feedback from your workers. They have a direct connection and workers may feel more comfortable delivering feedback through a staffing partner.

Interview your departing employees

“Even if you have excellent retention, you’ll still have attrition,” says Sanzone. 

No company is immune to losing workers. You can have an extremely proactive and reliable retention strategy, but you can’t control all the factors that motivate a worker to leave. It’s best to use their departure as an opportunity to identify existing or emerging issues.

When an employee gives their notice of resignation, try to understand why they’re giving notice. An exit interview might offer you valuable insight into your employee’s mood, motivation for leaving and more. Take the chance to learn from them and consider making changes. It may help employers retain the employees they have and make vacated positions more attractive for future talent. 

Air travel is steadily returning to pre-pandemic levels, but the Great Resignation is projected to persist throughout 2022

Companies should be proactive in making their workforce feel valued by addressing their unique needs when possible. It goes a long way toward employee satisfaction and employee retention. 

“Aviation is a rigid industry, but companies must be flexible. If you aren’t creating or changing your processes to accommodate the candidate flow, you’re going to lose them to a competitor,” says Sanzone.

If your aviation or airport operations company needs help retaining and attracting quality talent, contact us today.