Molly Copeland, 2023

Employee Retention


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One way companies in aviation can increase retention is to implement upskilling programs. Giving employees the option to continuously learn and improve increases job satisfaction and allows them to move into different roles. KF Aerospace, for example, has focused on upskilling new employees in heavy maintenance and modifications for commercial aviation. According to an article by HRForecast, KF Aerospace was able to double the number of recruits by training candidates with little to no experience. 

The following examples from ‘STRATEGIES FOR EFFECTIVE HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT IN THE AVIATION INDUSTRY: A CASE-BASED ANALYSIS’ highlight companies in aviation that have set up comprehensive retention programs. These examples of programs can be implemented as single techniques or in combination with other strategies focused on retention.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is a great example of what programs airlines can implement to help retain staff. The airline has implemented recruitment strategies to both attract and retain pilots that align with the needs and expectations of potential candidates. 

The first strategy is providing their staff with Internal Pathways. Existing employees of the airline have opportunities for career progression within the airline. The example given in the article is flight attendants wishing to transition into pilot roles. This strategy makes employees feel valued and important to the company, and minimizes the need for external hires. As a company, Southwest is able to fill roles with staff that have proven themselves to be reliable and trustworthy employees. 

The second strategy is closely linked to the first and is Partnerships with Flight Schools. Those employees wishing to transition to pilot roles have a designated flight school to train at. Having partnerships helps the airline to create a steady stream of pilots who are familiar with how the airline works and what it values. 

The next strategy is Competitive Compensation. By providing attractive salaries, benefits, and profit sharing programs, Southwest can ensure their staff stay loyal to the company. 

The following strategy, Inclusive Recruitment, is more specifically geared towards attracting new employees. Southwest Airlines prioritizes recruiting pilots from a variety of backgrounds and demographics in an effort to become a more diverse and inclusive workplace. As mentioned by Dave Frank, Executive Director of the BCAC, by addressing the gender gap in aviation, the Human Resources crisis in aviation would be drastically reduced. The same goes for other groups with very little representation in the industry. 

Southwest’s final strategy to recruit and retain employees is to emphasize the importance of Quality of Life. Having a positive and supportive company culture around finding a balance between work and employee’s personal lives increases employee satisfaction which in turn increases company loyalty.  


Emirates has taken a similar approach by providing their employees ways to increase their knowledge and upskill in their roles. The airline has their own university, the Emirates Aviation University, which offers various programs and professional development courses relevant to employee roles. In addition to providing schooling, Emirates is known for their Technical Training Excellence. The airline has top of the line training facilities and simulators which means employees receive extensive technical training.

Emirates also has Leadership Development Programs in the form of mentorships and workshops for employees who demonstrate a high potential to fill leadership roles. Finally, Emirates offers its employees Language and Cultural Training which teaches staff the importance of being able to effectively communicate with customers all around the world. 

These strategies provide employees with continuous learning which keeps them engaged and enables them to excel in their roles. When staff members feel as though their skills and expertise are important to the successful operation of the company, job satisfaction and retention rates increase. 

Gathering Employee Input

The following examples showcase how a company can show its employees that their feedback and preferences are important. Having two-way communication between employers and employees builds trust and loyalty.

Delta Airlines’ Employee Feedback Platform

Delta has a program to gather employee feedback through digital platforms. Employees can give real time feedback and updates from any location, at any time, no matter their role. The platform has surveys, polls, and discussion forums to encourage more employees to participate. This platform also allows staff members to access up to date airline information, news, and announcements, no matter where they are.

Delta’s employee feedback program shows staff members that their contribution is not only imperative to the successful operation of the company, but that their opinions and ideas are valued and will be taken into consideration. The implementation of the platform has enhanced communication within the company, increased employee engagement, which in turn has led to higher job satisfaction, facilitated more informed decision making from upper management, and served as a channel for continuous improvement

Using the Preferential Bidding System as a Way to Understand Employee Preferences

Younger generations entering the industry have differing societal values than those of older generations. The main shift that has been seen recently is that younger generations place more importance on finding a balance between their work and personal lives. Companies in aviation need to take these values and expectations of the workforce into consideration when recruiting and even retaining employees, however, the challenge remains that not everyone will have the same values and expectations.

This is where a system like the Preferential Bidding System (PBS) comes into place. According to the ‘Risk in Context Podcast: Human capital shortages impacting the aviation industry and beyond, many airlines use this system to schedule pilots and flight attendants by taking into consideration their preferences on location, types of flights, other crew members, and days. Because PBS is already widely used, it is a good starting point for airlines to gather data and adjust schedules to better accommodate individual staff members’ needs. A similar system could be put in place for employees on the ground as well. A scheduling system where employees’ preferences are taken into consideration builds mutual respect and creates positive relationships between employers and employees.

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