How Millennials are Changing Today’s Flight Departments

They’re using mobile team messaging apps like Slack to communicate; they’re being groomed earlier in their jobs for a more sustainable career; and they’re gaining access and exposure to industry experiences that not too long ago were reserved for more seasoned employees.

Millennials are changing the landscape of today’s flight departments in a significant way. Pew Research Center defines the Millennial generation as those born between 1981 and 1996. — also known as the generation that grew up with The Goonies, pagers and dial-up Internet.

We recently spoke with one such Millennial, NBAA Manager, Flight Operations and Regulation, Brian Koester, to find out how Millennial employees are shaking up flight departments across the business aviation sector and what established flight departments should incorporate into their work structure to remain relative, competitive and successful. Here are some key items you, Flight Department Manager, should know:

How are Millennials as Part of the Business Aviation Workforce Impacting Established Flight Departments?

One of the main areas NBAA is focusing on is the shortage of qualified personnel coming into the aviation industry. We are looking at how young professionals are reshaping established departments as they take up roles such as pilots, mechanics, schedulers and dispatchers. If you look at the data, you will see that in the U.S. the average age of a worker is 42, while in the aviation industry the age averages out closer to 52. Given those age differences, many flight departments are now grooming their younger employees sooner and are focusing more on succession planning in the first few years of employment than they have traditionally done in the past. In order to keep young talent around and shape them into future business aviation industry leaders, flight departments today are establishing a solid career development path for Millennials with employment tactics and incentives.

What are Some of Those Incentives and Tactics?

For example, a flight department we have engaged with has changed the way it executes international operations training. Instead of waiting for an employee to be a bit more seasoned—one who has been with the department for a few years—managers are incentivizing their younger employees to stay in their positions longer by sending them to train earlier on in their post with the promise that the international trips will soon follow.

Another shift is seen more broadly within the aviation sector: Flight departments are encouraging Millennials early on to get more involved with industry events, groups and happenings. They are sending their young professionals to industry events—previously reserved for more senior employees who have, if you will, already paid their dues. Today these younger employees whom are given such opportunities as professional development are willing to invest more in their companies as they see their companies investing in them.

What is the Most Significant Issue Facing Flight Departments and What Advice Would You Give Them?

We conducted a survey on issues facing small flight departments a while back and the results overwhelmingly showed long-term staffing ranking as one of the biggest issues. It is no secret that younger professionals tend to leave the business aviation sector to go work for commercial airlines. This is because Millennials are looking at pay scale differences over the course of a career and see that they very well may be leaving money on the table if they don’t go to the airlines and stay in business aviation too long.

What Adjustments Are Flight Departments Making to Persuade Them to Stay?

The way departments interact and communicate is changing with the onslaught of younger and cross-generational employees. We advise that flight departments determine how people want to communicate, depending on the urgency of the communication, and what best works for each team. Non-Millennial employees communicate via traditional channels such as email, in-person meetings or via phone. With younger generations, communication occurs faster, tends to be more mobile and comes in smaller batches.

For example, flight departments today are adopting more technical means for departmental communications. We all know that Millennials are eager to adopt new technologies. Now flight departments are including more text/apps communications channels to interact within their teams and across departments. Some departments are adopting mobile apps such as Slack to incite chats and sharing of challenges, experiences and lessons learned or tips on safety regulations and flight operational issues among teammates. This encourages bonding, comradery and builds a stronger team environment and business unit.

What’s the Best Thing Millennials are Bringing to Flight Departments?

Fresh energy, adaptability and new perspectives to and for the job, hands down.