Change Happens. Be Ready for It.

Change Management goes beyond dress code policies, onboarding new employees or simply implementing new procedures – especially in aviation. So how do you ensure your flight operations department is ready for the inevitable changes it will face in the near and/or long term? You need to have a sound change management plan in place.

What is Change Management?

Change Management is a term used to describe the process for organizations to review all aspects of a potential change, develop an action plan to implement the change, and then execute the plan while mitigating risk. The basic change management process flow should include:

  • Identification and assessment of a change and associated risks
  • Development of a plan to implement a change and mitigate risks
  • Implementation of the plan across the department
  • Review and reassess the new level of risk of the department as a whole after the change

For business aviation, managing operational changes can range from a change in equipment, to bringing maintenance in-house, to revamping your home base. Additionally, it’s not just new stuff that fosters the need for a solid change management plan. It is also critical to have a process for your team to seamlessly follow when operational changes happen to existing protocols or procedures.

Existing operational changes can include shifts in your clients’ travel profiles or an airport implementing new apron protocols. Anything that can affect your operation.

It’s Time to Make Change Easier

For many years, change management was not a focal point for most operations, but during the past two years, its importance has become more appreciated. This is due in part to more and more operators adopting a Safety Management System (SMS) and realizing that change management is an integral part of SMS.

For business aviation pilots and flight departments, adopting change management procedures can be easier than for a commercial operator, since business and general aviation operators tend to have smaller, less complex operations. That’s good news, because it means that the implementation of a change management plan can be easier and faster.

In fact, it is critical for smaller operations to adopt a change management plan early on, as it can provide a sound foundation and ultimately one less thing to have to consider when an unexpected situation arises.  Smaller departments or single-pilot operators have to juggle multiple responsibilities, unlike larger flight departments that may have more staff to whom they can distribute operational responsibilities. This makes having a change management system all the more important. But this doesn’t mean larger flight departments should neglect change management planning. They can also benefit from effective change management in order to help streamline the dissemination of procedural changes throughout the various departments.

In general, there is a growing list of drivers that can increase the need for proper change management. Whereas personnel changes, such as new hires, role changes or loss of personnel along with aircraft changes were often the traditional focus of change management, as flight departments formalize, new factors have become equally important. Changes to flight profiles, a change of base or hangar, any changes at familiar airport destinations, changes with maintenance, changes with scheduling / administrative software, changes to passengers, new passengers, pets, children, cargo, etc. can all trigger a need for an effective change management process.

How to Start the Change Management Process

Operational changes will often go deeper than just superficial procedural alterations. They may impact everyone in your department along with your Safety Management System (SMS), Operations Manuals, procedures, and risk profiles. There is a lot to consider during the first step of the process. Here are a few questions you can start with:

  • What is the nature of the change itself? Is this an isolated, one-off or broad, systemic change?
  • What are the possible risks/hazards associated with the change?
  • Will it impact training or other administrative tasks?
  • Will there be any impact to your hangar environment or ground handling operations?
  • What effects will the change have on scheduling and dispatching?
  • Will it affect restrictions on duties or duty times?
  • What operating, personnel, or pilot experience restrictions should be considered? (regulatory and company imposed)
  • Are there new regulatory requirements that the department needs to be made aware of (including State of Registry, State of Operations, and local governing bodies)?
  • Will the change affect your passengers?
  • How will your team feel about the change?

Establishing a change management procedure will give your team and fellow managers a solid framework for making change easier to implement. A little bit of planning can save a lot of grief and potential risk introduction later on.

Have questions or need help with change management? AviationManuals can provide you with a process and web based form that easily guides you through the different steps you have to take every time change happens. Contact our experts today.

How to Set Safety Goals

Does your organization set safety goals? There may not be any regulatory consequences if you don’t, but setting safety goals is a key part of a Safety Management System along with having a continuous improvement process. Goal setting can be a great way to improve your safety culture and bring visibility to the process. But where do you start? How should goals be formulated and how do they fit into an overall SMS?

Read the full article on ARC

5 Elements Every SMS Program Should Have

An SMS, especially when paired with SMS software, should provide you with a way to track a range of information and occurrences in your operation, allowing you to identify and track recurring trends. Such insight enables you to determine which improvements are needed and how you can mitigate risks.

Read the full article on ARC

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.