We have been hearing about GS managers and others in the industry having difficulty attracting and retaining qualified employees. If this is the case, why and what can be done in the future to remedy the situation?

March 2004


The GS Reader's Forum goes to the front lines of the ground support industry to get feedback on different topics relevant to ground support equipment and ground handling. If you are interested in participating, please contact Karen Reinhardt at (920) 563-1622 or via email at karen.reinhardt@cygnuspub.com.

Q: We have been hearing about GS managers and others in the industry having difficulty attracting and retaining qualified employees. If this is the case, why and what can be done in the future to remedy the situation?

Rhonda Hamm-NiebrueggeRhonda Hamm-Niebruegge
In today's business world one of the challenges we all face is the ability to hire, retain, promote and find employees who do a good job. The aviation industry is no different. However, it's my belief that being part of the aviation field, GSE managers have an opportunity to open a career path that offers more than most other fields. Aviation has always been, and continues to be, filled with excitement and an edge that makes people want to be a part of it.

Most young people choosing career paths look for three components as they begin their search:
1. Financial rewards
2. Promotional opportunities
3. Fun and exciting work

If you take the first item, financial rewards, and offer it as your only selling point the big picture doesn't look that great to a new hire. However, if GSE managers put together a package that breaks down the potential for a new hire to move up, the overall package starts to have appeal. Because outsourcing has become part of the aviation industry, being part of a company that offers this product to the airlines is really quite attractive. You learn not only your company's business model, but you become part of the larger environment surrounding aviation.

Having spent over 20 years in this industry, I have never had a dull day! Each one brings different challenges, opens new doors for other opportunities and has kept me smiling and having fun even during the worst of times. Because it is, and will always be, the industry that intrigues people, as a GSE manager looking to hire new people, use this as part of the overall "selling" package. Highlight the point to those you are trying to attract who may not realize what it means to be part of one of the world's most intriguing careers!

Brian WoodBrian Wood
Hiring a qualified GSE mechanic is certainly a challenge. One of the reasons is the type of skills you are looking for. Unlike an auto mechanic who may specialize in gas engines for example, a GSE mechanic has to be an expert on several different disciplines. They need to know gas engine repair for tugs and beltloaders, diesel repair for larger equipment such as pushbacks. They also have to be proficient in generator repair for ground power units, they need pneumatic experience for air starts, hydraulics for deicer booms and loaders. They have to be able to repair pumps for deicers, water and lav trucks and then understand electrics for all of it. Add to that transmissions, rear ends and finding parts for some older GSE, which is an art in itself, and you have quite a set of skills you are looking for.

Even if they [potential employees] have the broad range of experience you are looking for the conditions are another set back. Most do not work in a climate controlled repair shop. They have to go to where the GSE is located in most cases and troubleshoot or even make repairs on the spot. That means crawling under a pushback at minus 10 degrees, or in a driving rain.

The key to keeping employees once you find them is like Rhonda explained. You first have to understand the local market and offer a competitive wage, then offer growth for them. GSE employees are key to any ramp operation and need to be appreciated.

Jeff BaumJeff Baum
Employee attraction and retention is certainly one topic any manager has on the top of his/her issue pile at any given time. We may have had a little breather in the employee attraction/retention battle for the last couple of years because of the economy. A down economy makes more people available and makes your current employess think twice about leaving. While this helps make the managers job somewhat easier, the issue of quality vs. the quantity of the people available still remains.

As the economy improves, the problems of the lack of good available potential employees and the mobility of our current employees will become more acute. Todays employees have more opportunity and far less loyalty than did yesterday's. Expectations, ethics and performance have also changed. We as managers have to learn this new realty and adjust accordingly. Taking more time in the interview process to make sure the potential employee has similar values and their objectives are matched to the job they are applying for are good starting points. Working on job satisfaction and making the employee feel appreciated will go a long way in retention.

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