There is no denying that the last couple of years and some of the recent events have accelerated the digitalization for a number of industries – including learning and training. For aviation, this meant that segments like ground handling had to quickly reorient itself and ensure the retraining of their employees returning after long months since some of the previously ongoing restrictions prevented in-person training. This would suggest that the habits of training and learning have seriously shifted in the current landscape as well, however, Ernestas Lukoševičius, head of training at Baltic Ground Services (BGS) says that it has changed – but not as one might expect.
“COVID-19 has only partially changed the attitude of the majority of employees towards training. They have become more flexible and more accepting of different forms of learning. Despite the fact that almost all training was online over the last couple of years, live training did not disappear as some might have thought and many have returned to the classrooms. Today, it is still difficult for e-learning to completely replace live training, especially when it comes to newly hired employees,” Lukoševičius says.
Lukoševičius notes that e-learning has quite a few benefits – it reduces costs, allows flexible learning as students can join anytime and from anywhere, and it is very well suited for specific and easy-to-understand topics, or topics that the employee already knows and is only deepening their knowledge on. Learning new, complex topics, on the other hand, benefits better from in-person training. According to Lukoševičius, this way students can feel more valued, learn from each other, collaborate, and ask questions more often.
One of the biggest challenges that ground handling currently face is the rapidly changing European labor market, which also affects employee training. With the ongoing shortage of professionals, companies are forced to hire less experienced ones with lesser skill sets. In order for companies to remain competitive and maintain a high level of service quality, it is important to quickly and properly train new employees so that they can work independently. By hiring a potentially less experienced employee, the company takes on the risk and responsibility to train and develop the employee to the expected level.
“This is where the most important aspect comes in,” says Lukoševičius. “It’s a common mistake that companies devote all their attention to e-learning, training materials or training videos – which are also very important – but forget to take care and raise the competence of their instructors. It’s usually not the training material or the location that determines the quality of the training, but the training instructors themselves, who are professionals in their field, believe in the company and its employees, are eager to pass on their knowledge, and can inspire and interest the employees that are being trained. If someone were to ask who should learn the most in a company, most would answer that it is the managers or specific specialists, but I think that those are the training instructors.”
Lukoševičius stresses that the aviation industry is too dynamic and changing to require refresher training every 36 months, as IATA recommends doing. This is where "micro-learning" – constant learning about small topics – can be of great help. This allows us to constantly remind and deepen knowledge on certain topics, and the information can be presented in various ways like showing messages on TV screens, short e-learning courses, leaflets, short information graphics, statistics, and more.
“The learning process must be flexible and adapt to the ever-changing needs of an organization. Training instructors must cooperate with operational departments, observe where mistakes are most often made, where the biggest challenges and dangers are, and change and organize employee training accordingly. Today's organizations require consistent, high-quality training, which is why I believe a large part of an organization's success can be determined in the training classroom.”
While the last couple of years did bring wider digitalization to the aviation industry and its processes, it seems that when it comes to employee training, e-learning hasn’t fully taken over, despite the number of benefits it brings. In the face of other related problems such as the lack of experienced professionals, the events have brought more spotlight on the importance of raising competences of trainers themselves, when it comes to training both long-term and new aviation professionals.