The Case for Aviation-Specific Role Descriptions

Author By Steve Brechter

In the days before Google Maps and GPS (remember that far back?) do you recall sitting in your car, at a fork in the road, wondering which way to go?

You probably knew where you wanted to get to, but you weren’t sure which road was the best route to get you there.

Now, think about this analogy again, but this time, in the context of business aviation.

Try and apply it with regard to attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent in your flight department.


Get Real and Ask Yourself

In that context mentioned above, try to honestly answer the following questions:

Do my people clearly understand “what it takes to succeed” in their jobs?

  • Are the success factors clearly expressed in actionable and measurable terms?
  • Are both the technical and leadership expectations of their jobs clearly stated?
  • Are the success factors for the positions to which they aspire available to them?


If you answered any of the above questions with “no,”fear not.

The no-nonsense truth of what we see across the industry today is that most business aviation leaders cannot answer many of the above questions (honestly)with a “yes.”

The root cause is an almost universal lack of clear and actionable aviation-specific role descriptions.

Most role descriptions we see in business aviation today do not serve the purpose for which they were intended.

They don’t inform, they don’t provide clarity, they’re not written in aviation-terminology and, most importantly, they don’t help the incumbent truly succeed in his or her job.

Most are variants of job posting requisitions or worksheets used for grade-banding analysis or determination of compensation levels.

Why is this?

In our view, it’s because the aviation department is typically not a core business of the parent company.

Therefore, many of the systems used throughout the company do not fit quite right in the flight department. Consequently, many of the corporate systems never make it out to the airport and are therefore not available to the aviation team.

Your people deserve better than that—and you owe it to them.

For their own success, and that of the department overall, you owe each and every person in your flight department clear and actionable aviation-specific role descriptions.

The Case for Aviation-Specific Role Descriptions

Here’s why clear and actionable aviation-specific role descriptions are an absolute necessity in today’s flight department:

1.  They help people succeed
Many employees view role descriptions as a “gotcha” mechanism;that is, a way to bring them down, find fault or in other ways hinder their compensation or career advancement.

This is a natural reaction (likely the result of a bad experience in the past), but in today’s more enlightened business world it could not be farther from the truth.

If you, as a leader, don’t clarify expectations and clearly outline what it takes to succeed, your people will be working in the dark.

And that results in the high employee “disengagement” levels that so many polling organizations are finding across the workforce in our country today.

With clearly stated aviation-specific role descriptions, your people remain motivated because they know what’s expected of them. And you, as their leader, have a powerful tool to use for success-oriented and fact-based feedback discussions.


2.  They help construct an Individual Development Plan (IDP)
A clearly stated role description,written in aviation terminology, forms the baseline by which to help your people create meaningful and actionable IDPs.

In our practice, we’ve coached many aviation leaders on the use of aviation-specific role descriptions as a means of conducting an assessment of strengths and development opportunities for their direct reports.

A clearly stated role description provides a checklist, if you will, to identify developmental areas as well as a”gap analysis” to establish the most relevant elements of an actionable IDP.


3. They help determine “fit”
It is our belief that the role description for every position in the flight department should be available to every member of the aviation team. This can be easily done via SharePoint or a shared drive.

Why? Because, in a great many cases, we’ve seen highly skilled aviation professionals climb to the next rung on the flight department ladder—for all the wrong reasons.

They never had the means by which to review the expectations of the desired position and ask themselves if the “fit” was right.

They could not clearly determine if the position was aligned with their personal passions and interests. They were therefore not certain if the position was something they really wanted.

Perhaps it was merely a means to a higher-grade band and compensation level.

Nothing is more damaging to a flight department than a leader who is in a position that they really don’t belong in. Aviation-specific role descriptions,available to all employees who aspire to higher levels, enable them to get all the facts ahead of time and “self-select” before they throw their hat in the ring.


4. They serve as sharply focused recruiting tools
As our colleagues at Aviation Personnel International (API) tell us, recruiting the right talent is one of the most important decisions that a flight department can make.

The half-life of a bad hiring decision lasts a very long time and is extremely costly, easily in excess of $200K.

With clearly defined, aviation-specific role descriptions, the key competencies to look for in the pool of candidates can be easily identified, and the interview questions by which to examine the relative strengths of each of those candidates can be easily developed.

Without aviation-specific role descriptions,it’s far more difficult to identify the competencies that are most important for the aviation organization at that particular point in time. The chance fora less than perfect candidate “fit” is significantly increased.


5. They provide the framework for succession planning
If you don’t have an “evergreen” succession plan in place for the key positions in your flight department, you should.

A clearly defined succession plan based upon key competencies obtained from an aviation-specific role description will make the succession planning process far more meaningful.

Identifying the key competencies of a position using an aviation-specific role description can be of great assistance to determine whether a sufficient pool of internal candidates exists, or if you need to go outside the organization to find the right talent.

Don’t let your people arrive at a career crossroads and wonder which way to proceed.

When they reach a decision point, and are evaluating their next career steps, help them review their options with clarity and make the right choice for themselves as well as the flight department overall.

Provide them with aviation-specific role descriptions that not only identify how to help them succeed where they are, but also in the position to which they aspire.

Next Step

If your organization is in need of aviation-specific role descriptions, feel free to get in touch with us. At Gray Stone Advisors, we’ve helped flight departments of all sizes tailor them precisely for their operations and needs. We’d be delighted to help you as well.


Let Us Know

Have you developed a clear set of role descriptions for each position in your flight operation?

What’s been your experience with their use? What benefits have you realized? Let us know via the comments section below.