ENGAGE! 6 Proven Ways to Hold Powerful Employee Development Discussions

Author By Steve Brechter

It’s no secret that attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent is a top priority for business leaders today—and business aviation is no exception. The “war for talent”is ferocious. Unless you place “people” as a top-of-mind priority, your ability to retain talent will be difficult at best.

Having worked with flight departments of all sizes, we at Gray Stone Advisors find that there’s a critical component to employee retention.

Put simply, aviation professionals want opportunities to grow and develop.

In fact, it’s perhaps the most important factor in their decision to stay or leave.

To keep your top aviation talent from looking elsewhere, below are six proven ways to hold powerful development discussions with each of your team members.

1. Remember It’s About Them, Not You

The first step in holding a meaningful development discussion is to realize that individual development is about the employee, not about you.

It’s about them identifying opportunities to grow and develop, so the majority of the responsibility rightfully falls on their shoulders.

Your job is to “champion”a learning environment and provide the guidance and resources by which the employee can actualize the development plan.

Most of the work, then, is done by them. So relax! You will have plenty to offer in the role of coach and advisor.

Tip: Start off by clarifying that the development plan is something you champion and support, but it is up to them to manage and implement.

2. Explain How Training Differs from Development

Our industry does a great job of establishing top-notch training, thanks to our regulatory environment and IS-BAO best-practice requirements. But, unfortunately, none of these rules and regulations touches upon the way we develop our people.

That’s why most flight departments do a great job at training,but not so much with development.

During your discussions,it’s worth explaining that training equips the individual for success in his or her job today, while development equips them for their next job—and beyond. Demonstrate that you’re interested in their future (be it inside or outside the flight department). The gesture will go a long way to strengthen a person’s sense of loyalty.

We recommend putting together Individual Development Plans (IDPs) for each of your employees as outlined in this blog.

Tip: An IDP is not about writing down some quick ideas on the back of an annual performance review to get it back to Human Resources on time. A true development discussion involves an Individual Development Plan, and should be something that both the supervisor and the employee can’t wait to have.

3. Be Clear on Aspiration

The single most important component of an IDP is “aspiration.” A development plan without an aspirational component is of little value.

By “aspiration,” we mean that the employee must have a clear sense of their passions and interests and understand what that means in terms of career direction. This should be done before entering into the development planning process. Aspiration creates the “north star” for the development plan.

How is that done? One way is to find out if the employee is passionate about remaining an individual contributor or perhaps advancing to a leadership role. Probe a bit to determine if they are interested in acquiring technical expertise in another functional area within the flight department. Perhaps they are interested in pursuing a role in the parent company, beyond aviation. Everything is on the table. It all depends on where their passions lie.

If the employee needs some guidance on determining their areas of greatest passion and interest, help them do so with an assessment tool, such as The Birkman Method™.

Achieving clarity on passions and interests is the only way to create a meaningful development plan, and it’sin the best interest of both the employee and the flight department to take this important step.

Tip: Invest time helping the employee clarify their areas of strongest interest. Engage them in a discussion concerning what they are most passionate about and how that can define their career direction.

4. Define Next Steps

Once a person has identified his or her passions and interests, help them find out how their interests can benefit their career in the next 3-5 years.

For a pilot, is it working toward a supervisory captain position? Or, for a Maintenance Technician is it to become a Crew Chief for an aircraft in the fleet?

To support these discussions, it’s vital that you clearly articulate the requirements for all the positions in the department. Only then can the employee determine if the “fit”is right for them in a certain career path; hence the need for clearly written aviation-specific role descriptions.

Given the clear specification of expectations in the role description, the employee is then able to understand what’s required for the position. To learn how to relate development planning to role description requirements, check out our blog.

Tip: Use your experience and insight to coach the employee toward the most relevant career path(s)consistent with their passions. Help them articulate the most logical development opportunities by which to prepare for the role.

5. Identify Opportunities

There’s never a bottomless pit of resources. Nor are there countless development opportunities. But once you identify an individual’s desired development areas, carefully review your organizational goals and try to match them up with the employee’s development needs.

Is there a project that needs focus? Can someone rotate into another department and take on a collateral duty?

Sometimes next steps are not in the flight department. How about an opportunity to participate on a project team at corporate? We once helped a Maintenance Technician, who wanted more experience with corporate, to get involved in a company-wide study to consolidate the Facilities function. A major consulting firm facilitated the study and the insight provided by the Maintenance Technician was unique among all corporate members of the project team. It was a win-win for all.

Tip: Get creative in helping the employee identify development opportunities. As the business aviation leader, you can play an important role in breaking down corporate barriers and providing the entree to a unique development opportunity.

6. Follow Up Regularly

A vitally important aspect of development planning is regular follow-up. Remember, you are not implementing the development plan—the employee is.

As their development “champion,”though, your level of participation can often mean the difference between the successor failure of the IDP. And, ultimately, it could determine the retention of a valuable employee.

Tip: Follow up quarterly with your employees and ask them to give you a status report on how they’redoing with their development plan. Then review the development plan annually to recast and determine next steps.


An Invitation

What are you doing to conduct powerful employee development discussions? And what are you doing to provide the growth and development opportunities that your employees are after? Let us know in the comments section below.