The air cargo industry is facing a shortage of new recruits and experienced personnel to replace the top management and requires an infusion of fresh blood to foster its evolution with new creative ideas and innovative measures.
Attraction is an enigma. A powerful force that draws people in and holds them in thrall. Understanding its intricate mechanisms is critical towards the success of an individual, organisation or even an industry as a whole. For attraction is the very essence of creating a successful brand identity or carving a niche in the market.
The world air cargo industry is in a state of constant flux. It is at centre of the global economy and without air cargo the entire world economy may come to an abrupt halt. Being at the centre of the global economy is an attractive trait in itself as air cargo has discernible impact on international supply chains and also plays a role in determining the success of new products as it caters to various industry segments. The advent of e-commerce has made the role of air cargo all the more critical. It needs to be examined as to what can be done better to attract talent in the air cargo industry in the near future.
Lise-Marie Turpin, vice president, Air Canada Cargo, in a press statement highlights that making airlines increasingly dynamic is part of the attraction. “Ours is an increasingly volatile industry, and thus extremely challenging—and I think this is the main attraction to many,” she says. “The airline industry requires creative thinkers, risk-takers, and the ability to work under pressure. Courage and tenacity are key characteristics of great airline leaders.”
For an ever evolving market, the industry needs people with the skills, knowledge and the ability to innovate and thrive in a technology driven market. However, as leaders are on the verge of retirement, there is a dearth of new young leaders who will help the industry cope with the changing business dynamics of the market. Low growth yields and increasing levels of consolidation have not left much in terms of attracting new talent or innovation.
Especially with the advent of technology there has been a greater degree of emphasis on competition and improving the overall efficiency to stay ahead of other modes of transportation. The infusion of fresh blood in the air cargo industry is the need of the hour and the sector seems to be struggling to capture new and upcoming executives.
This is in stark contrast to the situation that existed a few decades ago where a job in an airline was deemed to be glamorous. There was an aura of pervasive mystique then. How drastically have the perceptions changed today!
Russi Batliwala, CEO, Chapman Freeborn Group, observes, “40 to 50 years ago everyone wanted to work for an airline. Today, it is no longer the same and we need to make an effort to get people to come and work in our industry. We need people to be passionate about it. We need to communicate and market ourselves. We need to get sexy again.”
Neverthless, the industry cannot thrive on the promise of glamour alone and there is a compelling need for the air cargo industry to offer attractive pay scales. This becomes a challenging endeavor amidst low market penetration and lackluster growth for air cargo worldwide. However, there are certain segments of air cargo that depict promise such as express cargo.
“The express cargo industry is growing at a rate of 10 percent compared to the general air cargo market which is growing at 2 to 3 percent. Now with the emergence of e-commerce and fast retail where you see growth rates show between 18 to 35 percent. It really calls for an entirely different way of handling shipments throughout the supply chain process. So that growth is going to continue,” highlights Michael Steen, executive VP and chief commercial officer, Atlas Air Worldwide.
He also highlights that innovation and adaptation are pivotal towards the survival of the air cargo industry as traditional air cargo players have not changed their practices to keep up with the times.
Steen adds, “One thing that the younger generation likes is speed. In the air cargo industry we are not very fast in terms of making progress or changing standards and procedures. If things do not happen quickly then the younger talent will go elsewhere.”
He further states that it is a matter of perception and being in the middle of the global economic development is sexy in itself, it is meaningful, really have an impact on global economies and the success of new products.
Manoj Singh, vice president cargo, Mumbai International Airport, asserts that there is a need to act in a smart manner where there is a choice and curiosity in the industry, “We need to change the perception. For the first time in the Government of India there is a skill development ministry and it is being driven very aggressively. We have started a cargo basic training programme and Delhi and Mumbai airports. It is a mandatory training for most of the stakeholders. It is a module that creates awareness for outsiders about what the cargo industry is all about.”
To remedy this and advocate the air cargo industry as an interesting, exciting and vital place; the IATA has launched the Future Air Cargo Executive (FACE) Summit to showcase the important role that young leadership will play in the growth of the air cargo industry. The first phase of the FACE programme aims to raise air cargo airlines’ profile in the airline industry and with future university graduates.
Through the programme, IATA hopes to bring in a new generation of executives, comfortable with the latest technological advances and air cargo’s logistics evolution. Thus the passenger side of the business can rely on a more universal skillset, air cargo can require some very specific knowledge. IATA’s Training and Development Institute (ITDI) has developed several aviation management training programmes in partnership with three separate universities — each aimed at a different level of management.
Since a major area of concern for organisations in air cargo is a lack of experienced staff as veteran managers retire voluntarily or through attrition. There is a compelling need to forge strong leaders who have a complete and thorough understanding of the air cargo supply chain through professional programmes.
The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) has also started a practical series of professional development workshops. Foremost among these is the three-day Air Cargo Professional Development Programme, which is tailored for the air freight logistics industry to develop management and decision-making skills, including financial analysis and marketing, along with team-building leadership expertise. TIACA also intends to use the internet to make programmes available to learning institutions all over the world.
As it stands now, many carriers have neglected their training programmes that would foster new talent and airlines are not fully equipped to meet the shortage of skilled talent.
Sanjiv Edward, chairman, TIACA, says “From a TIACA perspective knowledge and education is among our strong pillars. We have really recognised the need for our industry to be skilled and knowledgeable. That is a focus area for us. In fact we have an air cargo professional development programme and that programme offers the middle level management a view of the entire air cargo supply chain. There are many courses that will give you only the airline part of it or only the forwarding part of it but in this course an entire perspective of the air cargo supply chain is provided. The reason behind this is that we need leaders who understand the entire air cargo supply chain and not just one element of it.”
A few companies like Airbus have creatively re-designed their recruitment strategies; the company is using Twitter accounts to talk to potential recruits and is holding international recruitment days where candidates are quickly down-selected from several applicants.