Develop a talent cultivation "playbook" that would provide the aviation industry with inspiring, tested, and rapidly-implementable techniques front line managers and senior staff can use to enhance talent cultivation and knowledge transfer in their organizations.
The playbook would be designed for people on-the-go who can pick it up, read it for a few minutes and take away key talent planning ideas that can be implemented immediately. An example of this type of "idea burst"—prepared by the ACI-NA Ops/Tech Committee is shown in the "background" section of this submittal.
Over the past year, Airport Council International-North America's (ACI-NA's) Operations & Technical Affairs Committee (Ops/Tech) has been working with several other ACI-NA Committees to address the challenge of cultivating talent in the airport environment, especially those engaged in technically demanding professions such as planning, engineering, construction, operations, and facility maintenance. In the course of this work effort, the Committee identified a need to provide the aviation industry with practical, easy-to-implement techniques that managers and senior staff members at airports can deploy to attract, cultivate, and retain talented individuals at airports.
A Talent Planning Working Group composed of members of the ACI Ops/Tech Committee prepared this problem statement based on needs it identified during its efforts to address talent planning for technically demanding airport positions. This Working Group developed an initial playbook concept as a quick implementation playbook to be utilized by airports across the country of varying size. The Working Group includes:
• Pat Neville, Vice President, Airport Development & Technical Services, Greater Toronto Airports Authority; Committee Chair
• Pete Higgins, Director of Operations, Salt Lake City Department of Airports; Committee Vice Chair
• Eddie Clayson, Director of Maintenance, Salt Lake City Department of Airports
• Mike Ehl, Director of Operations, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
• Karen Scott, Interim Executive Director, Louisville Regional Airport Authority
• Joan Zatopek, Aviation Planning and Development Manager, Oakland International Airport
• Jill Geboy, Project Manager, Burns & McDonnell
• Julie Kenfield, Director, Jacobsen/Daniels
• Rose Agnew, Principal, Aviation Innovation
• Paul Eubanks, ACI-NA, Senior Director, Policy and Regulatory Affairs
The submittal of this problem statement has also be endorsed by the ACI-NA Ops/Tech Committee.
In an economic environment where our talented human capital is becoming a scarce commodity, a vision for talent planning is needed by the airport industry in order to retain high performing individuals to lead and guide the future of aviation. The airport environment is facing a shortage of individuals that can lead, guide, manage and carry out airport centric initiatives to support the aviation industry. This is a critical endeavor as we consider the negative economic impact of potentially diminished aviation activities in our communities.
Today's talent pool, whether internal to your organization already or someone you have not yet hired, is looking for a dynamic career path. As aviation enthusiasts ourselves, we already know that the aviation sector is filled with so many vibrant career opportunities, but how do we quickly turn that it into a talent plan for these individuals and build a strong team for our organizations? So many times we are mired down in structure and process that we are unable to break free and create an energetic and robust talent plan to propel our organization forward. The lack of such a plan inhibits the existing talent in our organization from being the absolute most brilliant resource; and without a spark of creativity or excitement for their future, retention becomes a real challenge. Additionally, this same challenge exists for us when hiring to fulfill a skill that does not already exist internally. A robust talent plan will be a key attractant in finding those external candidates to fill the needs and grow our organizations.
In the Committee's work, we also found that verbose research reports can act as an impediment to implementation on the part of front line managers and senior staff at airports—especially positions with demanding daily tempos of activity such as airport operations or airport maintenance. Such individuals are much better served by a "playbook" of practices that they can review, assess, and rapidly deploy to enhance talent cultivation. Different from a "best practices" guidebook, a "playbook" utilizes experiential and exciting techniques to energize managers and senior staff to address talent planning deficiencies within their respective organizations. This "playbook" or "menu" oriented approach has proven very successful in other ACRP projects including Project 10-10, Guidebook for Airport Irregular Operations (IROPS) Contingency Planning; Synthesis Project 77, Airport Sustainability Practices; and Project 10-16, Commercial Ground Transportation at Airports: Best Practices.
Idea Burst Examples -
Idea #1: Know Where Your Airport/Organization Is Headed
Introduce a cartoon type graphic that drives home the point for the Idea Concept, followed by an appropriate quote like the following:
"A goal without a plan is just a wish." Antoine de Saint-Exupery
It's not enough to know where your airport/organization is currently, but where it wants to be in the future. Understanding the business goals of your airport/organization will help you identify and define a successful talent plan. Ways to find out where your airport/organization is headed is to have discussions with the senior leadership of the organization to determine short, near and long term objectives that support the vision. Remember, the Board should be involved in determining a vision and mission framework for the organization and the senior leadership can evolve those concepts into goals/objectives. And don't forget to include Core Values for the organization to follow. We call these the "rules of engagement" for how you implement the Strategic Plan.
After this assessment, you can establish a set of airport/organization design principles (workforce characteristics) that are based on senior leaders' future vision. This should include:
• Airport/organization size
• Workforce mix (full time, part time, temp, outsourced)
• Span of control
• Organizational hierarchy
• Staffing mix (percent of open positions filled through external recruiting)
• Skills mix (technical, managerial, generalists, versatilists)
The benefit by aligning your airport/organization around a strategic plan are that your departments collaborate to confirm a direction and details are revealed for the talent needs of your airport/organization.
Lesson from Airport XXX
At Airport XXX, the organization faced the retirement of their long time Executive Director and to prepare the organization for this monumental change, the senior leadership collaborated and created a Strategic Plan and companion Values for the organization. The Board was excited to see this creative leadership in advance of a new Executive Director being named. The senior leadership assembled a vision and mission statement with companion goals and objectives. The vision was simple but spoke volumes – "Exceed Expectations", and was further clarified by committing to "Be the world's leading airports in all capacities." The simple two word vision was catchy, understandable by all and most importantly, provided a goal of continuous improvement for the airport and its staff.
The Strategic Plan incorporated a graphic utilizing a target that incorporated the color palette of the airport's branding. This subtle graphic in the background of the plan reminded staff that they were aligning in one direction, centered around a common vision, mission and strategic objectives to support that vision and mission. With this Strategic Plan in place, the organization is positioned to identify the talent needs for their future success.
A strong vision and mission statement for your organization provides the backbone structure needed for the future success of your airport's organization. Be bold in generating a statement that your organization can easily remember, yet be powerful to carry you for several years in the future. You must create something for the organization to rally around and align with each other on a common target. With that common target, your staff will attain those goals and objectives with an unsurpassed level of creativity you never knew was possible.
• Is your airport/organization on a path of continued growth, holding strong and steady, or are you having to search for new revenue streams?
• How can you integrate airport/organizational design with business goals and workforce impact to maximize success?
• How does talent planning impact reaching business goals?
• What does your airport/organization value?
• Is your organization excited about its future? And if not, why not?
Idea #2: Establish Career Pathways
Introduce a cartoon type graphic that drives home the point for the Idea Concept, followed by an appropriate quote like the following:
"It's a jungle gym, not a ladder." Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
How do you create career pathways for your staff? Within the context of your airport's/organization's needs, identify where you are, where you want to be, and how to get there.
• Design and conduct a Leadership Profile (see more on this below) to identify and measure the current baseline.
• Facilitate the process to define the required competencies to be effective at each level of leadership.
• Design process/program/systems to address needed development for leadership roles, both at a systems and individual level.
Lessons from Airport ABC
In 2005, the Aviation Operations team launched the Operations Succession Preparation (OSP) to redefine employee development and provide the experience necessary to ensure ongoing internal career opportunities at multiple levels within the department. This effort was undertaken simultaneously with a realignment of the department to address changing business priorities, and should be viewed as a synergistic effort to redeploy resources for benefit of organization and employees. To achieve this vision, the effort was broken into three phases: Realignment, Reassignment, and Development.
The OSP also created opportunities across the Airport and the governing body for employees in other departments to get first-hand experience in the day-to-day operations of their airport. The overall objective of the program was to prepare the team for the many opportunities that would arise in coming years while simultaneously increasing employee engagement, job satisfaction, and diversity/inclusion. Within four years of its launching, the OSP created more than 30 new opportunities for team members across the department, including numerous women, people of color, represented employees from union ranks, and interns. Most opportunities were permanent advancements with increases in grade and salary, not simply job-shadowing or temporary assignments. No reduction in force was intended nor was enacted.
The program was ultimately so successful within Aviation Operations, that the Airport Director and the Human Resources Director requested the program be instituted across the community, as driven by employee interest. Beginning in 2011 the governing body transitioned the OSP from an Aviation Division/Operations initiative to an Internal Internship program across the entire organization which continues today with approximately 20 annual participants.
In 2017 the Aviation Operations team re-launched the OSP as the Career Pathways initiative in partnership with Human Resources and Development to address organization-wide concerns in regard to succession preparation and by popular demand of Operations employees who recognize the value of continual personal development and job enrichment.
Current efforts are focused on conducting a Talent Inventory.
How to create a Leadership Profile. This profile is really a readiness assessment which can be created to identify leadership gaps. The profile should include:
• Number of employees
• Pay grades
• Voluntary turnover
• Self-identified strengths of employees
• Self-identified opportunities
• Short (1-3 years) and long (5 years and beyond) career goals of employees
• Employee-identified areas of personal contribution to achieve career goals.
o For success, employees must personally commit to contribute on their own by putting "skin in the game", by continuing their education, or flexing to changes in working conditions, increased responsibility, etc.
Compare the results of the Leadership Profile to the goals of the organization and the desired goals of the employees to assess gaps and build Career Pathways!
Compile the prior research and survey results regarding talent planning and cultivation prepared both within
the airport industry and other similarly challenging industries. This should include prior ACRP research on
the topic (see Related Research), as well as work compiled by others, including ACI
-NA, AAAE, NASAO,
A4A, and relevant TRB Committees.
Develop the playbook, which would include ideas for:
Examining internal and external organizational dynamics while understanding barriers to talent planning and
how to generate support for it,
Understanding strategic business goals and assessing what type of workforce and staffing mix is ideal for
Crafting and validating a tailored talent plan, including ideas for creating a diverse and inclusive talent pool,
how to carve out career paths, knowing when to hire internally or externally, and how to mentor/coach, and
Elevating talent, com
municating success and leveraging networks to transfer talent planning knowledge.
Test the draft playbook to validate its usability, functionality, and utility in a focus group consisting of at
least one large hub, one medium hub and one small or non-
Produce a final playbook that incorporates the advice and lessons learned from the focus group.
Based on the tasks identified above and the anticipated duration of 15 months, the budgetary cost estimate for this
project is proposed at $250,000.
-NA Ops/Tech Committee Talent Planning Survey, March 2018
ACRP Project 06
Identifying and Evaluating Airport Workforce Requirements (ACTIVE). Research
accomplished under this effort focuses on a co
mprehensive, sustainable workforce strategy that aligns existing
and emerging business models with workforce development initiatives for the airport environment. It is a
planned and structured approach to assist airports with determining workforce require
ments for their particular
airport size. This problem statement is different in that it utilizes agile and real-
life examples to assist the airport
with cultivating talent planning
ACRP Synthesis Project 18, Aviation Workforce Development Practices, 2010.
ACRP Synthesis Project 49, Helping New Maintenance Hires Adapt to the Airport Operating Environment,
-07/Task 163A, Innovative Practices in Workforce Development for State Departments of
-07/Task 408, Transportation System Management and Operations (TSMO) Workforce: Skills,
Positions, Recruitment, Retention, and Career Development, Ongoing.
NCHRP Report 636, Tools to Aid State DOTs in Responding to Workforce Challenges, 2009.