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Solving Airlines’ Burnout and Retention Problem


Why aviation workers are at high-risk of burnout and turnover

Two weeks ago, the U.S. aviation industry struggled after an FAA issue caused a 90-minute delay on all departing flights. This followed what can only be classified as a disaster of epic proportions for the airline Southwest, when operational and IT issues caused the cancellation of over 16,000 flights during peak holiday travel. A frequent traveler myself, you’d think my mind would hop to the frustration felt by stranded and delayed passengers, and while they have my sympathy, that’s not who was on my mind; instead, my heart went out to all airline employees. As a founder of a company that works to solve workplace wellbeing, I know through first-hand knowledge and studies the extraordinarily high-risk of burnout and exhaustion aviation employees face. I also realize how events like these merely serve to compound and accelerate that rate of burnout.

Why aviation workers are at high-risk of burnout and turnover

Airline employees are responsible for the safety and well-being of passengers, and they must also deal with the demands of a fast-paced and ever-changing schedule. Additionally, they may be required to work long hours, often with little time off between shifts. This can take a toll on their physical and mental health, leading to high levels of stress.

Add to that pandemic-related issues, which brought an added layer of stress for airline employees, with many facing job insecurity, furloughs, and schedule changes, and it’s no wonder airlines are now facing record levels of turnover and retention struggles.

“Airlines let go far too many of their trained reservation staff and airport employees during COVID, and even the folks who took unpaid leaves of absence may have simply said, ‘You know, I found another job that is less stressful, that pays more, or both.’” — Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst

Consider the below statistics:


How can airlines leverage an updated Employee Value Proposition to drive attraction and retention? 

In this competitive environment, it’s more important than ever to meet airline workers’ need for work/life balance and a sense of being cared for. That’s why deploying a strategic approach to supporting whole-person wellbeing is the best way to show employees that employers care about them, that they’re valued, and that nurturing a strong, healthy workforce culture is a priority to your organization. Critically, it sets the stage for greater levels of engagement and ultimately, retention.    

Strengthening the aviation organization’s EVP

This wellbeing-first approach is trending in the industry as a way to improve the employee value proposition — and it’s built into the DNA of high-performing aviation leaders like Delta Air Lines.

In an International Business Times piece, Delta’ CEO Ed Bastian discusses the value of people helping people, sharing that “​​we pride ourselves at Delta as having that focus on our team and taking the very best care of our people so that they can take the very best care of you.” In other words, building an enthusiastic and loyal workforce requires an organizational commitment to culture change that starts with ensuring employees feel valued and cared-for. 

Indeed, by supporting employees’ whole-person wellbeing, airlines will lay the foundation for better business outcomes like:

Increased productivity: When employees are happy and healthy, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work. This can lead to higher levels of productivity and performance.

Reduced absenteeism: Employees who are stressed or dealing with mental health issues are more likely to take time off from work, which can be costly for the business in terms of lost productivity and the need to find temporary replacements.

Lower turnover rate: When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to be satisfied with their job and stay with the company for the long-term. This can help to reduce the costs associated with recruiting and training new employees.

Improved employee engagement: When employees feel that their well-being is a priority, they are more likely to feel engaged and motivated to do their best work. This can help to create a positive work culture and foster a sense of loyalty among employees.

Better customer service: Employee well-being is directly related to employee engagement and job satisfaction, which in turn leads to better customer service. Happy and motivated employees are more likely to provide high-quality service, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

All in all, it's clear that implementing a whole-person approach to wellbeing within the aviation industry will benefit everyone involved. Not only will employees be able to better manage workplace stress, but they’ll also have access to a support system made up of employers who are invested in their growth and development. This shift towards holistic employee engagement will ultimately help aviation executives meet their business goals.



Caring For Remote Employees

Many organizations continue to work in remote and hybrid models as the pandemic winds down, but many employees, when given the option to return to work, would actually prefer to continue working remotely. Our new guide, Taking Care of Remote Employees: The Key To Business Success Beyond the Pandemic, gives you actionable steps to ensure that your employees feel supported no matter where they are working. 

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