Becoming more cultured

26th April 2014

Advertising guru David Ogilvy used to say that the assets of an ad agency go up and down with the elevator each day. The same is true of aviation operators: we are only as good as our people. But recruiting, training and motivating good individuals are only part of the challenge: you also have to create the right corporate culture.

The problem is that ‘corporate culture’ is an intangible concept which is difficult to define and impossible to measure. However, it is undeniable that fostering the right culture within an organisation not only helps it to operate more efficiently but also more safely. A good corporate culture means that employees share the same vision and values, are able to adapt to change, and are motivated to support the common good rather than just their own interests. In short they act as one team working with one common goal. What that goal is and how it is achieved is set by management. And, as with all good companies, the direction comes from the top and applies to everyone, from the top down.

The key to developing the right culture is mutual trust. Employees have to trust one another and the company, and the company has to trust them. And central to that trust is transparency.  For aviation operators, this is particularly relevant in the case of safety. Employees must feel that they can identify and report mistakes without incurring the displeasure of their workmates or managers. This reporting culture facilitates the recognition and management of risks and so enables the organisation to continue learning, appraising and improving its safety management. A non-reporting culture is more likely to see mistakes covered up, blamed on other people and mutual distrust and suspicion. As with so many areas of group management, these things tend to spiral up or down.

Creating the right culture is not only beneficial for the day-to-day functioning of aviation operators, it is also increasingly required by the aviation authorities. One of the key steps in the transition to the EASA regulations this year is the development of a culture in which employees are encouraged to give feedback and share information.

Earier this year we organised a special briefing for operators at which former CAA Regional Manager, Jon Walker, gave some valuable insights into EASA transition. Creating the right culture was one of Jon’s three top tips for compliance.

Ben Howard
Total AOC

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