IATA says ground handlers need new tricks to attract, retain talent
The ground handling sector should make itself more attractive to new talent and offer terms that encourage workers to stay if it is to manage the long-term need for a stable talent base, the International Air Transport Association told stakeholders attending the IATA Ground Handling Conference this week.
Airports are facing snags in passenger processing as it takes ground handlers longer to secure security clearances for workers amidst a rapid rebound in air travel.
“Thousands of ground handling staff left the aviation industry during the pandemic. Now as aviation ramps up, the severe shortage of skilled ground handlers is shedding light on the need for reform to stabilize the talent pool.
“In the immediate term, the most pressing issue is the bottleneck for security clearances as the airline industry prepares for the peak northern summer season,” IATA says.
The airline lobby has advised the ground handling sector to adopt a more robust strategy for talent acquisition, a streamlining of onboarding processes, and development of a more compelling retention proposition.
“The peak northern summer travel season is fast-approaching, and passengers are already experiencing the effects of bottlenecks in getting security clearances for staff at the airport. Additional resources are needed to accelerate the processing times for employment security clearances which can be as much as 6 months in some markets. The shortages we are experiencing today are a symptom of the longer-term challenges to achieve a stable talent base in ground handling,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Operations, Safety and Security.
At the conference, IATA proposed a comprehensive approach to recruitment, onboarding, and retention.
The lobby says while attracting fresh talent is critical, it is made more challenging by perceptions that are shaped by the retrenchments of large numbers of staff, including those in ground handling.
IATA says the challenges can be mitigated by the sector mounting an awareness campaign that highlights “the attractiveness and importance of ground operations in global logistics and transport operations. “
The sector could start by adopting the 25by25 campaign to address the gender imbalance across the industry, apprenticeships in partnership with trade schools to revitalize candidate pipelines and career path mapping to demonstrate long-term prospects for people entering the sector.
More efficient onboarding processes
IATA observes that because training and security clearance for new staff can take more than six months; “more efficient and expedited onboarding will allow the sector to adapt quickly to demand changes, including those which are seasonal.”
IATA says to achieve that, the industry should focus more on competency-based training with a move to more online training and assessments helping toimprove speed, flexibility and efficiency of onboarding. Mutual recognition by authorities of security training and employee background records will also expedite onboarding and reduce redundant processes.
Meanwhile greater standardization can improve performance, provide employment flexibility and broaden career options. IATA says in a white paper that standardised ground operations coupled with significant operational benefits and more efficient onboarding, this would add flexibility and opportunities for staff in terms of relocation, reassignment and recruitment. Training passports that mutually recognize skills and training across ground handlers, airlines or airports will broaden options for internal labour mobility while adoption of new technologies and automated processes can create diverse job opportunities and career paths to attract a new generation of talent
“An industry-wide approach to lay the foundations for more efficient talent recruitment, onboarding and retention will pay big benefits in terms of efficiency for all concerned. The cornerstone is the standardization that can be achieved with the adoption of the IGOM. Its global implementation will have a huge and positive impact in all aspects of ground handling, including talent management. The potential is to shift working in the sector from having a job to developing a career,” said Careen.