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What can we learn from the crisis in aviation about volume hiring?

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

Working for an airline company was once a dream for many of us. The benefits were appealing, the travel looked glamorous, and the profession held the potential of standing out on your resume.

When Covid crushed the aviation industry over 2 years ago, companies assumed that once the situation would return to “normal”, employees who were fired or put on leave would simply return to their old jobs. But Covid has permanently changed the mindset of many in the workforce. Suddenly the paradigm changed, and many never returned to their former employer.

As a researcher in the “The future of work” field, I'm not so surprised by this change as employees have longed for a louder voice and better work-life balance - all of which became possible due to Covid. Now, years after the outbreak, this trend can no longer be attributed just to the pandemic. The roots of change were in place even before Covid. Employees in 2022 are in search of better balance, better conditions and self-actualization. These are now the keys for companies to retain employees.

Low-wage employees make up almost 80%1 of the ground staff in the aviation industry. Ground staff are the people who ensure we all check in to our flight, have a secure and safe trip, board on time to a clean airplane, and have a warm meal and drinks while we're watching our favorite tv show - and no less important - get our luggage once we land. These employees are the engine of the travel industry.

So I find it surprising that the majority of airlines don’t hire ground staff directly, but through external contractors with significantly fewer benefits than contract employees.

In this new era where employees are higher in demand than ever before, how do you create the connection needed to ensure worker and business continuity if they don’t officially work for the company? Companies make little to no effort to preserve these employees, and they simply can’t build company loyalty when employees work for a third party. The biggest, most costly mistake is not seeing these workers as part of the company’s staff. Invest resources when recruiting them, train them, see them as equal, and make them feel valuable, and they will stay - not to mention they will return to work for you after a long hiatus. The situation today prompted employees to say - if you can’t see what my actual worth is, I will find a place that will.

The post covid reality is complex and while there are different forces that contribute to the new reality - one thing is clear - the old hiring ways are a large contributor to the current workforce crisis. The crisis exists not just in the field of aviation but in all sectors that do volume hiring.

They lack working hands and have a horrible churn rate that scales between 40-60 percent.

This human-made workforce crisis has caused volume hiring to need…??? more volume hiring. Employees are coming in masses, and leaving in masses and doing it quickly which creates a constant need to find more working hands. Last week I talked to an operations manager from a large US retailer. He mentioned that ‘today 20 new people started, but 12 people left on that same day.’ Adding to that is that he is willing to pay overtime for whoever will stay and cover more shifts, but no one will stay. The most disturbing thing in that conversation was how laid back he was when he said ‘I am shutting down a supply chain.’ How is it even possible that a supply chain in a company is just shutting down? I am beyond overwhelmed by this.

Sourcing with the same methods, and hiring with the same old practices, is like filling a pool with holes in it - it will never fill. When you have a pool with holes in it, isn’t it time to fix the pool? When the environment is not suitable for current solutions, they will at best, be a band-aid in the short term. Companies should not act surprised when employees leave, are uncommitted, lack motivation as they simply don’t care about staying and getting ahead.

If this issue bothers you the same way it bothers me, I would love to hear your opinion about it.

Can’t wait to hear your insights. Send them to me at

  1. Based on data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics

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