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MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Last modified on June 24, 2019

Find and keep

Doug Kuelpman, president and CEO of ADK Consulting & Executive Search, considers some of the marketing challenges and opportunities faced by airports when it comes to attracting, recruiting and keeping top talent.

With an explosive level of growth currently being experienced at airports across the world, more and more first-class talent is needed to fill the vitally important leadership roles at these organisations.

At the same time, the US workforce is losing ten thousand Baby Boomers every day due to retirement, according to an article in SHRM.org dated October 11, 2017. That trend began in 2011 and is expected to continue until 2030. These retirees are taking with them decades of experience and specific expertise.

Over the past two years, one-third of the placements by our company have been to replace retiring airport executive level and senior management staff.

Most US airports are locally-owned, public-sector entities and compensation levels are compressed when compared to the non-airport private sector. One of the significant challenges they face is the difficulty in competing with wages offered by private sector companies for top talent.

That, in turn, has helped limit the recruitment effectiveness beyond the borders of the airport industry.

However, are airports doing enough to promote themselves, including outside of the industry, to attract high-level performers?

Technical expertise is critical at many airports, and when replacing retirees, our clients, generally, have expressed more confidence in hiring airport experienced people.

Depending on the airport environment, organisational history and experience of the current staff, this may have varying degrees of importance in an airport’s recruitment process.

Hiring top talent in positions that are easily transferable to other industries can be challenging and will become even more so in the future if compensation is not competitive with other industries. These are positions such as finance, IT, engineers, project managers, customer service, concessions, business development and marketing/public relations.

In order to reach qualified candidates, more airports are using a variety of recruitment techniques, and are evolving from traditional methods to new-age digital.

The days of simply placing a few industry ads and hoping for the best are declining, and several airports create a targeted and focused marketing campaign in order to attract top-level talent.

For key positions, many airports contract with a national recruitment firm that has the industry knowledge and recruitment tools to perform an in-depth outreach effort while thoroughly vetting candidates inside and outside the industry that have applicable knowledge and skills.

The powerful tool of social media is being used for brand messaging by airports to attract a wider audience of potential employees. Some airports post YouTube videos and utilise other social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram to highlight the airport environment.

They share exciting events such as new concessions, construction projects, or other plans for growth and opportunity.

Progressive airports are mindful of these critical, less overt, ways to attract and retain good candidates:

  • Good digital reputation to enhance culture: Many candidates use employees’ workplace reviews of the organisation in order to decide whether to apply for a job, similar to restaurant, hotel and other reviews.
  • Clearly defined job descriptions: Value in providing requirements that clarifies not only responsibilities but also delineates authority and defines expectations, skills and attributes needed to be successful in the role.
  • A respectful candidate experience: Candidates want a swift recruitment process that gives them real-time information on their status. A candidate may lose interest or acquire a negative impression of the airport if the recruitment activity takes longer than expected or if they are not well-informed of their status.

Without thoughtful and comprehensive planning, ideal candidates may not become familiar with attractive airport career opportunities.

Forward-thinking and creative marketing strategies are evolving in the industry. Airports will benefit from further refinement of their message for greater effectiveness in attracting top-level talent for today and for tomorrow.

About the author

ADK Consulting and Executive Search has specialised in recruiting staff for the US airport industry since 2003. Subsidiary, ADK International, formed with Lugano, Switzerland based Kilpatrick Executive Search serves the international market.

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