Millennial attrition hitting MRO growth warns Joramco
Attracting and retaining Millennials, those born between 1981-2000, is key to coping with the Middle East's projected MRO growth, delegates at this year's Airline Engineering & Maintenance Middle East conference.
Ramzi Mansour, Director Business Development & Strategies of Joramco, said that Millennials, with less than five years’ experience, now account for 67% of total voluntary attrition in the industry with 14% of them leaving the sector completely due to frustration with the pace of career advancement. “This is a troubling factor for an industry seeking to hang on to its young!” said Mansour.
Yet Mansour said Millennials will be crucial and the driving force to regional MRO growth - now said to be rising at 6.7% a year, twice the global average and likely to account for 11 million man hours a year within the next half decade, even with the use of technology.
The Millennial attrition is at odds with the industry’s modest retirement rate which accounted for only 1.7% of the sector in 2014. Mansour pointed out that the industry has, at 35%, a higher-than-average ratio of Baby Boomers – those born 1946-1964 - but rates low, at only 17%, for Millennial employees and that mixing and managing three generations of employees – Baby Boomers, Generation X (1966-1976) and Millennials is “critical to ensure business continuity and knowledge transfer.” Millennials are shunning aerospace in favour of jobs in financial services, communications, media and banking. This, said Mansour, posed a big question: “Is the aviation marketplace aspirational enough for the next generation?”
Mansour says experts estimate that the Middle East will require some 66,000 new technical personnel over the years to 2034, which accounts for 11% of the industry total and sourcing the skills won’t be easy. Industry stakeholders and strategists, he says, need to “address hidden issues beyond the regular concerns on difficulty to access qualified talent.” He said the industry needs to acknowledge its workforce demographics and produce strategies to adequately address the changing landscape. Millennials today account for a third of the global labour force at 50 million and that will rise to 50% of the worldwide workforce by 2020. It boiled down, he said, to a key issue: “How can we build and guarantee an adequate pipeline of labour?”
Mansour said attracting the best Millennial workers is critical to the future of the labour-intensive MRO sector in the Middle East and globally and that they will shape the culture of the 21st century labour force. “We need to identify, understand and accommodate the characteristics and aspirations of the millennial generation specially in an industry of highly complex regulations which impede young talent from entering the profession.” He said.
The first task, said Mansour, is for the industry to understand Millennials, an IT-savvy, techno generation which values a flexible approach to work. “They tend to be uncomfortable with rigid corporate structures and expect rapid progression, very regular feedback and encouragement,” explained Mansour. It is a generation that values development and a work/life balance over financial reward, looks for employers with CSR values that match their own, have a strong desire to work overseas and is loyalty-light.
“They want fulfilment from work, a collaborative leadership, digital real-time communications and a balanced work/family lifestyle,” said Mansour. “We should encourage cross-mentorship, galvanise through inspiration and information. Organizations need to think meritocracy, not hierarchy.”
The Millennials also want access to the best technology and great training opportunities. “Embrace emerging technology, mobility, virtual teams and online platforms and revisit training and development approaches,” suggests Mansour. “Offer apprenticeships and collaborate with educational and training institutions.”
Airlines and MRO organisations will have to tap into the right motivators with Mansour advising: “Think creatively about reward strategies. Is it time to shift focus from cash bonuses to other things that matter most to them? Incentivise through learning and training.” Companies will also have to develop a more free culture with flexible work regimes, mobility opportunities and virtual working models. And employers will also have to help Millennials grow with job rotation. “Introduce a steady stream of new assignments and learning opportunities,” suggests Mansour.
But even if all the advice is taken on board, employers should expect their investment in Millennials to have a shorter life-cycle than to date. “It’s inevitable that the rate of churn among Millennials will be higher than among other generations,” said Mansour. Answers could be in attracting foreign talent, developing cross-industry and public/private collaboration and establishing global mobility programmes to import and deploy talent wherever it is needed, he said.
Suggesting that the aviation industry has “lost some of its lustre since the 20th century”, Mansour said the industry needs to do a better job of selling itself to Millennials “who are drawn to the allure of the technology and lifestyle of Silicon Valley. We need to tweak our business approach so that we look and operate more like Facebook and Google.
“Our capacity to attract, retain and manage talent in the coming years does not depend on the compensation packages, but rather on our ability to create a sense of belonging to an industry that offers a long-term relationship and a professional development opportunity for the new generations.”
The industry does, however, said Mansour, have one trick up its sleeve. “One of the biggest advantages that the aviation industry has is its mission. It is all about ‘Connecting People,’ and this appeals heavily to Millennials.
“Developing capacities and capabilities on next-gen aeroplanes and next-gen engines in the absence of a next-gen workforce is probably not a smart thing for airlines and MROs to do!”