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Remembering the human factor

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Remembering the human factor
As we enter 2009, our industry, regardless of which sector, is looking decidedly less profitable and healthy in comparison to how we entered last year.


January 6, 2009
By Rob Seaman

As we enter 2009, our industry, regardless of which sector, is looking decidedly less profitable and healthy in comparison to how we entered last year. One thing that we need to keep very clear as companies adjust and refocus for the reality that is the business of today, is to not lose sight of the human factor. Nobody has all the answers here – but using past experience as a good teacher and having been through a couple of these things before, there are some basic truths to bring into focus and consideration.

One of the greatest assets a company has is the people it employs and retains and as part of its intellectual property. During hard times, such as those being faced today, many companies lose sight of this fact and make short-term decisions based on current cash flow and financial considerations. While it is true that banks and retained earnings or saving leave some little choice, it bears remembering that such moves can have longer-term effects beyond saving a few bucks today. The training development and investment made in an employee is significant at any time. To lose that investment via reaction to what many believe are and will be short-term market considerations, is one of the more shortsighted and ill advised moves a business can make.

It has traditionally been this sort of business environment that allows accounting decisions to take precedence over the bigger and more sound long-term business solutions that helped build company or service business in the first place. Such is the case when an employee is let go, laid-off, or furloughed. The loss is immediate and can shake the foundation of the business – not necessarily through the individual alone, but also through the impact and hidden message that gets delivered to both co-workers and clients. Insecurity can be a great business success killer!

Our industry has been through such dark days in the past. The companies that survived to recover faster and better as market and consumer confidence returned, are those that took advantage of such times to look after in-house issues and concerns. During slow business periods they retained and developed their human factor assets – the employees who loyally serve.

While it would be ridiculous to think that some cuts and adjustments are not going to be necessary, the fact remains that many companies during hard financial times such as those we are facing at present, make decisions based more simply on the immediate need and not the longer-term picture. Many of these same companies do not realize the importance of investing in their business development and client retention during the good times as well as the bad. Accordingly, they are not well prepared to weather the storm during market declines. Financial considerations, fuel pricing issues, or any of the natural disasters and marketing corrupters that we have seen in past years can become equalizers for some. In other words – some times it is easy to make money. Other times it tough. Times like this show us who is who and who does which best.

Back in my retail days, one of my bosses always equated our business to that of the Navy (guess he was old sailor from day before). When times were slow, he always said we should make like good sailors and paint the ship! I would suggest that we are most definitely in a circumstance similar to that today and many aviation operations could take this time to regroup, clean house, and learn from the good times as well as the bad. Those who do will be well-positioned to assume leadership roles once business picks up. Those who slash and cut will be playing catch-up later.

Employers need to consider such things as they make strategic and financial business decisions in the coming months. In researching the market, many of the industry forecasters predict that aviation will recover at a faster pace than the business community at large. We need to be ready for this – and that means hanging onto what we have worked so hard and diligently to create and perhaps taking the time now to see how we can even improve it.


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