Wise Counsel

How important does the Millennial Workforce rate industry mentoring is in terms of helping its members fulfil their career goals – and where might they seek it? As part of the Millennial Workforce Survey, ATM magazine asked if they thought organisations wrongly value ‘time-served’ employees and allowed talented people to move quickly through the industry – or did they fear that tenure is favoured over performance?

Francesco Barbaria Leonardo has a great history behind it, as do most of the businesses which operate in the ATM domain. Working in a leading business in ATM system means that there is a great focus on talented people and on their development. The company is often open to understanding the employee’s goals and needs, and to satisfy them when possible.
Mentoring is a fundamental aspect of this process, since it helps to clarify professional goals and how to reach them. We’ve been encouraged to identify a mentor in our company who reflects the company values, as a part of our development process. During my career, that person has helped me a lot to broaden my vision of my career path.

Michael Bevilacqua I believe that it is only the evolution of the technical industry and its influence on the rest of industry that has made the Millennial workforce a priority whose needs cannot be ignored. Gone are the days when an employee feels beholden to the “only gig in town”.
Younger employees are aware of opportunities that span the globe, they are no longer blindly loyal to their employers whom they saw take advantage of the older generations time and time again.
They offer technical skills that make revenue for their company immediately. These young employees have seen that a wide breadth of experience in various fields is valued in one’s job history and they are trying to gain that experience as quickly as possible in order to compete for those higher level positions as well as defend themselves from some unforeseen business decision that could leave them out of a job.
So if we accept this kind of employment environment, I would say that it is important for companies to offer opportunities to have various work experiences serving in different positions and on different projects. This will help the employee feel confident that they will not be hung out to dry should catastrophe strike.
Also I would make a strong effort to make the advancement process transparent. So much is made of transparency in our government and major industries through availability of information, that any lack of transparency is a very quick way to create a distrusting, unhappy employee.
It is accepted that management are the ones that make decisions and will have their own communications at that level, but parts of that need to be communicated down the lower positions. Employees need to feel assured that their efforts are indeed fueling a larger overall goal that is a priority for their management and company/industry as a whole.
Any indication that their efforts have been for naught or simply for some other individual’s gain especially when to the detriment of their own gain is likely to upset the employee and encourage them seeking employment elsewhere. This is probably the part that has changed and where this misconception about Millennials comes from.
In the past, a senior person would take a younger employee under their wing and it was understood that if the junior person worked hard to make the senior person look good then the junior person would benefit too, and one day the junior person would be able to
take the senior person’s place.
We have seen this type of journeyman-ship and mentor/student relationship very much go away from the workplace to be replaced by impersonal online coursework and higher educational degree programmes.
Add to that is the fact that the longer life span of the Baby Boomer generation is not leaving the workforce and now either taking second jobs or primary jobs competing with the younger generation rather than mentoring.
So this has led to a shift from the younger generation relying on the older generation to teach them the ropes, to relying on the college education, that they have been told their whole life, is the ultimate key to their work success.
This also reveals another workplace issue that has been viewed by many onlookers, the younger workforce is expected to contribute immediately, because of its high technical expertise, but is not receiving proper training in workplace etiquette/communication.
This issue extends further in their career when they also receive no management training but must pursue these positions in order to advance their career and compete.
There needs to be more emphasis on giving workplace training, and then leadership/management training much earlier than current practice – if practised at all.
I do not believe that organisations wrongly value ‘time served’ employees in terms of amount of value to their organisation, however they are valuing them for the wrong reasons and should change their expectations of the time-served employee to include mentoring the younger generation.
I do believe it is more difficult for a time-served employee to maintain their value performing technical work as we push toward automation. That person needs to be a constant learner and very flexible in his or her approach to developing technical solutions using modern practices.
Usually, at their late career salary, that technical work can be better handled by good automation software and a few lower salaried employees that offer more flexibility in the positions they are given.

Ginette Bebeung Like in any other industry, when building a career in aviation, mentoring is of the highest importance. The ATC industry is complex, and comprehensive mentorship programmes are a powerful tool to promote loyalty and support career ambitions. Mentorship creates a link that allows experience to flow, while promoting new visions and retaining talents.

Milena Bowman There are several levels of development – individual, team, organisational and network, and all of them are important. Personally, I seek support inside and outside the company. I have found it important to surround myself with wise, positive people who can offer different lenses on the world. Working on variable topics and with different partners and advisors has accelerated my development immensely.
I have always believed in stretching myself and the team I work with. Allow space for failure and learn hard from it! It is very important for our industry to develop mentoring and coaching habits, because we work in a niche. Due to this niche expertise, our companies cannot replace employees easily nor can we readily change employers. Development of a wider palette of skills and knowledge is essential to both the employee and the employer. I am very grateful to be assigned various technical and
organisational development tasks. I cannot comment on all organisations, but certainly in Maastricht we are taking a critical look at our career management policy and are building a performance-driven organisation. We are looking into diminishing the role of the unconscious bias that may influence our decisions and improving and leveraging the diversity we have, be it gender, age, background or nationality.
We also believe in the development of organisational knowledge and skills to adapt. We think that our efficiency will be defined by our ability to build efficiency within the network with our partners. It takes two to three years to train a controller or to build an innovative system so you always have to be years ahead of the game. In our so complex and weather-dependable environment, the ability to deliver capacity can be optimally achieved only when we all co-operate. Hence, we are putting so much effort into developing the network together with our partners.

Peter Choroba I like informal mentoring a lot. It is more long-term and based on the relationship between the mentored and the mentor, unlike the formal mentoring that is very structured and less spontaneous.
Looking back at my career, I progressed a lot thanks to very good mentors I had the privilege to work with in all my previous assignments, be it in academia, consulting or now in Eurocontrol.
Large organisations may have a tendency to wrongly value tenure over performance, but I want to believe this is changing. I take this as a cultural change – which takes time. In Eurocontrol, being aged 40, I am still regarded as very young and perhaps not experienced enough.
Some of my friends outside of Eurocontrol, already hold Ctype roles in large non-ATM corporate organisations before they even reached 40. I think it is a matter of industry culture. Looking around the ATM industry, you don’t see many executives in their 30s-40s.
I appreciate that Eurocontrol is trying to identify staff with higher potential and invest in their development. It is part of the programme to boost the overall leadership skills apart from the technical skills. This should help the younger, talented and hardworking staff move quicker through the ranks.

Christopher Gomes I would not be where I am today without the help and support of my mentors. I chose mentors within my own organisation who had professional experience similar to what I believed I wanted to do. Their insight into how I might achieve my personal and professional goals was extremely valuable.
An even greater benefit for me was the long-lasting personal friendships that developed from these mentor assignments. A number of external organisations I’ve encountered throughout my career typically have programmes providing mentorships to young employees.
Here in the Washington DC area, the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) has a Young Aviation Professionals (YAP) group that focuses on developing industry leaders by fostering relationships and providing educational opportunities.
Time-served employees are an important part of the aviation workforce given the highly operational nature of some the work but in recent years I have seen more focus on tapping into younger talent through “hackathons” and “idea fests” that seek input from Millennials or employees with limited time served.
Using these alternative methods really highlights talented employees who may not have the time served that is traditionally expected when moving around in an organisation.

Bret Konsavage I’ve only experienced organic mentorship, nothing programmatic, it just happened. My mentors were some of the best controllers I’ve known. I’d like to think I acted as one to more than a few trainees but perhaps that’s just vanity.
My mentors were the people I could ask off-the-wall questions like whether an aircraft can go VFR in Class A airspace – they can and are supposed to when NORDO in VMC. Most of the time they’d tell me to look it up and tell me where to find it. Sometimes we’d look together, that’s when I knew I’d stumped them. My mentors made me want to know the books and nurtured my curiosity.
As for over-valuing time served…yes and no. All businesses should reward time served, otherwise there’s little incentive to stay.
However, overvaluing time served is an industry-wide problem for two reasons.
First, gone are the days of working for a pension. There are very few careers where one can labour for 20-30 years before retiring, ATC is one of them (at least in the US) but as pension changes or privatisation become a reality there will be an increase in turnover – and that’s OK. It will lead to an increased valuation of talent.

Second, the FAA is being forced to evolve. What was once a prescriptive and glacial federal agency is being propelled into the new age by the burgeoning technologies that are coming out of Silicon Valley. Where the FAA wears power-suits, the startup “kids” are wearing board shorts, but the economic gains generated by these “kids” are dragging the industry into modernisation.

At ATCA annual this year I spoke to project leads with the FAA that are younger than I am and I met project managers who had controlled for 20 or 30 years before taking a HQ FAA job. This is a sign of the change happening right under our noses. From an organisational standpoint, I would recommend being open to the changing of the guard because it’s not coming, it’s happening now.

Laura Lamonica Having the opportunity to exchange ideas about modus operandi, projects, expectations and the surrounding environment with senior managers who are not necessarily the hierarchical responsible manager, is always positive.

 

Gwen Morgan I think it is very important. Some individuals are quite good at identifying persons within their organisation who would make excellent mentors and may make a direct request for them to act as their mentor.
For the individuals who are not as confident, I think a good human resources initiative would be to set up a voluntary mentoring scheme which would allow people who are interested in mentoring to offer their services, and they could then be paired with the individuals seeking a mentor.
Do I think organisations wrongly value ‘time-served’ employees? If you mean ‘do organisations wrongly promote employees because of the length of time they have served with the company, then my answer is no, or certainly it is becoming less common. If the ‘time-served’ employee is the best candidate for a role, then the ‘time-served’ employee should be awarded that role. The ‘best candidate’ is who the organisation should be focused on because it is the best candidate who will potentially add more value to the company.
Are talented people allowed to move quickly through the industry or is tenure favoured over performance? This is a difficult question because how do you define talent? I think everyone within the aviation industry is talented in some way.
I think what makes some people stand out from others is that they learn from their experiences more and have a desire to move through the industry to try to better it as a result of their experiences.
This doesn’t make them more talented. It is just a question of different personal goals and ambitions. Ultimately, I don’t believe that tenure is favoured over performance.

Hector Ureta It is important that companies foster and pay attention to our “always-learning” motto. Thanks to Innaxis, I have enjoyed for free a Eurocontrol ATC Genspace course, attended several costly scientific conferences and a couple of courses in the field of data management and data visualisation. They have definitely increased my capabilities and fulfilled my “development” side. Some of my colleagues have also joined for free expensive

Richard Landreville Mentoring is key if the “match” works. I worked with a mentor on a monthly basis in 2017 and the match made by our human resources department was absolutely perfect. This guy would tell me what I was thinking before I thought it. All kidding aside, my mentor helped me take a step back and change the way I approach certain situations, which has already proven to be beneficial. In our company, high performers are identified very quickly and thereafter given the opportunities to evolve.

 

 

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