The battle for the brightest minds – do airlines lose out?

Superb employer branding attracts high potentials. No surprise that Apple, Cisco, BMW, SAP, Airbus, Microsoft, Tesla, DHL Express, or Google, all repeatedly rank highly in surveys and
belong to the most sought-after companies. Intercontinental airlines, on the other hand, only get average marks and lag behind. For them, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit
creative, self-confident, young candidates.

How do enterprises build up their reputation? Is it a company’s global presence leading to superb brand recognition, an appealing high-tech and much sought-after product a supplier is best known
for, its image as being a fair and loyal employer paying staff high salaries and bonuses and offering benefits for outstanding performance, or its commitment to humanitarian issues and
environmental matters in combination with a rule-based corporate policy, enabling staff high identification?
It is usually a combination of different parameters, with changing weightings, that ultimately shapes the image of a company.

‘Who you are’ outnumbers ‘what you sell’
According to a survey presented by Boston-based specialist, Reputation Institute, the spotlight is more on the company’s work culture than on the products it markets, when it comes to public
judgement. This shift of perception – who you are – “drives two-thirds of corporate reputation versus what you sell, which accounts for only a third,” said Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, Chief
Reputation Officer for Reputation Institute.
Also, new variable employee activism increasingly comes into play. While in the past, staff activities concentrated more on gaining additional individual benefits, higher wages or rights,
meanwhile “we are seeing workers looking at the broader picture and requesting an alignment of the employer’s values with their own values,” Isadora Levy, Senior Research Manager at the
Reputation Institute has observed.


Brain drain at Facebook
Also, political convictions play an increasing role. This was evidenced by the Facebook staff who massively protested the Zuckerberg-led platform’s policy of leaving U.S. President Trump’s
inflammatory and divisive posts on air, without flagging them as violent and defamatory rhetoric, which competitor Twitter was doing. Zuckerberg said: “I don’t want this company to be an
‘arbiter of truth’ on political issues.”
In the meantime, a number of Facebook staff have quit, leading software engineers amongst them.

Ashamed of Volkswagen
On the other side of the pond, in Germany, Volkswagen is facing grave technical problems in equipping their new generation of e-cars with a brand-new software. “They lack sufficient
developers, despite good pay and social gratifications,”
stated an insider. This could also be due to the fact that Volkswagen is no longer the preferred address for graduates of technical
academies since its diesel scandal caused a massive violation of environmental laws. The disturbed relationship between many workers and the top management is addressed in an open letter from the
shop stewards of the metalworkers’ union to Volkswagen executives. “An increasing number of employees are ashamed of their employer VW,” the note literally says.

Listed as also-rans
And the airlines, are they attractive for young talents setting out on a career?
Generally, they do not figure at the top of the graduates’ wish lists, neither in the U.S. nor in Europe. In a report titled ‘Ranked: The Best and Worst Airlines in 2019’, Laura Begley
Bloom, Senior Contributor of Forbes Women, reflecting 2019, speaks of “another headline-making year in (U.S.) aviation with airlines having passengers arrested, Boeing facing a major crisis,
a budget carrier stranding passengers after going out of business, and pets dying on planes.”
Surely not an attractive sector to entice ambitious young people stepping into the business
world. ***
In Europe, however, things look slightly different. In a 2019 survey presented by the online platform ‘Great Place to Work’, Lufthansa was ranked as third most attractive German employer,
following first-placed carmaker BMW, and sporting goods manufacturer, Adidas.
In neighboring France, home carrier Air France is placed 6th, after LVMH, L’Oreal, Google, Chanel, and Apple.
Across the channel, British Airways’ name is missing among the top 10 companies where job-seeking young and educated professionals would want to work. This contrasts the ranking in Spain, where
the International Airlines Group (British Airways, Iberia, Vueling, Air Lingus, and others) is on 8th place. IAG share are traded both on the London Stock Exchange and Spanish Stock

*** Of the dozen U.S. airlines that took part in the survey presented by Forbes, Alaska Airlines was the best performer, while budget carrier Frontier Airlines came in

Heiner Siegmund

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