Tapping Diverse Talent in Aviation
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Tapping Diverse Talent in Aviation

Culture, Gender, and Diversity

Mary Ann Turney, Mary Ann Turney

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eBook - ePub

Tapping Diverse Talent in Aviation

Culture, Gender, and Diversity

Mary Ann Turney, Mary Ann Turney

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It has seldom been more critical for the aviation industry to evaluate the future employee talent pool. Projected skills shortages, new security concerns, and the cost of training have generated a pressing need for aviation training professionals to find and develop new and diverse talent - capable of safe, informed and accurate communication. This intelligent and topical new book provides succinct and authoritative research-based information to assist decision-makers plan the changes required to training facilities, materials and methods, and in the reinforcement and assessment of the training environment itself. It will spark considerable interest among airline management personnel, collegiate flight training programs, military training contractors, and governmental agencies and serve as a text for collegiate aviation programs and as a valuable knowledge base reference for practitioners. Including comprehensive data on future world workforce composition and demographic projections for the next decade, it examines the key issues of increasing cultural diversity and the measures required in the training of women and minorities. Topics covered include: culture and inter-group relationships; values and orientation in mixed crews; non-native English speakers; gender, leadership, and training; learning styles and preferences; mentoring and role models; learning style preferences and training outcomes; and nonverbal communication.

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Chapter 1

Tapping Diverse Talent: A Must for the New Century

Mary Ann Turney and Robert F. Maxant


Friedman (2000) contrasts the current trend toward cultural globalization with the Cold War Era where the world was divided between East and West with a wall in between. Today’s global world has one overreaching feature — integration. Friedman describes the world as ‘an increasingly interwoven place’, where ‘whether you are a company or a country, your threats and opportunities increasingly derive from who you are connected to’ (Friedman, 2000, p. 8). This globalization is built around the Wide World Web, a symbol of our connectivity in an ongoing and dynamic world (Friedman, 2000).
As the aviation industry becomes more integrated through expanding alliances, it increasingly encompasses a wider range of diverse talent, which highlights the urgency of building cultural awareness and creating harmony amid differences in customs and ideology. Workplace colleagues are likely to come from a range of different cultures. The first stage in developing the competence of working across cultures is awareness. Without awareness, we tend to define others by our own cultural values and what we consider the ‘right’ way to do things.

Diversity in a Global World

For an industry like aviation with global ambitions, Burman (2003) implies that success is likely to stem from successful joint ventures and alliances. But there is no guarantee that alliances will survive and their relative success will depend on, among other things, flexibility in managing cultural diversity.
The challenge then is the management of a multi-cultural workforce in a global context, encompassing the ability to vary methods and services across cultures, not simply imposing one culture on another. The ability to develop a true trans-national organization requires managerial approaches and systems that allow for variations based on diversity (Burman, 2003). Managing that diversity can mean national cultural diversity between nations, races or ethnic groups, or international diversity involving a range of cultures in a single nation. Attitudinal differences reflected in language and behavior may reflect deeper differences in mental structures and value systems.
Nisbett (2003) in his book The Geography of Thought asks why Western infants learn nouns at a more rapid rate than verbs, while East Asian infants learn verbs at a more rapid rate than nouns. Why do East Asians group objects and events based on how they relate to one another, while Westerners are more likely to identify by categories? Nisbett’s research has led him to the conclusion that two completely different approaches to the world (one Asian and one Western) have existed for thousands of years and are only recently beginning to move toward one another.
The nitty-gritty of everyday working together and the problems of creating protocols, ‘in-group’ humor and ‘out-of-office’ relationships are another part of creating harmonious workplace life. Local jokes and in-group stories are examples of what can be very difficult to translate into other cultures; what sounds funny to an American can seem foolish to an Italian (Burman, 2003).
Another significant factor, according to Burman (2003) is language. Although English is the common working language that the international aviation community favors, native English speakers can turn language into a disadvantage when one of them is unaware of the confusion that a regional accent or a rapid speech rate may create, or how language confidence can be perceived as a manifestation of ‘arrogance on the part of the native speaker’ (Burman, 2003, p.2).
Non-conformity with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards can also generate unexpected miscommunications in the aviation environment. Even when language barriers are overcome, there may be misunderstandings due to different styles of communication, body language, and differing levels of directness. In addition to significant communication style differences, behind the words on the surface lie centuries of cultural and ideological rivalries that have led to previous wars. Stereotypes and prejudices boil up even in superficially similar cultures. The age of terrorism gives additional impetus to the need for better multi-cultural understanding since resistance to a world of brutal anarchy requires an international cooperative effort.
Cultural training and study is essential to mitigate potential conflict and create genuinely international companies (Burman, 2003). No comprehensive solution to the problems of cultural diversity in the context of the aviation industry has been conceived. Yet it is clear that preparation for the success of global alliances means the management of diversity in all its aspects.

Diverse Workforce

In an extensive work on organizational culture, Adler (2002) states, ‘cross-cultural dialogue has become the foundation on which global business succeeds or fails’ (Adler, 2002, p. 133). Adler’s analysis is based on the current situation in the business world where more than 100,000 firms in high technology countries have operations outside their home countries, making a focus on a multicultural workforce a real necessity.
However, the impact of multiculturalism varies significantly with an industry’s overall strategy — and that can largely influence its degree of success in the marketplace. Sophisticated managers, operating in United States-based firms, for example, train their colleagues to appreciate and effectively manage a workforce composed of African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, and Native American men and women. Adler (2002) states ‘Assuming that the workforce is homogeneous or defined by white male norms was never appropriate and is no longer effective’ (p. 134).
In addition, cultural diversity management becomes important not only within the organization, but between the organization and its external environment. In order to be effective, states Adler, ‘everyone from the CEO to the lowest level worker must use cross-cultural skills’ (Adler, 2002, p. 136).
Multiple culturally distinct populations converge in many countries of the world. Singapore, for example, has four cultural and linguistic groups: Chinese, Eurasian, Indian, and Malay. Belgium includes two linguistic groups, Flemish and French. Switzerland has four ethnic communities: French, German, Italian, and Romansh. Canada, a multi-cultural country by policy, uses two official languages. Many countries, including Israel and the United States, have been historic havens for immigrants from around the world. Each population exhibits a culturally unique lifestyle.
The city of Los Angeles highlights the pervasiveness of multiculturalism in the United States and its impact on the workplace. Of Los Angeles’ 550,000 school-age children, 117,000 speak one of 104 languages more fluently than English. Los Angeles no longer has a majority population, but according to Anderson ‘adjusts to the quirky, polyglot rhythms of 60,000 Samoans and 30,000 Thais, 200,000 Salvadorans and 175,000 Armenians’ (Adler, 2002, p. 137). Other cities in the U.S. reflect similar patterns, making multiculturalism ‘a dominant fact of [U.S.] domestic life’ (Adler, 2002, p. 138).

The Best and the Brightest

Given the need for a highly technically skilled workforce, the aviation industry seeks to attract and retain the best and brightest talent for its future success and growth. And that of necessity means drawing from a diverse talent pool. Census 2000 confirmed that more than 6.8 million Americans, for example, indicated that they were members of more than one race. Latinos will soon outnumber African Americans in the U.S., while Asian Americans are the fastest growing of the demographic groups (www.npr.org/programs/totn/features/2001/jul/010726.cfoa.html).
Future demographic projections reveal that the relative number of native English speakers will decrease compared to the population of the world (or compared to native speakers of other fast growing languages such as Spanish, Hindi, or Arabic) while the number of speakers of English as an additional language will rapidly increase. Whereas a century ago, native speakers of English greatly outnumbered second language speakers of English, the relationship is now reversed (Graddol, 1997).
Changes in worldwide population indicate that new entrants into the workforce represent much greater cultural and ethnic diversity than in the past. Thus the industry can expect a broader talent pool of increasing diversity, and the challenge will become the management of that diversity.

Demographic Trends

The Aviation Workforce in the United States: Previous Trends

Table 1.1 Projected employment growth of aviation occupations 2000 to 2010
Employed 2000
Projected 2010
Change Number
Percentage 2000–2010
Aerospace Engineering/Operations Technicians
Aerospace Engineers
Air Traffic Controllers
Aircraft Cargo Handling Supervisors
Aircraft Mechanics
Aircraft Structure, Surfaces, Rigging, Systems Assemblers
Airfield Operations Specialists
Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers
Avionics Technicians
Commercial Pilots
Flight Attendants
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (n.d.). Industry-Occupation Employment Matrix. Retrieved from http://data.bls.gov/oep/nioem/empiohm.jsp
Data extrapolated from Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers (1997), indicated that 737,000 people worked in the air transport industry in 1993. Additionally, 542,000 people were involved in manufacturing aircraft, and 53,000 people were employed by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Major air carriers and large regional carriers employed about three-quarters of those who identify themselves as holding jobs in air transportation. Occupational surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce recognize three specialized aviation related transportation occupations: pilots, mechanics, and aerospace engineers. In 1993, pilots numbered 101,000, a...