Experienced pilots are already scarce and the projected growth rate of the industry shows no signs that the situation might change anytime soon. Espen Høiby, the CEO of OSM Aviation, shares his approach on how to fight ‒ and succeed ‒ in the “war for talents”.
To what extent do you think aviation career is going to be attractive in the near future? What kind of special recruitment solutions will be needed for airlines to sustain their growth plans?
I believe Aviation by default is appealing and exciting to a lot of people, especially with the highly connected world of today and with so much globalization. However, much of the glamour of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s has diminished. If we wish to attract talents to our industry, we need to reinvigorate the status of a career in the sky, offering tailored and affordable pilot education in combination with employment security, competitive wages and a full and complete career path. We all need to make sure young talents find an aviation career appealing and relevant. Therefore, we need to accentuate female role models to dissolve the old-fashioned pilot stereotypes and motivate and support more women to choose what currently is a male dominant profession.
In this “war for talents”, one needs to take a proactive approach towards candidate management and communication, utilise digital channels and tools to automate recruitment processes where possible and target effectively. OSM Aviation is, for instance, focusing heavily on industry specific technological developments and advanced tools in order to streamline the everyday work life of our crew and make routine tasks a lot more efficient. Moreover in such a highly competitive environment, one needs to stand out and offer something truly unique, sustainable and lucrative.
Attracting new talents is, however, only half of the challenge we face. Airlines’ ability to allocate their capacity and utilize their workforce efficiently is key to maintaining momentum in the market and outpace the competition. Air traffic demand, as well as the accessibility of qualified personnel, varies across the globe.
The industry has paradoxically been very locally organized as airlines mainly operate out of their “home market” to their respective destinations. Seeking additional flexibility by a more global approach represents a huge competitive advantage in terms of access to sufficient competent personnel. Opening bases outside of “home markets” without the proper infrastructure and local expertise may, however, prove quite difficult, as several airlines that have explored this opportunity have experienced.
Each country has its own culture, legislation, regulation and particular local conditions one must comply with and adapt to. Attaining an overview over these factors and meeting these requirements can be a costly and time-consuming process. For many airlines, this is a barrier that prevents them from entering profitable markets and potentially limits their chances of attracting and retaining crew.
What are the main upcoming challenges you see regarding crew management, recruitment and employment in the aviation sector?
It really evolves around attracting and educating enough qualified, talented, motivated and competent aircrew in a very competitive industry.
Sustaining growth indications and plans has already proven to be a challenge for many airlines around the world. The airline industry is highly volatile and affected by several variables, such as the cyclical nature of the business, sensitivity to economic downturns, government regulations and stability, uncertainty of fuel prices, to name just a few. Low cost carriers are also playing an increasingly important role and putting pressure on air fares. All these factors put a tremendous pressure on costs resulting in razor-thin profit margins, even in good economic times. This forces airline operators to continuously look for ways of minimizing costs within their existing structures, − eventually putting the people employed at risk.
At OSM Aviation, when we take someone on, we employ that person full-time and we make sure that person gets a job with one of our customers. If one of our customers need to scale down, we will reallocate resources and find new attractive jobs for our employees.
Today, people seek and appreciate an increasingly more dynamic and international lifestyle, which a top-tier employer also needs to adapt to. Challenges will continue to be providing enough qualified personnel, flexible solutions, while at the same time meeting all compliance requirements. Therefore, we are confident that the industry is moving towards more allocation of resources and specialization of services.
OSM Aviation has been at the vanguard of the sustainable aviation industry. Could you tell us more about the benefits and risks related to the all-electric turn in aviation training?
Yes, the future of aviation is Green and sustainable. In April 2019, we placed an order for 60 all-electric planes from Colorado-based aircraft manufacturer Bye Aerospace – the largest order for commercial electric planes to date. The electric planes, E-Flyer 2, will be used for training at the OSM Aviation Academy flight training centers to qualify pilots for the future on sustainable wings. The first planes will be delivered by the end of 2021, making it a smooth transition into going all-electric. The planes have zero emissions and operating costs are only one fifth of the cost of conventional aircraft. This enables us to offer a more affordable pilot education and contributing to a more sustainable industry.
In 2019, you have been named “the entrepreneur of the decade” by Seed Forum Global. In just six years you managed to establish and develop a company with a unique portfolio of services. Where did it all begin? How the idea of a company like OSM Aviation was born? What do you think were the crucial factors that led OSM Aviation to success?
I was very grateful to receive the award, and I will emphasize that the tremendous transformation and expansion OSM Aviation has gone through in relatively few years has essentially been a great team effort.
When I started OSM Aviation, the core essence was, and still is, to ensure secure, fair and predictable employment for air crew while at the same time contribute to operator’s success. Having been in aviation myself for 40 years, I thought it was long overdue to rethink and find a new and more sustainable model on how to attract, employ and manage crew in aviation for the benefit of operators and aircrew alike. Our growth serves as a strong testimony of our ability to merge the requirements of operators and the expectations and needs of our employees successfully.
OSM Aviation got established in September 2013 and has been experiencing an incredible growth in our 6 years of business. We currently have 6000 employees in 19 different countries.
It is always challenging to introduce innovative solutions to conservative markets, but our crucial success factors are having the best people on board. I have the privilege to work with truly experienced professionals within their respective fields who all have shared the same passion for people and aviation. In addition, OSM Maritime’s long experience and vast international network have undoubtedly been vital in the successful launch of OSM Aviation and we got two very important contracts with Norwegian Air Shuttle and Finnair amongst many other client airlines around the world.
Espen Høiby is a former airline captain for SAS and the founder and CEO of OSM Aviation. With an MBA from IMD in Switzerland, an Airline Transport Pilot license and more than 40 years of People-passion, entrepreneurship and aviation experience, Espen has brought forth infinite turnaround management, business development, and executive experience from major airlines and aviation training centers under his role as CEO. In less than six years, Espen has expanded OSM Aviation’s growth from 0 to 6000 employees, operating in over 19 countries worldwide. As part of this success, OSM Aviation has been recognized as a leading aviation management company, specialized in the employment, training and administration of air crew and technical personnel worldwide.