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Encouraging professionalism in your staffEncouraging professionalism in your staff

Maintaining professionalism in our flight schools will help our students concentrate and take their training more seriously. Our crew needs to understand that representing GA in a positive light is vital not only to attract new students, but also to support pilot retention.

The world’s best companies agree that happy employees make productive employees. This may sound like HR 101, but understanding and implementing the right balance for your particular operation can be tricky. Overwhelming rules and restrictions can create stress and resentment, but providing clear expectations and praise for accomplishments will garner satisfaction and loyalty.

While some schools believe that enforcing a strict dress code policy of official pilot uniforms, complete with shoulder boards and stripes, is the right approach to professional appearance, CFIs routinely complain about the reality and sensibility of maintaining such uniforms when they are in and out of airplanes and up, down and under aircraft, especially while dealing with either extreme heat or cold temperatures. More often than not, the morning’s fresh, crisply ironed white shirt is soon streaked with oil, wrinkled beyond belief, and a distraction to the CFI when they become aware of their disheveled appearance.

Creating a hierarchy within the flight school that is evident to students can give some the perception that their two-striped CFI isn’t as good as the one with three stripes, causing some to feel resentment. Dispatchers and schedulers routinely struggle to fill the schedules of some CFIs while juggling and squeezing in new students on already over-booked ones due to this common misconception. Equal billing for your CFIs makes everyone feel equally important and improves your overall profits.

Here are some basics to consider when creating guidelines of proper presentation and professionalism in not just your CFIs, but all staff:

  • Uniform—While an official pilot uniform isn’t necessary, wearing standard-issue flight school attire, even a logoed polo, creates an atmosphere of respect and authority, as opposed to shorts, T-shirt, and low-cut blouses, which can detract from the fact that they are in a place of business and not a casual hangout.
  • Grooming—Remember that odor (good or bad) in close proximity can be overpowering one way or another. A good rule of thumb is to treat every student as if they have severe allergies. Fragrances and cosmetics should be kept to a minimum.
  • Personal contact—Always be kind, supportive and attentive, but resist the urge to give hugs. Unless necessary for the lesson, avoid reaching over, around, or touching a student, especially while in the confines of the cockpit.
  • Communication—If a student brings up inappropriate aspects of their personal life, politely redirect the conversation back to the lesson at hand. Be sure to confine topics of conversation to aviation whenever possible. Avoid replying to texts, Tweets, Facebook comments, and emails if they are inappropriate or unrelated to training.
  • Invitations—Politely but firmly decline a student’s invitation for contact outside of their lessons if there’s a suspected romantic attraction, even if this is not a policy they adhere to with other students.
  • Never engage in idle flirtation and emotional conversations as they may be misconstrued as seduction.

Some guidelines may seem unnecessarily harsh, but it’s vital to keep the school a place of business. It’s important to get to know students and make them feel welcome, but be careful not to cross the boundary in to what could be considered inappropriate.

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