Monday, May 4, 2015

Who Needs Training? Everyone!

Matt Zuccaro, President, HAICourtesy Helicopter Association International

"if you think training costs too much money, let me assure you, that expense will pale in comparison to the cost of an accident."

I’ve noticed that when we talk about training in our industry, we tend to focus on the pilots. Don’t get me wrong, pilot training is a cornerstone of HAI’s safety initiatives. A pilot is the final safety gate for all flights, shouldering the ultimate responsibility for the safety of crew, passengers, and aircraft.

While we recognize the benefits of pilot training, it is shortsighted to think that training belongs only in the cockpit. For example, maintenance staff are absolutely critical to achieving safe and successful operations, yet their training often does not receive the same attention as that for pilots. We should look at training and development for every staff member, including flight crews, maintenance technicians, flight dispatchers, aircraft schedulers, administrative support, and management, as well as pilots.

This approach is aligned with the principles of safety management systems (SMS). First, safety and operational performance are linked: when you improve one, you improve the other. Increased safety and performance in turn affect the financial viability of your organization.

Second, all staff members are key to the success of an organization’s safety program. While pilots are the final safety gate, we now recognize that each staff member contributes to a safe flight. Accordingly, training should be developed and implemented for all staff members of an organization, from the entry-level employee up to and including the executive management and owner.

At a minimum, all staff members of a business should be schooled in that organization’s mission, policies, and procedures. This may seem too basic to mention, but this foundation is necessary for everyone to work in a coordinated, interdependent, and supportive manner. Unless you have a payroll of one, every business depends on the teamwork of various departments and specialists working together.

Subsequent training would focus on individuals’ specific duties, the technical requirements of their positions, and how they can contribute to their own safety and that of their co-workers and customers. When you step back and look at how each individual contributes to the success of the operation, the value of a structured training program for each individual becomes apparent.

When assessing training needs for your organization, don’t forget to look in the mirror. Owners, executives, and management personnel all need to be involved in professional development programs too. This may shock some, but even I do not know all things and need training.

In building your professional development program, you’ll have many choices. But I urge you to always train to a higher level, beyond the minimum legal and regulatory requirements. Train your personnel to conduct their responsibilities as though every detail matters — because in our industry, it does.

Just as we have initial and recurrent training for pilots, you should consider the life cycle of professional development for all employees. Training isn’t just a box to check off — many employees will benefit from periodic refresher or advanced courses.

The benefits of a well-developed, comprehensive training program are many. The most notable are the prevention of accidents, injuries, and death. However, both commercial and general aviation / private operations can also reap enhanced operational efficiencies that will translate into improved financial performance. Commercial operators should realize retention and expansion of the customer base.

If you are one of those people who think you already know everything and therefore don’t need professional development, think again. You probably need training more than anyone. As the great basketball coach John Wooden said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
Some of you may put off training because of cost concerns. This is understandable. My readers who maintain an aircraft for personal use have already sunk considerable sums into their passion. And for business owners, the financial health of their operation is always top of mind.

However, if you think training costs too much money, let me assure you, that expense will pale in comparison to the cost of an accident. To really analyze training costs, you should also look at how much you are losing because of operational inefficiencies, not to mention the revenue lost to your competitors.
Well-trained, safety-oriented employees have the best chance to produce the safest, most efficient operations. There is a solid business case for training, and it’s time for us all to get on board.
That’s my story and I am sticking to it. Let me know what you think at tailrotor@aol.com.
As always, fly safe — fly neighborly.
Best regards,
Matt Zuccaro
Matt Zuccaro is president and CEO of HAI.

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