November 2022

The Five Minute Feature

The Five Minute Feature: Natasa Iacovides

With employee attraction and retention under the spotlight across most industries, Natasa Iacovides, Senior Manager of Human Resources at Hermes Airports and current Chair of the ACI EUROPE Leadership and HR Forum shares her thinking from the airport perspective.

What are the current challenges facing HR Managers at Europe’s airports?

The biggest challenge for HR professionals in this new era — where focus, expectations and requirements are different than before, is to help our organisations and airports understand and embrace the need to adapt and embark on a transformation journey to make them attractive employers again.

The pandemic was a real example of what we call a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, which has now become our reality. Nothing is stable, things are constantly changing, and like in the case of COVID-19, people will have to deal with situations and challenges that they never experienced before. People and organisations need to be agile, fast, efficient, and open to trying new approaches to past practices.

At the same time the pandemic affected people at a personal level; questioning what was important to them. Priorities have shifted, and today people are looking for more meaning and purpose, seeking simplicity and most importantly, work life balance. 

Airports, and in general the aviation industry, are no longer perceived as attractive employers. This is down to a number of reasons; such as too structured, too many policies and procedures which do not allow freedom and flexibility, and a lack of job security, brought on by the pandemic where many people lost their jobs from an environment which was considered to be safe. Inflation is another factor that affects the employment at the airports, as most airports are located outside cities, which makes commuting more expensive compared to other city-based organisations.

Another important challenge is sustainability. People are looking for responsible employers who care and actively contribute to the creation of a sustainable environment, both within their organisation, but also towards the wider community and environment.    

These are just a few of today’s challenges that need to be addressed by airports in order to be successful in the future.

What improvements do we need to apply across the industry to make sure aviation remains attractive to job seekers?

The first step is to identify the gap between the “old” current way of operating, and the desired “new” one based on the current reality’s requirements. To do that, we must look at corporate cultures, review values and beliefs, ensure sustainability, diversity, and inclusion are incorporated, and look at work structures to support simplicity and flexibility.

When we talk about transformation and change then automatically the attention goes to leadership, as they are the ones who will drive change by acting as role models, exhibiting behaviours which reflect new reality, and influencing their teams towards the desired direction. Therefore, it is very important to support leaders in achieving a mindset transformation.

People policies and practices need to be reassessed and aligned with the new reality, with focus on the creation of a healthy organisation. This will then lead to a working environment where employees can “breathe”, create, grow, and act ‘As One’; all important factors for the success of airports today.  Another area we should pay attention to, in order to be attractive employers, is the remuneration strategy. When we refer to remuneration, that does not include only salaries, but also other financial and non-financial benefits, which contribute to people’s wellbeing. As employers we need to define what kind of employers we want to be, where we want to stand compared to the market, and then revisit and update our remuneration packages.

And what do we need from other stakeholders to support our staff attraction and retention?

As these challenges affect all airport stakeholders, we must all approach the transformation journey with shared or similar values and with a common goal; to make our airports attractive employers again. It is a team effort and we all need to be on this journey together. Collaboration and partnerships with institutions, local authorities and in general with the community are important. 

What is the secret of successful staff retention at airports? Can you give us an example from your own work at Hermes Airports?

It is very important to consider employees as valued partners, offering them an experience that starts from the induction phase. At Hermes Airports our goal is to be an Employer of Choice in Cyprus and abroad with strong leadership and a high-performance culture. We cultivate an environment where people feel recognised and respected, with many developmental opportunities at a professional and personal level. We value transparency and honesty and have therefore introduced several two-way communication channels (meetings, employee satisfaction survey, focus groups, HermesHub (intranet) etc.) in order to keep everyone informed of what is happening, and at the same time to give employees a voice to express their suggestions for improvement as well as their concerns.   

Our focus on people and genuine care about their well-being have been acknowledged by our people, and it is shown through the satisfaction and engagement level results when in 2021 the score reached at 4.25/5; the highest score to date. At the same time our people practices have been recognised at an international and national level with a number of awards and distinctions such as platinum accreditation by Investors in People; the only airport in the world to have this accreditation, gold accreditation by MEECO Leadership, and the Human Resources Excellence Award from ACI EUROPE.

Our commitment is that we will continue to provide an excellent work experience to our people by further upgrading our practices and introducing new ones.