DEA News : Guest Speaker, Dinah Camilleri, PhD

Dr. Paul Chafetz introduced Dinah Camilleri, Ph.D. as a rising star who is a recent arrival to Dallas from New York. In New York, she was a Senior Organizational Effectiveness Specialist with Tiffany & Co. and taught management and I/O psychology at both Manhattan College and City College of New York. She holds a Ph.D. in I/O Psychology from Florida Institute of Technology, and related certifications from various schools, including Harvard University. Since 2017, she has worked at American Airlines in Dallas, as a Senior Specialist in Leadership Development. In this position, she

  • Assesses leadership development needs, curates training solutions, measures impact and provides plans for sustainability
  • Manages two executive leadership programs that build leadership skills to match the company’s vision strategy, measuring participant engagement and coaching leaders
  • Advances the Diversity & Inclusion initiatives at American Airlines
  • Provides internal counseling services on team building, establishing trust, improving communication and team effectiveness/productivity
  • Prepares meaningful data on employee engagement to leaders for improving employee engagement

Dinah began by explaining what I/O Psychology is and how it looks in aviation. The Industrial side deals with more technical aspects such as; Selection, Training, Performance Appraisal, Compensation, and People Analytics. The Organizational side, referred to as the softer side, is more theoretically based, and deals with Motivation, Wellness, Leadership, Feedback, and Organizational Development. It is rare to find someone who specializes in both categories, it is usually one or the other. Everything Dinah deals with falls under Organizational Psychology.

I/O Psychology is the #1 fastest growing occupation in the U.S. Areas of focus for 2020 and beyond are Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Work/Life Balance & Wellness, Changing the Nature of How People Work, Attracting & Maintaining Millennial Talent, People Analytics, Job Automation, and Leadership Development.

The employee life cycle looks the same in every organization. Who are you attracting? Who is being recruited and hired? What does their onboarding experience look like? How are you retaining the valuable talent that you have? And when they separate is it because they are leaving voluntarily or are they retiring? What is unique about aviation and what impacts this life cycle is the special skill set required (flying a plane, fixing a plane, etc.) in it. Unions are also a huge aspect and can make it very difficult to implement changes! The scale of the operation also has a big effect. The airline industry is flying millions of people a day and is a serious responsibility to do so safely. It is also a high-pressure environment. Seniority also plays a large role, especially with frontline workforce. Employees, such as mechanics, have higher seniority staying in their role versus being promoted, which makes filling leadership roles difficult.

American Airlines receives millions of job applications a year, mostly for frontline positions. Many flight benefits are extrinsic motivators for applicants. In order to be cost-effective in hiring the right applicants, American uses an assessment test to categorize specific positions to select the right candidates. They have found success in most frontline positions requires high emotional intelligence, agility, and a combination of personality traits. Validation studies over 10 years have proven these personality traits correlate with better performance.

Training ranges from technical safety training to soft skill/leadership training. Safety training changes every year with updates to plane software/technology. American spends a million dollars a day to run simulators for pilots, that numbers factoring in technology costs and what it costs to take pilots off the front line. There are specialists who are entirely in that world, either having flown themselves or spent a lot of time with pilots, who put extensive effort into recreating the actual environment. Technical, Safety and FAA training is updated monthly and is constantly being refreshed. Soft skill leadership training for frontline groups is heavily impacted by the unions and can be very difficult since it usually requires them to come off the line. The only union approved development training approved for pilots is a third-party service specializing in role-playing difficult scenarios over the phone with trained actors and coaches.

Succession planning is a huge component of the Talent Management process in aviation due to the niche industry knowledge required to backfill positions. Diversity analytics are done regularly with succession planning. And a massive effort is put into creating competency-based rating systems that are standardized across the board.

Employee Engagement, how are you retaining the valuable talent that you have? American has teams dedicated to ensuring the retention of valuable employees. There is a war for talent that works to keep talent happy, keep them engaged in their work and committed to the organization. American also performs monthly and annual pulse surveys that help hone-in-on assessments of how much faith employees have in the direction of their leaders, pride in the brand, diversity & inclusion, opportunities for growth and development. American is also instituting a Walk A Mile Program where leaders go into the operation for a week at a time. This has been a real reality check!

The aviation industry foresees a pilot shortage crisis in ten years, which will result in an 80% reduction in pilots. Lack of diversity, industry disruption, job automation, changes in customer service expectations, and leadership expectations are also concerns for the future of aviation.

W thank Dinah for taking the time to speak to us today on this fascinating topic!

Leave a Reply