Have a look at the latest company and industry updates below.

Symbiotics' Mike Miller has written the below following our exhibition and attendance at EATS this month:

Well, what can I say? Our first exhibition with our new branding and I think it’s fair to say (and not too boastful) that we enjoyed two very successful days in Madrid. Although it is billed as the European Aviation Training Symposium, we welcomed delegates from as far afield as Canada, Japan, China, South Korea, USA, India and the Philippines!

Both the Tuesday and Wednesday flew by with many conversations both on and off the exhibition stand ranging from ab-initio to instructor online assessments, psychological evaluations together with mental wellbeing and emotional intelligence. A lot of work for us to follow up post-event – a welcome problem to work through!

Our presentation on the first day – Pilot Selection – Psychological Evaluation and Mental Wellbeing – was very well received with a number of delegates stopping by our stand to discuss further or simply to offer congratulations to our presenters – Karen Moore – Principal Occupational Psychologist at Symbiotics and Hazel Wheldon CEO at our key business partner – MHS Assessments.

Personally, I believe mental wellbeing is the elephant in the room – everyone knows it’s there but widespread discussion is not necessarily forthcoming. I said this after EATS2017 and I will say it again – when will the issue be properly recognized and assessed before another compelling event occurs?

EATS2018 confirmed the demand for pilots – at trainee, newly qualified and experienced levels – continues apace and that Symbiotics’ cost-effective, reliable assessments can meet the requirements of all three ( not to mention our Instructor, Cabin Crew and Technician tests!). Together with our report interpretation training and airline profiling (ensuring candidates with “the right stuff” are recruited and trained) Symbiotics is well placed as “one-stop shop” aviation assessment provider.

If you wish to know more please contact either Mike Miller at michael.miller@symbioticsltd.co.uk or Karen Moore at karen.moore@symbioticsltd.co.uk

– EASA CAT.GEN.MPA.175 Endangering safety

After the Germanwings Flight 9525 incident, the Regulatory Authorities have been looking at ways to ensure that the circumstances that lead to the loss of 150 lives on March 24 2015, should not be able to happen again.

It has been accepted that the main causative factor of this incident was the mental health issues suffered by the Co-Pilot, which resulted in his deliberate crashing of the aircraft, committing suicide, with the attendant collateral deaths.

With this in mind, the regulators have been looking at how cockpit, and therefore flight, safety levels can be improved. Initially, the knee jerk reaction of the ‘two person cockpit rule’, was a band aid to show the world that action was being taken. This ‘bought’ some time, whilst the wider issues of Pilot stress, mental health and wellbeing were considered.

After two and half years of consideration, as of 23rd July 2018, the first step has been taken, with the introduction of new guidelines in regulating air operators’ means of ensuring that their flight deck crew are appropriately tested for psychological stability, and suitability for their profession, has been announced.

We do not believe that the new regulations will address the main issue of Flight Crew Mental Health and Wellbeing and ‘misses’ this point. A start, yes, but more understanding and work urgently needs to be done if the required safety wish is to be granted!

Whilst this requirement to conduct appropriate testing has been declared, there is a two year period to allow operators to prepare themselves to be able to comply with the rules as soon as they become mandatory.

If history is anything to go by, specifically with regards to Aviation, this two year period will pass by, until Companies suddenly realise that they are going to have to actually have this process documented and working ‘next week’! Notwithstanding the apathetic approach to the need, there is the small matter of cost to address, which is yet another reason the fabled ‘bean counters’ will no doubt want to avoid the topic where at all possible.

That aside, this is possibly one of the most important steps in Safety to be mooted for many years, and should be now being openly discussed and understood by all sectors of the industry, and seen for what it is, a way of raising the bar on safety, and also helping highlight one of the key factors of the decline in pilot numbers, the way which pilots are treated by their employers in many cases.

In the following, we will look at what the current situation is, what the new regulations actually achieve, and what we believe are the actual actions that are required to start to make a real difference.

To commence the discussion of the importance of this step, but also highlight why the new regulations do not go far enough, the keystone declaration needs to be understood.

Here is the EASA Terms of Reference for the regulatory changes.

(The link to the regulation published 26 July 2018 can be accessed: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32018R1042&from=EN)

The specific text therein is
CAT.GEN.MPA.175 Endangering safety

  • (a) The Operator shall take all reasonable measures to ensure that no person recklessly, intentionally or negligently acts or omits to act so as to:
    • (1) endanger an aircraft or person therein; or
    • (2) cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property
  • (b) The operator shall ensure that flight crew has undergone a psychological assessment before commencing line flying in order to:
    • (1) identify psychological attributes and suitability of the flight crew in respect of the work environment; and
    • (2) reduce the likelihood of negative interference with the safe operation of the aircraft.
  • (c) Considering the size, nature and complexity of the activity of an operator, an operator may replace the psychological assessment referred to in point (b) with an internal assessment of the psychological attributes and suitability of flight crew;

Note 1: Point c) would apply for an operator with only one or two aircraft, perhaps light aircraft doing displays. EASA probably would not look favourably on any larger commercial operator trying to do an internal assessment of psychological attributes and suitability, nor would the insurance companies!

Note 2: The line about ‘in respect of the work environment’ supports the need to assess at every point of recruitment (i.e. change of company), not just before they start line flying in the first place, or based upon a ‘previous’ assessment at a prior Operator. Work environments change between organisations, because there is a cultural element in stress as well as the actual role requirements.

So, this is the ‘new’ regulation. Basically, it means that to comply with this, in a sensible and realistic manner, Operators merely have to conduct a ‘Psychometric’ test.

Psychometric tests are a standard and scientific method used to measure individuals' mental capabilities and behavioural style. Psychometric tests are designed to measure candidates' suitability for a role based on the required personality characteristics and aptitude (or cognitive abilities)’.

– Introduction to Psychometric Tests – Institute of Psychometric Coaching.

Working extensively in the field of Pilot Recruitment and Management, it can be seen that most Airlines and Operators already have a testing procedure in place in their selection processes already. Therefore, it is not clear what effect the new regulation is going to have in the real world.

As would be expected there is a fair amount of disagreement among the Psychologists, including those on the EASA steering committee, about whether this new declaration actually changes anything from this present situation (ADAPT/Psychometric Tests being part of the airline selection procedure), adds to it, or indeed actually solves any of the main issues of actual mental health (as opposed to personality suitability) now and going forwards.

For the lay persons amongst us, there needs to be some clarity outlined here, so that we can understand the issues.

So to simplify,

  • 1. What is the problem being solved?
  • 2. What is the current procedure for testing?
  • 3. What does the new ‘procedure’ achieve?
  • 4. Why is this not enough?

1. What is the problem being solved?

This is the crux of the matter. Workers in any industry are subject to stress induced issues, depending upon a whole raft of factors. Whether a ‘situation’ is work induced or due to personal issues, short term or long term, major or minor, how people ‘cope’ in any given circumstance is the end result. That end result defines the outcome in terms of success or failure.

Flight Crew are no different. However, the outcome of an issue for a flight crew member can be dramatically more disastrous than in the majority of other industries.

Basically, Airlines/Operators of aircraft want to ensure that the Flight Crew members they employ will not only be able to cope with all the normal stresses and strains of the repetitive delivery of a successful outcome for every flight, but also to react and perform perfectly when under the most hideous of stressful situations. To achieve this ‘capability prediction’, over the 100 years of aviation a series of tests have been developed to find out whether a pilot has ‘the right stuff’!

2. What is the current procedure for testing?

Developed by a variety of interested parties this has evolved from simply ensuring that your pilot had a straight back, and could survive a Chukka of polo in good enough order (flying skills were a secondary consideration), to modern day Psychometric testing to measure individuals mental capabilities and behavioural styles.

Present day crew selection processes will vary from company to company, but will usually be a mix of the following:

  • pre selection based on previous skills,
  • interviews and assessments (telephone/skype/face to face/group
  • flight skill checking (usually in the safety of a simulator)
  • some form of psychometric test.

Psychometric tests are designed to measure a candidate’s suitability for a specific role based on the required personality characteristics and aptitude. They can be used to determine whether or not a particular pilot is likely to follow set procedures, capable of handling stress, reacting under certain circumstances in a desired way that facilitates a successful operating environment, and whether they are able to fit into the particular culture of a particular Airline

3. What does the ‘new’ procedure achieve?

The ‘new’ procedure is simply the same as the ‘old’ procedure of testing, but in a mandated format. This is fine for selecting your crew member from a pool of supposedly normal and well-adjusted individuals. It should even highlight some potential issues with personality types that have predispositions to susceptibility to metal health issues. It will predict which crew members are able to fit culturally in the organisation, which ones are able to carry out their tasks in a predictable and understandable manner, and those likely to be able to be upgraded to Captain/PIC

It ensures that Airlines document what they do, so that should an incident occur, then everyone can say they did the best they could.

There is no definition as to what extra is needed to add to current testing, nor what possibilities there are to make things much better. It pushes the responsibility onto the Airline with little further guidance.

4. Why is that not enough?

The simple Psychometric test, whilst still a valuable predictive tool for personality testing, does not give any further guidance as to how a crew member feels on a day to day basis, as their life changes. It clearly does not ensure that the crew member is monitored for the changes in mental health that occur due to the stress and strains of normal life, work and also the unavoidable crises that occur throughout life

The vital fact being missed here is that Personality and Mental Health are two different things!

Personality is stable over time, but mental health fluctuates from day to day, so a personality profile cannot measure or accurately predict mental wellbeing state at a particular time.

Whilst the above mentioned selection procedures have very successfully worked for many years in the vast majority of cases, and ‘weeded’ out very many individuals whose personal choice of career unfortunately did not necessarily match their overall suitability for the role, the compounding issue is that the role of pilot is changing due to a range of new factors.

Expansion – Due to the vast increase in the air travel industry over the last few years, there is an ever increasing requirement for new crew to fill new aircraft front seats. The public expects to fly, and airlines (as corporate entities) want to fly them (revenue generates profit for stakeholders). So, there is a an expansion in the number of crew required, which is unfortunately not matched by the number of crew coming into the industry, nor the capability of training crews quickly (but properly).

Expectation - This leads to Airlines ever increasing expectations for their current crew to fly to the maximum hours as possible. This leads to stress at work, fatigue and a quality of life reduction. No longer are the 7 day lay overs on the beach in the Maldives a ’perk of the job’. Minimum rest turn rounds are the rage which, mixed with crossing numerous time zones for long haul crew, can lead to serious health and fatigue induced issues. For short haul ‘Low-Cost’ crew the work day can be seriously busy with some flying six leg days, with early starts and late finishes, and split shifts, not uncommon

Automation – The changing face of the role of pilot from being ‘hands on fighter pilots’ to the role of systems monitor, is not one that sits kindly with the previous definition of the right stuff. Whilst automation is championed by many to prevent the ‘human error’ part of an accident chain, over automation has brought many problems of its own. This will actually get worse with the push to ‘single pilot cockpits’. This affects the pilots by effectively emasculating the role (females pilots suffer similarly so the word is not meant in a sexist definition) that they have trained for. There is also a reduction in manual handling skills through lack of practice. This shows itself usually at the point where the pilot needs to be exactly at their best…when automation fails, and the aircraft is in a perilous position.

Erosion – There has been not only a reduction in the salary and benefits of the position of pilots in value terms (Pilots earn largely the same amount they did 20 years ago in real terms, but the value has vastly reduced), but a big erosion in the attractiveness of the position. Piloting is no longer perceived in the same way it was 20 or 30 years ago, nowadays many just think of their pilot as a glorified ‘bus driver’. Luckily there are still enough new aspirant pilots, but the numbers are definitely dwindling, so the technological push to single pilot cockpits, may be the way that Aviation survives in the medium term!

These factors have changed the face of piloting to such an extent that simply knowing the character of the pilot may not be enough to prevent the type of incidents such as the Germanwings case. Even more so, when that profile may have been assessed some years ago, and no longer reflect the level of resilience needed to cope with today’s environment. Add in the fact that the personality profiles do not assess mental health, and you can see the gaping hole!

The need for attention on this subject becomes more urgent as time passes. However, finding a workable solution in the face of cost, time and a lack of understanding of the real issues, is not going to be easy or quick. The simple fact is that something needs to start now, and at least EASA have got that part right.

Consider the following, Regulators mandate that the Commercial Pilot licence, once gained, is checked by LPC every 12 months, and by OPC every 6 months. Yet, the same Regulators accept that the Pilot mental health needs only be checked at the beginning of their work, and no more. This seems strange unless you consider the difference between licencing and mental health. One has been developed over the years by Aviation technical people, all of whom at least once had the ‘right stuff’ themselves. The other is an ethereal human factor that is hard to understand for the technical mind.

To make it simple, and understandable, the following check list should be applied:

  1. Check Personality and suitability at beginning of employment
  2. Check Mental health and wellbeing of flight crew (there are established ways to do this cost effectively)
  3. Repeat regularly during employment (every 3 to 4 months is NOT enough, but just adequate).
  4. Deal with highlighted issues in a trackable, confidential and sympathetic manner.
  5. Set up Peer Support Groups. Get Pilots to help with Pilots.
  6. Attend to the factors causing issues with the flight crew member
  7. Get a better adjusted and happier work force, saving costs on illness and other issues.

Realistically, if you have a check at the beginning and have no further checking, how can an Airline or Operator be said to be doing their ‘best’ to ensure that an incident such as the Germanwings crash is unlikely to happen again, when the parameters change very quickly over time?

The Authors

Robin Hepworth. M.R.E.C. Business Manager, Resource Group Flight Crew Services; Commercial and VIP Flight Crew Management and Recruitment Specialists

Karen Moore CPsychol CSci AFBPsS, MD and Principal Occupational Psychologist at Symbiotics; specialist in assessing human behaviour and potential.

Symbiotics were delighted to sponsor the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) conference last month with a focus on Aircrew Mental Health: Going Beyond Compliance, as this is an area of key importance. As part of the conference stream Symbiotics' Principal Occupational Psychologist, Karen Moore, presented a paper around Monitoring Mental Health and how best this can be effectively and economically measured to best support individuals and companies.

This was a very positive event overall, with some interesting papers and some positive messages coming out from all involved regarding progress around mental wellbeing within the industry and the monitoring of pilot mental health. The creation of peer support networks is ongoing too, which is also generating some additional interesting challenges as a result. To be a good 'counselling' pilot within the support network one requires a good level of emotional intelligence and listening skills, traits that pilots are not necessarily naturally strong at.

Karen, and all of the Symbiotics team, are passionate about monitoring mental wellbeing across all industries and are looking to make sure that people are being picked up before they feel that they have reached a point of 'I need help'. Understanding that this is a journey to this stage, we know that there are indicators along the way that could be picked up and support at this stage could stop someone getting to the point where they don't know which way to turn.

Promoting ongoing support and monitoring mental wellbeing as opposed to allowing individuals to reach a poor mental state was the specific topic for the event. Of the eight registered aviation-specific psychologists in the UK, five were in attendance at the conference and the reception to Karen's paper was very positive with lots of interesting discussions stemming from this.

Mental health within aviation isn't a new discussion, indeed the first mental hospital specifically for pilots was opened in London in 1917. These conversations are happening more openly and urgently now as a result of the regulatory changes, but it has taken 100 years for the regulations to catch up and recognise that mental wellbeing of pilots is a very important consideration.

This event demonstrated the importance of the work Symbiotics is doing and just underlines how important it is for mental wellbeing to remain at the forefront of the mind whilst ensuring the difference is understood between personality measures and measures of mental wellbeing. Our partnership with MHS Assessments in the offering of MindQ is an important part of the picture.

As a clinically validated assessment, changes in an individual's mental wellbeing can be tracked and potential risk therefore highlighted. Investing in this benefits obviously the people involved but also can increase productivity of the team overall by reducing absenteeism and presenteeism, both dangerous in high-risk industries such as aviation. Both MindQ and our personality questionnaire are supported by Symbiotics' team of psychologists to provide vital feedback allowing the wellbeing of the team to be an easy task to maintain.

To find out more about how Symbiotics can help you to look after the mental wellbeing of your team, to find out when Karen is speaking next or to enquire about a demonstration of any of our software get in touch with us on +44 (0) 1905 368175 or email contact@symbioticsltd.co.uk.

Over the past month, the team at Symbiotics are delighted to have exhibited at both the Police Federation Conference and the Three Counties Defence & Security Expo. We are keen to develop awareness of our ADAPT system and its applications within the police and security field, with proven successes already for police forces across the country.

Our Full ADAPT offering to the police is a five stage process building a naturalistic and context specific view of an individual. Part of this process is an immersive situational exercise and we have a demonstrator version of this element of the Police ADAPT process that we are able to invite participants to have a go at themselves. At both of these events we saw a high level of interest in Police ADAPT and we were delighted to see the number of delegates who were keen to have a go on the demo and learn more about how it works and can benefit police forces and specialist divisions across the country.

With the Police Federation representing more than 120,000 officers across England and Wales, it was a very well attended conference with some high-profile speakers and a keen interest in all that was going on. The scene of the new Home Secretary's first keynote speech, this conference was an ideal opportunity to demonstrate Police ADAPT to the officers and staff for whom this could make a big difference. The same was true of the Three Counties Defence & Security Expo, with delegates from across Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire strong in attendance and often queueing for their chance to experience Police ADAPT.

With the current failure rate of a standard firearms officer course running between 40% and 60%, Police ADAPT is able to help provide the insight to identify the candidates who are the best fit and most likely to successfully complete the training. Through working alongside Symbiotics, RaSP are running at 70% success and our 'second course' advice brings this up to 80%. South Wales Police have managed to bring their success rate up to 90% through collaborating with our team, resulting in significant cost and time savings. Can you afford not to ask us about how Police ADAPT can help you?

To find out more about the Police ADAPT process, or for a demonstration, get in touch with the team on +44 (0) 1905 368 175 or email contact@symbioticsltd.co.uk.

Mental Health and Personality are two very distinct parts of an individual's make up between which the lines of perception can often get blurred. Here at Symbiotics we understand the difference between these and the importance they play in the day-to-day life of each and every one of us.

Personality is something that has encouraged many theories and studies across the years, the word itself stemming from the Latin persona meaning the mask worn by performers in the theatre to play different roles or disguise themselves. What most definitions of personality focus on though are the patterns of innate characteristics from which a person's preferences are defined and explained, something which remains consistent throughout an individual's lifetime. Simply, our personality influences how we react in certain situations and this is unlikely to change; it is our psychological footprint, remaining the same across all surfaces and situations.

Mental health can be seen as the fluctuating shadow to the stable footprint. This is something that can change across time, affected by a range of factors that can be different for us all. Covering our emotional, psychological and social well-being, mental health affects how we think, feel and act as well as determining specific stress responses, relationships and decision making both in and out of the workplace.

Both our footprints and our shadow are important parts of an individual, with our personality and mental wellbeing affecting how we interact with peers as well as our approach to different situations. Symbiotics understand the difference of both of these factors as well as the impact that they each have on our conduct and we offer a range of tools to assess and identify support needs for both, with the support of our in-house team of psychologists.

Symbiotics are proud to boast a personality questionnaire that meets the stringent requirements of the governing bodies of high-risk industries such as aviation. For airline pilots, suitability and resilience are factors that it is vital to assess before recruitment, as those with personalities prone to, for example, risk taking behaviours are unlikely to be suited to an environment with such heavy consequences in the event of error.

As part of the ADAPT suite of tools, Symbiotics offer a personality questionnaire based on the Big Five factors of personality (extraversion, agreeableness, openness, neuroticism and conscientiousness). This is combined with the FAA’s approved Hazardous Attitudes scale and produces unique profiles for each individual to indicate capacity for learning and predicted reactions under pressure. This is supported by a number of other constructs in our assessment process including measures of resilience, stress management and anxiety.

Personality is obviously just part of the picture and whereas an initial personality questionnaire will provide the mental footprint of a person, how they are likely to approach and react to situations based on their innate footprint, we can’t forget the shadow. Mental Health, or mental wellbeing as we prefer to approach it, fluctuates throughout life and is something that should be looked at regularly across all individuals in all industries, because it is something that affects us all. Symbiotics are delighted to be working alongside MHS Assessments in our use of MindQ, the clinically validated risk assessment tool. This allows for the identification of people who are at risk of mental health conditions and allows them to be directed to the appropriate resources and support needed to improve their mental wellbeing.

Symbiotics work with a variety of clients across industries that include aviation and the police to provide the insight into both personality and mental health that can be used to support all involved. By aiding informed selection, we allow companies to ensure they have the right people in the right positions as well as highlighting mental wellbeing issues within a team. This can have a substantial impact in reducing absenteeism and presenteeism as well as increasing productivity and staff retention, whilst helping to ensure that those put into high-pressure roles and scenarios are the best-suited to deal with these.

To find out more about how Symbiotics can help you, get in touch with the team on +44 (0)1905 368175 or email contact@symbioticsltd.co.uk.

AAETS 2018 was not only a welcome opportunity to network with existing and potential clients but to also gain valuable knowledge of the current South Korean civil aviation sector with our focus on Airline Training and Recruitment. Of particular significance was the Symbiotics Ltd symposium presentation regarding the issue of assessing mental wellbeing within the pilot community. More on that later.

Some of the key themes we heard during keynote addresses, presentations and panel discussions included:

  • How the South Korean government departments and Civil Aviation Authority are delivering their strategy to recruit, train and deploy pilots in sufficient numbers to meet increased demand for air travel in the coming years
  • How to deliver successful training programmes for pilots, cabin crew and maintenance operatives
  • New methods and technology in training delivery
  • Future training programmes to tackle the rise in aircrew required in line with increased consumer demand for air travel whether short, medium or long haul
  • The issue regarding the quality of newly CPL qualified pilots and their suitability to be employed by commercial airlines – with some reports of 30%-40% of prospective pilots failing assessment days

Again, an aviation education and training event focused on training delivery programmes and technological advances but little discussion around volume-based and consistent aircrew recruitment pre-screening and assessment. Perhaps, if more time and resource was given to this key element of the training process, perhaps we would see a drop in the numbers of applicants failing airline assessment days.

Symbiotics Ltd was proud and honoured to be awarded a speaker role at AAETS 2018. The issue of mental wellbeing among aircrew is gaining traction within the aviation sector. In response to this our Principal Occupational Psychologist, Karen Moore delivered the presentation "Monitoring Mental Health".

A few key points to take from Karen's presentation:

  • 5 to 1.7 people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition
  • In 2011 there were 618,000 certificated pilots – by 2035 it's predicted this will rise to an additional 617,000 pilots
  • Given the accepted incidence figures, this suggests that approximately 114,000 pilots could be experiencing a mental health condition at this moment.

Currently, EASA guidelines focus on psychological assessments at the point of entry for pilots and there are well-established assessments to predict the personality traits and behaviours required to fill different roles i.e. assessing a person's psychological "footprint".

Assessing mental wellbeing on a regular basis can identify at an early stage where an intervention is required and advice and guidance provided.

Will the industry become more pro-active in managing this issue or do we wait for another compelling event, such as the Germanwings incident, to force the issue?

Symbiotics offer a suite of selection tools, but are also working with MHS Assessments in our use of MindQ, a clinically validated mental wellbeing risk assessment. We firmly believe that by investing in the mental wellbeing of your team has a substantial impact in reducing absenteeism or presenteeism and increasing productivity, as well as allowing those at risk of potential mental health conditions to be directed to the appropriate resources and support.

If you want to find out more about how we can help you look after the mental wellbeing of your team then please get in touch via Karen.moore@symbioticsltd.co.uk or 01905 368 175.

Mental health is almost seen as a 'dirty word' – to be avoided and not mentioned if at all possible. Certainly for pilots, the possibility of admitting that their mental state is less than perfect could lead to fear of losing their licence and consequently be a disincentive to acknowledging that they might have difficulties. Yet mental health is something that is present in all people, all of the time. All individuals operate on a wellness spectrum from 'OK' to 'not OK' but it is only when one moves to 'not OK' that mental health is talked about. Perhaps it is time to talk about mental wellbeing instead, with a focus on how we keep people in this positive state?

There have been multiple aviation-specific papers and guidelines in the wake of the Germanwings tragedy, addressing mental health by risk assessing psychological traits at key career points – recruitment, employer change or command upgrade, but as Symbiotics Principal Occupational Psychologist, Karen Moore, says "These are useful, but will not achieve the objective of identifying crew who are at risk of breakdown episodes. They also don't cover the other teams associated within the safe running of an airline – the cabin attendants, engineers or baggage handlers for example. The potential outcomes of action from a member of one of these populations putting an aircraft at risk are no less significant than the actions of the flight crew."

Statistics from the mental health Charity, Mind suggest that globally 1 in 4 adults will experience at least one mental health condition in any one year, and that at any particular time 1 in 6 adults are experiencing a mental health condition; that is around 450 million people globally.

So how does this transfer to the aviation and aerospace sector?

Given the accepted incidence figures and FAA pilot recruitment statistics, this means that approximately 114,000 pilots could be experiencing a mental health condition at this moment. And that's just pilots. What about other people in the sector, such as baggage handlers and Air Traffic Managers, who have many of the similar stressors in their work – odd working patterns, difficult working conditions, long hours and experiencing jet lag.

Outside of the work situation, these roles place demands on everyday life and relationships – disrupted and unsociable sleep patterns, and often not being around for key family events. These are all in addition to the normal everyday challenges we all experience, such as illness, bereavement and relationship difficulties. Maintaining mental wellbeing within these difficult situations can be a challenge.

Symbiotics are delighted to announce that, alongside their ADAPT suite of industry-leading selection tools, they are working with MHS Assessments in their use of MindQ, the clinically validated mental wellbeing risk assessment. Symbiotics work with global aviation businesses and airlines to address this missing link and to provide the assessments and understanding to help mitigate this risk. By identifying who is at risk of potential mental health conditions this allows them to be directed to the appropriate resources and support, to improve their mental wellbeing.

Principal Occupational Psychologist at Symbiotics, Karen Moore, will be speaking on this subject at AAETS which will certainly be an insightful seminar to attend. If you want to find out more around MindQ or Symbiotics then Karen and the team would be happy to discuss this with you further.

We were pleased to attend The Division of Occupational Psychology (DOP) Annual Conference recently, hosted by The British Psychological Society.

There were several very interesting streams of papers around wellbeing and assessment which were of particular interest to us because of our associations with RaSP and the ARV. Some of these papers covered assessments within the police context specifically, which helped to underpin some of the content we provide through our Investigative Skills training courses that we undertake with the emergency services and beyond.

One of the ADAPT psychologists, Frances, said "the conference provided some good insight into research projects and all of the latest papers. There was a broad range of topics and themes covered, but the commonalities arising from the conference are directly relevant to the industries we work with".

Other streams particularly relevant for us were the focus on wellbeing and the difficulties arising when wellbeing inventions aren't accepted by the target audience because they don't feel like it is relevant to them. This can often be because of the stigma associated with mental health issues and an unwillingness still to discuss the topic. This leads to a need to have some way of identifying the people who do need the interventions – identifying those at risk of mental health problems. We work with MHS Assessments in the use of MindQ, a clinically validated mental wellbeing risk assessment. This helps to identify the people at risk of mental health issues and enable them to receive the support required.

We were also pleased to understand more about the ongoing research into the use of digital within assessments and behavior. This supports the work that we are currently undertaking around the latest developments in assessments in the digital age and it was great to hear confirmation that we are following the best practice methods put forward by the British Psychological Society. As Frances said: "our online products are using the latest research into digital behavior and assessment".

Apart from the opportunity to exhibit and network at EATS 2017, we at Symbiotics Ltd, were also very keen to hear the latest thinking and developments in Airline Training and Recruitment. Therefore attending key seminars, panel discussions and keynote addresses.

Some of the key themes we heard included:

  • Sector is facing a number of emerging technologies that require regulation
  • Air Traffic Management is becoming more automated with the prospect of single European sky regulation
  • "One size fits all" training may not be suitable going forward – the client base i.e. trainees is changing – Millennials and Generation Z
  • Greater use of Evidence Based Training for both initial and recurrent training
  • Meeting the great challenge for pilot supply ensuring the right people are entering the industry, optimum training processes are in place and providing attractive pilot careers
  • Pre-screening of candidates based on independent assessment of core competencies to open the profession to more candidates from divergent backgrounds
  • A requirement for continuous pilot competence development and assessment

One element that did, however, seem to be missing was discussion around assessing mental wellbeing – for all aircrew. EASA guidelines focus on psychological assessments at the point of entry for pilots and there are well-established assessments to predict the personality traits and behaviours required to fill different roles i.e. assessing a person’s psychological "footprint".

However, as aircrew take on extra responsibilities within their respective roles as well as the demands of balancing changes within home and family life, mental wellbeing can differ greatly season to season, month to month, day to day, hour by hour. In effect, mental wellbeing is our "shadow" and therefore more prevalent to change.

Assessing mental wellbeing on a regular basis can identify at an early stage where an intervention is required and advice and guidance provided.

Will the industry become more pro-active in managing this issue or do we wait for another compelling event to force the issue?

Symbiotics offer a suite of selection tools, but are also working with MHS Assessments in our use of MindQ, a clinically validated mental wellbeing risk assessment. We firmly believe that by investing in the mental wellbeing of your team has a substantial impact in reducing absenteeism or presenteeism and increasing productivity, as well as allowing those at risk of potential mental health conditions to be directed to the appropriate resources and support.

If you want to find out more about how we can help you look after the mental wellbeing of your team then please get in touch with Karen Moore by email or on 01905 368 175.

It has become clearer over the past few years that we are in the midst of a pilot shortage. Some of the larger airlines have already had to cancel flights this year for this reason, with Ryanair and Norwegian just two of the affected airlines that serve the UK. Globally the problem is even bigger.

Airlines are looking into different options to solve this issue, as the cost of cancelled flights will run into the millions with lost revenue and compensation pay outs proving costly but the negative impact this would do to their reputation harder to repair. Air travel is becoming more normal for the general public, with it expected that availability of a flight to their desired destination should be no more hassle than getting on a train or bus. As such there is a growing need to find a new generation of pilots to handle the increasing demand placed on the aviation industry.

As well as options such as reducing visa restrictions for foreign pilots, or offering additional benefits and opportunities to new pilots, one of the ways that airlines can help to plug this skills gap is by recruiting aspiring pilots with zero flight hours. It is too early to tell yet if this will become 'the norm' but pre-selection and smarter candidate assessment will need to play an even bigger part in the recruitment process if this is the case.

This is where Symbiotics come in. Our ADAPT suite of selection tools are used worldwide by airlines and training academies to assess not just pilots but also cabin crew and engineers too. By identifying the candidates who have the strongest training potential Symbiotics' ADAPT tools can be used by international airlines and pilot training academies to discover and acquire the best personnel. Informed recruitment decisions can then be made with a greater understanding of trainability and operational effectiveness of the next generation of pilots entering the industry.

With the need for these pilots to be able to graduate straight onto the flight deck, having the best candidates from an early stage will be vital for airlines and flight schools to both improve their workforce whilst reducing associated risk from those candidates who are not best suited for the profession.

Coupled with the MindQ mental wellbeing risk assessment that we offer here at Symbiotics, we are able to help airlines to exceed the IATA Guidance Material & Best Practice for Pilot Aptitude Testing regulations as well as the incoming EASA guidelines for pilot mental wellbeing. When pilots are being recruited with zero flying hours, these checks and assessments become vital to help ensure that risk to all involved is kept as low as reasonably practicable.

MindQ can be used to identify those who are at risk of potential mental health conditions which then allows them to be directed to the appropriate resources and support to improve their mental wellbeing. This can help prevent issues from arising, reducing and highlighting risk potential by tracking any changes within an individual's mental wellbeing. Something important within all industries but especially the high risk situation faced by aviation professionals.

Investing in the mental wellbeing of your team can also have a substantial impact in reducing absenteeism or presenteeism, and increasing productivity. All so key to a skill-short industry already. To find out more about how Symbiotics can support with assessment, selection or mental wellbeing get in touch via email on contact@symbioticsltd.co.uk or call +44 (0) 1905 368 175.

Symbiotics are pleased to attend a lot of conferences over the course of a year and delighted to be gathering momentum with speaking engagements alongside this. Karen Moore is our principal occupational psychologist and has a busy public speaking calendar where she is able to share her knowledge and promote mental wellbeing across all professions. I sat down with Karen to find out a bit more about why she feels so strongly about raising awareness of mental wellbeing through her presentations and how she sees the industry changing.

Karen Moore

We're aware that a focus of yours this year has been to raise awareness of mental wellbeing through presenting at various conferences – what about this appeals to you the most and why are you keen to share your knowledge?

I am passionate about this topic, which has meant that my public speaking engagements have been more enjoyable. Mental wellbeing is a topic for all industries and employers because it affects everybody. My primary concern and reason for raising awareness is so that when we are looking at mental wellbeing, we do so from the right perspective: not looking to diagnose those who are ill, but making sure that everyone stays as well as they can be.

What is your background in this area?

I am an Occupational Psychologist and have been involved in corporate training and development for a long time. Part of this work has increasingly become about the resilience of individuals to cope with the stresses that change puts on them. These can include the demands of working practises, the fast moving pace of work, globalisation and stretched targets as well as all of the other aspects of their life outside of work. I’ve seen the impact that stresses can have on an individual and the influence it can have on their mental wellbeing. As an occupational psychologist I am concerned with working with people who are predominantly well in the workplace, as opposed to clinical psychologists who work with those who have a recognised, specific need. Occupational psychology is all about keeping people well and effective.

What is the key thing that you want people to take away from your presentations?

That everybody has mental health and we do people who are at the ‘not okay’ end of the spectrum a disservice by thinking it only applies to them. Research shows that the number of people who will suffer from a mental health condition in their life is astronomically high. This is why it is such an important issue and why I use the term mental wellbeing as opposed to mental health, because it is more of a positive way of approaching it.

What have you found to be the most challenging part of your career to date?

Standing up in front of an audience, definitely. I have spent a lot of my career doing one-to-one counselling and feedback, so that is my comfort zone. Standing up in front of an audience is a challenge, but the importance of the message can’t be shared to its full impact in a one-to-one situation quickly enough. Although mediums like social media are useful at sharing the message, the best impact can be made when you hear someone talk about it.

What changes have you seen in the industry in your career so far?

As a young psychologist I joined a profession that was overwhelmingly white, middle-class, male dominated. This has definitely changed, as the vast majority of psychology graduates generally, and occupational psychologists as a result, are now female, and the diversity in other respects is huge. The British Psychological Society introduced a Chartered Member grade, requiring further years of study and demonstrated competence for this to be achieved. This is regarded as the gold standard for psychologists, and is particularly respected by clients in the Middle East and Asia. Also, the profession is now regulated within the UK by the Health and Care Professions Council, adding a further level of reassurance for clients about the standards of practice. Then, the nature of the work we do has changed. In the 1980’s the first proper definition of the areas of work was carried out, and these underwent a substantial review a couple of years ago, resulting in five clear areas that occupational psychologists expect to undertake: Psychological Assessment at Work; Learning, Training and Development; Leadership, Engagement and Motivation; Wellbeing and Work; Work Design, Organisational Change and Development. As you can see, the services Symbiotics offer fall into a number of these areas.

What has been the biggest challenge you've found as an occupational psychologist?

Perhaps the biggest challenge is helping clients to see the added value they get from using an occupational psychologist. Too many areas that we work in are covered by other roles, principally HR/L&D. As psychologists, we carry out what is called 'evidence-based practice', which means that there is a research basis with substantial evidence to support the effectiveness of our interventions. Because it takes at least three years of further study and additional qualifications to become a Chartered Member of the British Psychological Society and registered with the HCPC (without which the title Occupational Psychologist cannot legally be used), Occupational Psychologists do tend to charge more for their services than non-qualified individuals. My feeling is that most organisations would not trust just any Tom, Dick or Harry to do their accounts but would use a Chartered Accountant, so why not use a Chartered Psychologist for work that can affect the lives of your employees?

Are there any upcoming developments you see making a big impact within the mental wellbeing industry?

I think that the government initiatives on wellbeing at work are very positive and influencing a wider acceptance globally, even in those countries where it has not been as easy or encouraged to talk about mental wellbeing. This is driven by the globalisation of firms, as those who work within a Western environment take their practises across the world and apply the principles. This sets an expectation across other local employers, as those companies who are seen to look after their people are viewed as the employers of choice. This can include changing the working practises so that the stress isn’t applied in the first place, not just considering a cure afterwards.

What are the biggest challenges you see the mental wellbeing industry facing?

Changing the terminology from mental health to mental wellbeing, as this is still seen as a stigma for those who are at the 'not okay' end of the spectrum. We are getting better as a country at overcoming disability discrimination in other areas but need to make sure that, just because mental ill health is an invisible disability, it still receives the same level of support. With a lack of provision here the onus remains on the individual to seek the help they require, which by the very nature of their situation they probably don't want to do.

What do you see as the main benefits that Symbiotics offer?

We offer a simple diagnostic tool that helps to identify certain areas where an individual is experiencing elevated levels of stress. This means that the triggers can be addressed in a practical way to help the individual, as well as a corporate level to help other people in the same situation. This helps to take the step to create a well workplace for all.

We also have psychologists who are able to give feedback to individuals, and point people to the appropriate resource for support as required.

To find out more about how Symbiotics can help, find out more about seeing Karen speak or ask any questions surrounding mental wellbeing in the workplace then please get in touch with us on Karen.moore@symbioticsltd.co.uk or call +44 (0) 1905 368 175.

We are delighted to announce that Resource Group's Symbiotics Performance Solutions division is rebranding to Symbiotics

Over the coming weeks we will be migrating to the Symbiotics brand, with the new company name appearing on corporate materials such as letterheads, email campaigns and social media. We are especially looking forward to launching our new Symbiotics website in early 2018, which will offer improved functionality and a better user experience.

John Larkin, Chairman of Blakebrook comments "We would like to reassure our customers that this is a name change only and all other details and structures to the company remain the same. We are proud to boast such a strong history of capability, accreditations and services, and this remains unchanged as we move forward using the Symbiotics brand."

If you have any questions regarding the brand change then please do not hesitate to get in touch with your usual contact, or the Symbiotics office on contact@symbioticsltd.co.uk.

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