The latest company and industry news updates from Symbiotics

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

Through the publication of IATA's third edition of Guidance Material and Best Practices for Pilot Aptitude Testing (PAT) it is clear that objective measurement of competency needs to be a primary consideration through the entirety of not just the PAT process and time with training organisation, but the complete aviation career span. With ICAO predicting that the aviation sector will need to double in capacity by 2030, there is a pressing challenge for aviation training schools to meet the growing need for skilled air transport personnel without compromising on safety standards. Driven by the rapidly changing operational environment and a recognition of the need to develop a set of defined competencies for the urgently needed future Pilots, IATA’s new guidelines support the prediction of future performance through measurement of the new competency framework proposed by ICAO, with the intention of increasing operation safety.

As a chartered occupational psychologist working within the aviation sector for many years, I am pleased to see the increased awareness within the industry of the importance of establishing suitable and robust testing solutions which can help measure competencies throughout the complete aviation career lifespan.

Competencies as a predictor of future behaviour should be a vital consideration throughout all Pilot selection, recruitment and training. A competency is a measure of human performance, measured through behaviours that demonstrate knowledge, skills and attitudes, that is used to reliably predict successful performance in a job role or training environment. The ICAO stipulates eight pilot competencies, which are ‘developed by industry and ICAO, that every professional pilot, regardless of their role, should develop during training and deploy throughout his professional career’. The aim therefore is to predict behaviour across a variety of situations rather than measuring performance on a specific task, as IATA recognise that the traditional task-based training method previously adopted by the industry has reached its limits.

Traditionally competency requirements have focussed on individuals and specific tasks, rather than the wider team and role; with the use of technology and human-automaton interfaces, there is a greater need for competency requirements to be systemic and examine the ability to enhance the effectiveness of the larger picture, rather than simply measuring performance in an individual capacity. In order to achieve this, the defined competencies should be consistently applied throughout one’s whole aviation career, beginning with initial pilot aptitude testing (PAT), cemented throughout the ab-initio training process and continuing throughout promotion and command upgrade.

With the increased specificity and validity across all seniorities of these new guidelines, moving away from assumptions such as hours equals ability, IATA are strongly advocating the measurement of the same competencies when selecting or promoting experienced Pilots as will also be used to measure their performance in initial training. Symbiotics believe that this is definitely a step in the right direction, allowing performance to be tracked and monitored throughout someone’s entire career whilst formalising exactly what needs to be measured and how, helping the industry move towards more consistent procedures for selection and assessment. With the same guidance for all fleet and operator sizes, IATA are recognising and indeed recommending that smaller organisations would benefit from using an experienced partner for support implementing PAT. This will allow them to profit from the tighter selection procedures that identify both competency and fit for their organisational culture, therefore informing selection for those likely to show longer-term commitment.

A vital new inclusion with the third edition of the guidelines is the presence of personality traits as a recognised measurement to aid in selection, recruitment and training needs of Pilots and flight crew. Tying in with the new EASA (2018/1042) requirements for all Pilots to undergo psychological testing prior to commencement of line flying, it is clear that including personality criteria linked to job-related behaviours such as professional motivation and stress coping within selection is no longer something that operators should fear. Historic reservations about discrimination, or a lack of knowledge around what should be measured using these tools, are being rightly banished as growing awareness of how these traits affect competency and aptitude is recognised by aviation’s legislative bodies. Indeed, IATA states that the selection of suitable candidates requires discrimination between applicants, with expansion of this to include personality criteria. Success in role and safe management of the high stress, pressure and consequence cockpit environment can be predicted by some personality indicators.

It is clear from these updated guidelines around PAT, as well as from the latest regulations coming out of further legislative bodies such as EASA and ICAO, that an emphasis on competency-based assessment is the future of Pilot selection and recruitment. By implementing intelligent and informed solutions to the PAT process, with solutions fully geared towards identifying and assessing against the recognised Pilot competencies, the aviation industry will be able to successfully expand number of Pilots to meet the capacity requirements without compromising on safety.

Symbiotics and Oxford Saudia have announced a new partnership for the selection and assessment of candidates for ab-initio pilot training at the new Oxford Saudia CAE Authorised Training Centre. Symbiotics’ online assessments will provide key assistance with the initial recruitment phase, identifying those candidates who are most suited to, and likely to succeed in the Pilot training pipeline.

Captain Larry Wade, Chief Executive Officer at Oxford Saudia, said: "OxfordSaudia has recently begun using Symbiotics' ADAPT process to screen pilots for its flight program that culminates in an A320 Type Rating. We wanted a screening program that would remove subjectivity from our selection process and give our managers confidence in the selection of our pilots. Working with the Symbiotics’ team of professionals has been a smooth process and they continue to support our staff with a quality service. They present the results in a clear and easy to understand way allowing us to make decisions quickly and efficiently. The comprehensive set of exams allow for a full understanding of the potential of each candidate."

Following this initial sift, Symbiotics will also provide on-site assessors. Symbiotics Psychologists will conduct stage three of the assessment process at OxfordSaudia training centre in Dammam. This includes the observation, analysis and feedback of group exercises, as well as providing interview expertise to ensure the high quality and suitability of the candidates selected for ab-initio training.

With the first batches of assessments having taken place during the summer and continuing towards the end of the year, Karen Moore, MD for Symbiotics comments: "We are delighted to be able to support OxfordSaudia in their new training centre and I am pleased that they see the added value our Psychologists can provide on-site at the assessment centres. We hope that this is the beginning of a positive relationship that will help OxfordSaudia select the best candidates for their ab-initio training."

Symbiotics will be exhibiting at EATS 2019, at the Estrel Hotel in Berlin on 29th and 30th October.

With the full breadth of the aviation marketplace represented at the International Flight Crew Training Conference, organised and hosted by the Royal Aeronautical Society, including stakeholders from regulators, airlines and ATOs, the conversations focused on coping with the transition to the digital age including new aircraft and technologies, coupled with the changing air environment as air traffic is now travelling much closer due to consumer demand plus the addition of drones to add to the mix. The benefits to increased technology provide greater flexibility and operability but is not without its complexities requiring collaboration across all parties to ensure the best future outcomes from training.

We are all aware of the global shortage and need for more qualified Pilots coming though training, but how do we as an industry ensure that we are continuing to remain current and relevant to attract the new generation? With the ‘buzz society’ more pressured, there are a lot more considerations for all involved in Pilot training and assessment to ensure that it continues to be an appealing and attainable career choice. The challenges remain around repaid growth particularly in China where the market is growing at 1 plane per day and the new generation of Pilots with differing attitudes, coupled with the changing role of Pilots and the need to address dealing with boredom in the cockpit, has led to the existing Pilot competencies being viewed as too general and not enough focus is being placed on performance evaluation.

In recent years it has been widely acknowledged there is a gap between Pilot training and the competencies required by the airlines to be fully equipped for the modern flight-deck, with some figures quoting 50% of newly qualified pilots as being unemployable. In particular, First Officers not being properly prepared to deal with abnormal or emergency situations on-board and the ability to find knowledge quickly and use it. Essential familiarity with system architecture was also found to be absent in recent training needs analysis by a European Airline. The sector is still largely following classic training methods and airlines are tasked with teaching trainees to become airline pilots after completion of ab-initio training. To combat this the industry is now looking to Competency Based Training and Assessment (CBTA) as a future means of narrowing this gap to ensure that newly qualified Pilots are ready to fly in the operational environments they are presented with when they commence line flying. It is not just newly qualified Pilots where this is applicable, as regulatory requirements were not seen to focus on crew member development, command training structure, performance evaluation, specific competencies and competency enhancement techniques.

With the new IATA Guidance Material for Pilot Aptitude Testing published in April 2019 (read more here) times are changing and an increased focus on CBTA is actively encouraged. CBTA is designed to provide trained Pilots with more skills and awareness of the flight deck and ever-changing operational environment. This new approach can make the most of the latest digital training methods and opportunities available through blended training and assessment.

ICAO's Annex 1 promotes the use of CBTA training, with an EASA strategy and framework for the introduction of this approach across regulated training to be implemented by November 2020. A great deal of the discussion around this was the Area 100 Knowledge Skills & Attitude (KSA) approach – ‘Tell Me, Teach Me or Involve Me’ with the syllabus objectives to firmly embed CBA training in ground school. Understanding the need to involve cadets to help them learn and immersing them in different environments and situations, is a new approach designed to be an effective bridge between the traditional theoretical knowledge training followed by flight training, uniting the training elements and developing the “thinking Pilot”. ICAO Annex 1 Personnel training is not limited to just Pilots but also covers the Flight Engineers, Flight Navigators, Air Traffic Controllers, Aeronautical station operators, Maintenance Technicians and Flight Dispatchers.

To help support this, it is vital that the assessments used are designed to give the student the ability to demonstrate the competencies that they have acquired. Assimilated knowledge across the different subject areas is vital to preparation for the real-world flight deck, including recognition and focus around the non-technical skills required for ab-initios’ development.

Symbiotics are excited to explore this developing approach, looking into different solutions and methods to assess and evidence learning of assimilated knowledge across different subjects to support our aviation clients. What do you think is the best way forward in these exciting new times? We would love to hear your thoughts – contact@symbioticsltd.co.uk to share your thoughts about the modernisation of flight crew training.

Symbiotics understand the vital importance of keeping up to date with the latest regulations and guidance across the aviation industry, both to ensure that our services meet the requirements and also to allow us to provide a trusted advisor service to our clients. The third edition of IATA's guidance material for Pilot Aptitude Testing (PAT) has been released this year, driven by the rapidly changing operational environment and recognising the need to develop a set of defined competencies for future pilots. These competencies are to be deployed throughout the entire career, with assessment of them intended to increase operation safety.

We have put together a response report to explore the questions posted by the guidance material, as well as to identify how our ADAPT system addresses the requirements indicated, meaning you can have confidence in the Symbiotics solution. Read our paper here to breakdown what the IATA guidelines mean for PAT and how Symbiotics are able to partner with you to provide a detailed breakdown of candidates and their suitability for the training or operational pipeline to support your informed hiring decisions, whilst remaining fully compliant.

Symbiotics' ADAPT system supports and complements the different aspects of this guidance, allowing us to become a trusted partner to our clients as we support you with the implementation of a secure, validated and robust PAT as part of your selection process. Supporting the eight pilot competencies and IATA recommended measuring dimensions, Symbiotics can provide you with a bespoke ADAPT process designed to facilitate measurement of these whilst addressing the ICAO pilot competencies.

Get in touch with one of the Symbiotics team to discuss your requirements and understand how we can help you comply with the IATA regulations through implementation and support of your Pilot Aptitude Testing process.

Motivation is directly linked to workplace productivity and performance, and when we become unmotivated, we are less likely to spend time putting effort in our jobs, produce low quality work and may even try to avoid the workplace. (Ganta, 2014). Research shows that different generations are driven by different motivational forces and since generational differences are present in most organisations, it is important to understand how to appropriately motivate your employees to gain optimum employee satisfaction and performance from all (Calk & Patrick, 2017).

It's expected that by 2020, half of the workforce will be Generation Y (born 1981 – 1996) and following these millennials will be the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) at 22% and then at 20% will be Generation X (born 1965 - 1980). Generation Z (born 1997-present) are currently newly entering the workforce and shall increase to 7% by 2020. And finally, the traditionalists (born 1928 – 1945) will decrease down to 1%, only making up a small proportion of the workforce (Gurchiek, 2016).

Considering that out of the 5 generations Millennial's are currently contributing as the majority generation in the workforce, we may believe that we should be investing in fulfilling their motivational needs the most. To some extent yes, as we need to better understand what motivates millennials to ensure that this majority are happily engaging with their work and being productive within their organisations. This can be achieved by investing in their development, always incorporating them into the bigger picture and giving them a bit more freedom. However, we need to equally ensure that the needs of the other generations are not neglected when focusing on one generation and that each individual's needs are also listened to. So how do we motivate a multigenerational workforce?

Being aware of each generation's motivational preferences is a good place to start and having a good understanding of this will assist the approach you take when motivating your employees. Symbiotics offer a Motivation Drivers questionnaire which can help identify to what level the ten key motivational factors drive an individual – you can access this here to support your understanding of the motivational preferences of each team member, regardless of their generation.

  • Traditionalists tend to be individuals who are motivated by money, but also feel the need to be respected.
  • Baby Boomers seem to be driven monetary rewards but also value nonmonetary rewards, for example, they like having the option to have a flexible retirement plan and also like receiving recognition from their peers for their work.
  • Generation X appear to value monetary rewards like bonuses, but also like to have flexibility within their working life as well.
  • Millennials tend to be motivated by some monetary rewards, but also value receiving feedback, being further driven by training opportunities to develop their skills and progress in their career and working amongst a workplace with a good culture.
  • Generation Z seem to be more interested in social rewards, receiving constant feedback, having meaningful work to complete and being given more responsibility, rather than being money driven.

Furthermore, something that is appreciated by individuals from all generations is when a healthy work life balance is promoted and when employees are allowed to be more flexible with their work life approach. Employees tend to feel less stressed and be more engaged with their work and thus, increasing their motivation levels. It may also be considered wise to encourage employees to develop their personal growth and by taking time to understand their individual aspirations to help them progress where is most meaningful for them, which should also make them want to perform well. In the workplace, investing in their growth through implementing mentoring schemes and even reverse mentorship programmes can be seen as a useful method to develop employees. This way you are ensuring that you are sharing expertise from differing generations and allowing the development a more united workplace culture.

However, these are just a few suggestions on how to motivate a multigenerational workforce and there are plenty of other techniques that can be researched and applied to affectively motivate employees. It is down to each organisation to decide which motivators suits their workplace culture best and implement these accordingly to ensure employees are reaching their potential.

Calk, R., & Patrick, A. (2017). Millennials through the looking glass: Workplace motivating factors. The Journal of Business Inquiry, 16(2), 131-139.
Ganta, V. C. (2014). Motivation in the workplace to improve the employee performance. International Journal of Engineering Technology, Management and Applied Sciences, 2(6), 221-230.
Gurchiek, K. (2016). What Motivates Your Workers? It Depends on Their Generation. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/behavioral-competencies/global-and-cultural-effectiveness/pages/what-motivates-your-workers-it-depends-on-their-generation.aspx

Symbiotics Limited are the test publishers of the world-renowned ADAPT Pilot pre-selection tests used by airlines and pilot training organisations.

Symbiotics are operating the Pilot Selection Zone at Pilot Careers Live in Manchester on 6th July. Anyone attending the show and interested in a career in aviation will be able to have a go at one of the tests within the ADAPT suite and find out more about their suitability to become a Pilot.

The top three scores from the test on the day will receive a discount of between 20-50% on their attendance at one of Symbiotics ADAPT Pilot Assessment Preparation Courses. (Discount offered depends on finishing position of 1st, 2nd or 3rd.)

Symbiotics are helping to prepare students for the Pilot training pipeline and the Pilot Assessment Preparation Course gives an insight into what to expect. The half-day Assessment Preparation Course helps a potential aviation candidate to understand their personal strengths and indicate areas where improvement in performance is required.

The Pilot Assessment Preparation Course will provide the opportunity to undergo an interview, group exercise and assessment preparation sessions that simulate those experienced by candidates seeking to enter pilot training.

All candidates also take our aviation personality questionnaire and experience Symbiotics' FAST test, looking at their psycho-motor skills.

These tests are part of the ADAPT suite used widely across the aviation marketplace and which are only available through Symbiotics. Purchase some tests for your own practice through our ecommerce website: www.symbioticsltd.co.uk/a-s.

The next Pilot Assessment Preparation Courses are due to take place at the University of Leeds, with the choice of either a morning or afternoon session on 29th, 30th or 31st October. Speak to the team at Pilot Careers Live or email assessprep@symbioticsltd.co.uk to find out more and book your place.

Stress is the feeling of being emotionally or mentally strained due to the experience of difficult or challenging situations. At work it can be caused by numerous factors; these may include having a lack of control over increasing job demands, not receiving enough support or information from colleagues, experiencing poor relationships with individuals at work, and/or being unable to manage work-life balance effectively. Everyone experiences some sort of stress at work and when these pressures seem to keep piling up and never ending, there can be various detrimental consequences to our health. However, it should also be remembered that stress is not always negative, as when it is received in healthy, manageable amounts, the outcome can actually have a positive effect on performance, boosting our efficiency at work.

To understand whether workplace stress is having a negative impact on yourself, here are some signs that can help you distinguish this. Firstly, stress could negatively impact emotions, such as leading to more mood swings, making us feel a bit more sensitive and emotional. This can also make us feel slightly more withdrawn and isolated at work, not feeling motivated to complete tasks and generally lacking confidence. Furthermore, stress can even have an effect on our diet; some people find that they tend to eat more food and snack when feeling stressed, whilst others lose their appetite as a result of stress. Others may potentially turn to alcohol and drugs during more difficult periods. Sleep can also be impacted by increased stress, whether this be caused by overthinking and not letting the mind relax, or as a knock-on effect from the previously discussed consequences. We know that all these outcomes can negatively impact our health, so it is important that we aim to try and reduce the feeling of stress as much as we can, by maintaining a positive and healthy work life so we do not suffer these negative consequences.

Certain strategies and tactics can be implemented to ease our work life stress. In certain situations, it may be best to go to your HR department, speak to your managers, or approach counselling services which your workplace may offer and in some cases, you may find that visiting your GP may be the most appropriate. However, having effective coping strategies is really important. Here are a few other techniques that you may wish to consider and apply the next time you start to feel some pressure building up at work:

  1. Accepting the challenge - Acceptance is good first step to try and develop an optimistic view on the situation you are in and also assist you to take positive actions. It might help you realise that you may need to slightly change your tactics on how you are currently managing your work life, which can help you be more efficient and balance workload more effectively.
  2. Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness are great ways to help clear your mind from the stressors and providing yourself with some stress relief.
  3. Social support - Whether it's talking to a colleague, meeting up with a friend, or speaking to a family member, sharing your problems can help ease the pressure that you may be building up inside and keeping to yourself. They may even be able to offer you some advice on how to deal with any problems, or even help you towards reaching a solution to prevent or reduce it.
  4. Staying healthy - Starting to exercise regularly, or exercising more, can help your body fight stress more effectively. You may find that you feel more positive after going to the gym or doing a sport you enjoy; the reason being that our body releases chemicals called endorphins after exercise, which help us feel good and this therefore makes exercise a great stress reliever!
  5. Take a break and have some time to do things that you enjoy! Perhaps by going on holiday with your friends and family, or by picking up a new hobby you have wanted to try. It is always important to make sure you are managing your work-life balance effectively and taking time off whenever you need.

Symbiotics have recently closed responses on their aviation industry questionnaire targeted at gathering insight and opinion around the new EASA Regulations into psychological testing of Pilots. This survey has provided some useful yet concerning information about the readiness of the aviation industry to comply with the new rules that come into force July 2020.

Of the European Pilot respondents, only 10% are very / extremely familiar with the amendments as opposed to 45% who have no familiarity at all. Only 17% of survey respondents' employers have solutions or psychological assessments in place already, demonstrating a serious lack of readiness for the mandatory evaluations.

Going beyond compliance - mental wellbeing

It is clear that mental health is a growing issue, in aviation as it is across all industries: 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.

Given the accepted mental ill-health figures and FAA Pilot recruitment statistics, this means that approximately 114,000 Pilots could be experiencing a mental health condition at this moment. This is made even more relevant with the recent Beechcraft B200 Super King Air crash in Botswana where the Pilot crashed the airplane into a club house at Matsieng Air Strip, appearing to be suffering from a mental health condition.

The results of Symbiotics' recent aviation questionnaire highlight the concerns about the new regulations and ensuing industry updates, but also the stigma that is still attached around the issue of mental health. 36% of survey respondents said that they, or someone they knew well, has experienced a mental health condition within the last five years, but 43% of respondents chose not to respond to the question despite 'no' being an option. This suggests a greater issue still, with a lack of openness on the subject holding back the willingness for conversations around mental ill-health to take place.

With only 5% of Symbiotics survey respondents who had experience of mental ill-health informing their employer, this brings to light the serious risk that could still be present and why, perhaps, assessment just at recruitment is not enough. Further to this, 19% of those who had experience of mental ill-health received no support to help them recover.

Symbiotics offer Mindfull, a mental wellbeing risk assessment solution, that includes MindQ assessment from MHS Assessment, which assesses and tracks an individual's mental state and provides insights into changes and sign posting for support. When used at the recommended 2-3 times annually, this allows for early intervention, when mental health concerns are highlighted as a risk or the individual can be seen to be on a downward trajectory.

To find out more about Symbiotics' mental wellbeing assessment solutions please get in touch on contact@symbioticsltd.co.uk or call the office on +44 (0) 1905 368175.

Here at Symbiotics we are delighted to be able to offer you our new Assessment Preparation Days, with our first set of courses running at Buckinghamshire New University on 23rd, 24th and 25th of April. Used primarily within the aviation field, these assessment preparation courses are designed to be vendor-neutral and be suitable for candidates no matter what the entry route into the industry; be that through a training organisation, commercial airline or university.

Each course has been put together to allow you develop a full understanding of your strengths as well as identifying some areas for you to improve upon to help increase your chances of success. Costing £395 (including VAT) with the inclusion of an aviation personality questionnaire and psychomotor skills test, you will start to understand the traits, motivations and learning styles which are integral to you whilst learning about how these match with the requirements for the training pipeline.

With a limited number of attendees per course, Symbiotics will be able to give you a high level of personal attention throughout the interview and assessment-type preparation training, as well as through the group exercise. You will be guided through the types of aptitude testing to expect on an aviation selection day, as well as undertaking a few sample questions. Further practice tests can be purchased here.

Symbiotics want to give you the clearest picture possible, allowing you the best chance to succeed in your aviation assessment day and selection for the training pipeline. This is why at the end of the course we provide you with an industry-recognised report to sum up the aspects covered and your key personality traits.

To find out more or to book on one of these courses, please contact assessprep@symbioticsltd.co.uk or call +44 (0) 1905 368 175 and the team will be happy to help.

Here at Symbiotics we like to try and keep in touch with our customers whilst ensuring that we are up to date with all of the latest developments and regulations within our marketplace. This can include attending conferences, subscriptions to industry-specific magazines and continued professional development for all of our team.

One of the key things that we like to do is attend exhibitions, helping us to keep our ear to the ground and ensure that we are where you are: providing the ideal environment for continued conversation. We have a busy year of events in 2019, with Karen continuing to be invited as an expert speaker, primarily in the aviation field but also across other high risk, stress and consequence forums.

Please see below the current events that Symbiotics are attending in 2019, and feel free to contact us on contact@symbioticsltd.co.uk or +44 (0) 1905 368 175 to arrange a meeting or find out more about any of our services or products.

International Pilot Recruitment and Training Expo 2019, 22nd – 23rd February, Berlin

Symbiotics' ADAPT Sales Manager, Mike Miller, will be attending this event at Messe Berlin later this month. Walking the floor and speaking to industry experts, this expo is a new one for Symbiotics but we are looking forward to joining the 10,000 visitors who are already working within or interested in the aviation world.

Mike is available to meet up to discuss Symbiotics' aviation assessment services and products as well as our new Aviation Preparation Day which will be launching at Bucks New University, England during the Easter Holidays in April.

Health and Wellbeing Show, 5th – 6th March, NEC Birmingham; Stand 99

We are attending this event in partnership with one of our partner support organisations, DocHQ, to continue to promote mental wellbeing and encourage a better understanding of mental health in the workplace. This should be a nice event where the focus is on ensuring that the health and wellbeing of all those in work is supported, providing an opportunity to speak with those responsible for teams across all industries.

Symbiotics can be found at Stand 99, with our stand well-manned by a team of our psychologists who will be able to discuss the importance of supporting mental wellbeing, the cost savings that monitoring can bring and also the range of complementary tests that Symbiotics can offer to support recruitment, promotion or development processes.

Security and Policing Event, 5th – 7th March

This official Government event is the ideal opportunity to meet and network with those responsible for security and resilience across all fields. Helping us to ensure that our knowledge is up to date, our team will be talking to fellow exhibitors and industry experts as well as attending some of the keynotes.

Attendees will be able to speak to our specialist team about Police training and selection, as well as having the opportunity to demo one of our situational or behavioural assessments.

Simulation and Training for Resilience and Safety Symposium, 26th – 27th March, London

Our principal occupational psychologist, Karen Moore, has been invited to speak at this inaugural symposium on fostering relationships and building partnerships in training and simulation across safety-critical industries.

Symbiotics offer a range of testing and assessment solutions which are designed for high risk, stress and consequence industries, so we will be showcasing these at the event and providing demos of our learning portal and range of tests available for purchase. Speak to Karen or Mike about how we can support recruitment, training and progression within businesses and industries where safety is critical.

Pilot Careers Live, 6th April, Heathrow

Symbiotics are exhibiting at this event for the first time in 2019, with the launch of our Assessment Preparation Days an exciting new venture which develops upon our existing aviation expertise.

Falling nicely before our first week of preparation days, which will take place 22nd – 24th April, this show provides the opportunity to speak to Mike to find out more and sign up to attend!

World Aviation Training Summit, 30th April – 2nd May, Orlando Florida; Stand 111

This is the world's largest gathering of aviation training professionals serving airlines, regulators, training providers and the training industry. Covering everything from training issues to personnel selection and recruitment, WATS brings the key decision makers and knowledge holders of the aviation world into one place.

Karen has again been invited to speak at this event, with the conference streams focusing on training and best practice within the field. Karen will be discussing the latest regulatory updates and implications for recruitment and selection, as well as focusing on mental wellbeing within aviation and the importance of maintaining this across all flight personnel.

Aerospace Mental Health and Wellbeing, 22nd – 23rd May, London

Symbiotics are delighted to be sponsoring this event for a second year, as RAeS expand the mental health and wellbeing conference to two days thanks to an incredible response last year.

With Karen again invited to speak thanks to her in-depth knowledge within the mental wellbeing and aviation fields, this conference will discuss the new initiatives around mental health and the importance of this in the safe and efficient operation of the global aviation industry.

CIPD Festival of Work, 12th – 13th June, London; Stand E101

This inaugural event brings together three highly successful events into one larger focus group for all of those involved with the future of work and the people who are vital for this. Symbiotics will be here to offer our selection and assessment tools to this discussion, with a key focus on smarter recruitment, promotion and development which our tools support.

We are delighted to be sharing our stand with MHS Assessment's whose MindQ tool we use to support our MindFull mental wellbeing risk assessment. Karen and the team will be available on stand to discuss how Symbiotics can support you with your people requirements or mental wellbeing monitoring solutions.

Pilot Careers Live, 6th July, Manchester Airport

Following our attendance at Heathrow in April, Symbiotics will also be attending the Manchester event to discuss our Assessment Preparation Days prior to running another week of sessions at a northern university in August.

Attendees will again have the opportunity to speak to Mike about the preparation days as well as being able to demo one of our psychomotor tests.

3CDSE 2019, 16th – 17th July, Malvern

After a successful exhibition last year, Symbiotics will again be exhibiting our specialist police selection and assessment software at this defence and security expo in Malvern. Providing the opportunity to talk to one of the Symbiotics team about our assessment suite and test options, already used successfully in specialist police units across the country, this event brings together influencers and decision makers across all those involved within security, law enforcement and government.

European Airline Training Symposium, 29th – 30th October, Berlin; Stand

Symbiotics have been attending EATS for the past couple of years and always find it to be an extremely relevant and useful exhibitions. Focusing specifically on training across all aviation, it brings together a lot of the leading professionals giving us the perfect forum to promote safety and share best practice.

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.