|Air Cargo Logistics, a world of exciting opportunities for the next
generation in an ever-changing world
In today’s competitive environment what would it take for you to become a more
effective leader in your current role to take advantage of the tremendous need for
new skills by all sectors in air cargo associated industries?
The air cargo industry is going through a metamorphosis at the moment as
consumer behaviour has globally switched to an “I want it now” immediate
gratification mode for all commodities. This has been brought about by the
tremendous impact of companies like Amazon and Alibaba who have changed the
consumer buying behaviour through their speed, ease of use and vast variety of
product offering. They are focussed on making their platforms “one stop shopping”
experiences for every consumer.
This has forced the forwarding industry to have to confront shippers who are much
more savvy and aware of all price and service possibilities available to them, and in
order to be competitive work with ever smaller margins. Airlines, as a consequence,
and their suppliers such as ground handling agents, airports and trucking services
are facing demands to lower costs and increase service at the same time to remain
Against this backdrop the companies that fail to invest in their strategic positioning,
branding, marketing skills, I.T. infrastructure and most of all management and staff
will be facing a circle of decline and eventually a loss of its customer base and all
Most of us know that we should make time to improve and develop ourselves with
new skill sets but in our current jobs, the economy and the air cargo industry right
now, we are fire fighting and working hard and late just to keep ahead. We do not
have the time to think strategically, let alone think of self-development and
unfortunately in many cases neither does the company have the time and finances
nor the inclination to support you regarding this right now.
I can hear most of you saying “but that’s rubbish”, we think about it all the time but its
not a priority. I am glad you think about it at least, because this is the time the
industry, your company and you need those skills even more.
Some may argue “but we have sent our employees for training!” Operations training.
Tick. Security training. Tick. Dangerous Goods. Tick. Sales training. Tick.
The air cargo world has been talking about changes and progress has been quicker
in some areas like regulatory compliance, security, I.T. issues, etc., and at glacier
speed in other areas such as e-Freight and strategic corporate positioning in the
rapidly changing world that air cargo logistics has become. We are not going to get
into those reasons as they have been elaborated at length by various organisations.
We have heard many times that technology is an enabler so what is stopping us and
the industry from changing?
We know we have to change but many of us and our organisations struggle with
change because we have been doing things in the same way for decades or we
would like to change but perhaps, may not know how because the world of air cargo
market dynamics are moving so quickly and in many diverse directions. Snooze and
Is there a magic wand to change all that? As you may have expected, the answer is
no. However, we can become a better leader if we first recognise that we need to
improve in certain leadership competencies in this new order, in particular, soft skills.
Self-awareness would already be the first step to becoming a better leader.
Any company that does not have a clear strategic direction, and invests in its new
leadership candidates to effect change; will not survive in the years to come.
How do we obtain those skills?
1. Performance Management System
Performance management is “a process that contributes to the effective
management of individuals and teams to achieve high levels of organisation
performance.” (CIPD and Armstrong and Baron, 1998). When designing a
performance management system, a company has to consider the purpose for the
system to avoid creating a ‘standalone’ system that employees are sceptical of its
effectiveness. This system has to be aligned with any other HR systems and
integrated with the business strategy and intended outcomes for it to be an effective
tool to support the business performance goals, behavioural expectations and
To manage our business globally in air cargo, we have to manage our human
resources strategically and with a clear sense of purpose. Some questions to ask
are: What behavioural competencies do we want our employees to exhibit? Could
we consider a team-based performance measurement rather than an individual
assessment? What would we need to ‘build’ a system around that? What other
metrics would we need to put in place? How would we hold employees accountable?
How will we support our employees in the change roll out?
Let’s talk about mindset change and leadership skills, in particular, soft skills. From
an organisational mindset perspective, consider for example, the ways we view the
industry and non-related industries. How we are doing business with other
companies and what is our relationship with them? Is it adversarial, tactical, and
strategic? What sort of people do we need today leading these discussions, which
are so interrelated, with our strategy, and how do we ensure the people that lead
these interfaces are properly trained and schooled to support the company’s
Soft skills training are usually ignored in the air cargo industry as the priority is on the
regulatory compliance and technical knowledge and skills to meet immediate needs.
It is understandable as we have to allocate resources to the priority areas.
However, the question is
“Can you afford to ignore supporting your managers in improving their soft skills
such as communication and emotional intelligence?”
We work with organisations that believe in the importance of soft skills in their
managers to become more effective leaders. They recruit based on attitude,
interpersonal skills and ability to work as a team. Their view is that technical
knowledge can be taught and they can learn from experience. The payoff is
employee engagement and performance.
As a training and consulting company, training is music to our ears but we do not
always recommend training. Sometimes, there are other interventions such as
mentoring or coaching or a combination of training and coaching that may be more
suitable for a particular employee with specific requirements.
From a personal mindset perspective, consider how we view our personal and
business worlds, how we interact with each other and the behaviours that we
manifest in those interactions.
Some of us may say but that’s me! Sure, be ourselves but be mindful of the impact
of our behaviour and actions on those around us.
Being more self-aware and understanding the triggers of our behaviour will help us
to identify the means we can counteract them and change the way we behave and
For instance, we could ask ourselves the reasons we keep interrupting whenever
someone is speaking. Understanding the reasons, identifying the ways we can stop
interrupting someone and practising active listening will help us become better
listeners and communicators.
Practice, practice, and practice.
What do we get in return?
Your return on investment will be you become a more effective and confident leader
who can mobilise your team and those around you, and attain professional success.
Organisations investing in the soft skills development of their managers will see
enhanced employee engagement, retention and performance.
Consolidation in the industry today is massive, with small and medium sized
companies merging to gain scale and some semblance of market presence and
scope to survive. It is happening with forwarders, airlines and also with all the
support services that surround us like the other logistics providers, and integrators. If
you want to be a part of the successful brands that survive, invest in your team in
every way possible!
Executive Director, Learning & Development
Strategic Aviation Solutions International (SASI)
Lilian brings a strong international business background and empathetic style to
managing people through change. She has a history of success in people
management, corporate planning, programme design/implementation and sales &
marketing to initiate and support organisational growth globally, in the aviation and
She is familiar with managing multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary teams due to over
20 years of global high level sales and marketing experience. Lilian has worked with
Multi-National Corporations in aviation, logistics, office automation and electronics
such as AirBridgeCargo Airlines, Panalpina South East Asia Area, TNT Express Asia
Regional Office, KLM Cargo, Rank Xerox and Sanyo.
As an experienced Cargo practitioner, Lilian delivers programmes on behalf of IATA,
TIACA, and other organisations, and is a certified ACC3/RA3/KC3 EU AVSEC
Validator. She is also a Speaker and Moderator at industry events.