Are professional ethics and integrity cornerstones of your organization? How can you encourage ethical behavior throughout your aviation department, charter operation, maintenance facility or other aviation-related business?
Simply put, ethics are standards that govern the conduct of members of a society or group, while integrity is adherence to those standards. Those are broad, abstract concepts, sometimes difficult to specifically define and apply to real-life challenges.
Whether dealing with a human resources issue, choosing a maintenance vendor, negotiating the purchase of an aircraft or even just determining appropriate travel expenses, it is important to establish and follow guidelines to help employees act with integrity.
Set expectations for your organization’s employees, consultants and vendors regarding ethics. These policies should include a general code of conduct, as well as policies for travel, conflict of interest, confidentiality and social media practices.
Conflict of interest – or even the appearance of conflict – can be particularly challenging to define. Managers and leaders must explain that “income” does not just mean cash; it may also be in the form of gifts or other considerations.
Likewise, “employment” – typically meaning receiving a W-2 from an organization – is not the only way to “work for” an entity, while several common industry practices – from pilots disclosing alternate sources of income, to aircraft brokers working on behalf of both buyers and sellers – may represent potential conflicts of interest, even if there is no ill intention.
Once you have established standards or norms for your organization, be sure to review and update them often to help your employees act with integrity. “Integrity goes hand-in-hand with ethics,” said Tim Peace, CAM, aviation department manager for PB Air, LLC, and a member of NBAA’s Business Aviation Management Committee. “Ethics evolve over time, and technology can blur lines of integrity,” partly because identities and relationships can be veiled or unclear.
Employees of large flight departments are often required by their parent company to complete ethics training annually, but such training is less common in smaller firms. Once you establish ethics policies, be sure to train your employees on those policies.
“Company ethics training with annual recurrent requirements is so important,” said Chris Broyhill, CAM, who is with business aviation consultancy Mente Group and is a member of NBAA’s Business Aviation Management Committee. “It reminds employees about conflicts of interest, travel policies, confidentiality, social media, discretion and other ethics-related topics.”
Broyhill also advised that conducting ethics training annually, and documenting that training, can help the company enforce ethics policies and better manage personnel matters related to ethics violations. Leaders should consider offering employees professional training and certification programs that teach ethics and promote integrity.
Of course, ethics must be demonstrated from the top down. Setting expectations for ethical behavior, and training employees on those expectations, is critically important. Top management’s actions must be beyond reproach and serve as an example to all.
“As leaders, we need to demonstrate and reinforce this every day,” said Chris Adams, regional sales manager at FlightSafety International and chairman of NBAA’s Business Aviation Management Committee. “Ethical behavior is an overlying governing principle in my organization. We are held to the highest standards and are expected to be trustworthy, reliable and honest. We are respectful of confidentiality and aim for constant self-improvement and self-development. Ethics and integrity aren’t just buzzwords – they are an integral part of our culture.”
An expanded version of this article originally appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of NBAA’s Member Publication, Business Aviation Insider. Download the magazine app for iOS and Android tablets and smartphones.