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Developing intellectual capital in aircraft leasing Back
The Irish Aviation Authority recently inaugurated a series of awards to recognise excellence in various aspects of the country's aviation industry, and leading global lessor GECAS, headquartered in Stamford CT., and Shannon, Ireland was recognised for its employee training and development strategy. GECAS' human resources manager DEIRDRE NORRIS elaborates.
In an industry where big, complex transactions and the number of aircraft grab the headlines, behind the scenes are a handful of very talented people. I’m often reminded that the industry is all about the people, the niche skills they possess, as well as the relationships they have with their global customers. So how do you attract and keep great people to work in aviation finance?
Deirdre Norris

A career with GECAS is synonymous with growth. We believe that talent must be developed and learning is an essential part of everyone’s success. Whether it's learning how to interpret business financials or learning how to be a better leader, every person has the opportunity to continue to learn.

Our people can expect that they will grow their talents and embrace new capabilities. GECAS employees are given every opportunity to manage their development and are provided with the tools to chart a successful career path.

At GECAS, we believe without question that we have the best people in the industry. And others think we’re pretty good, too: the Irish Aviation Industry Awards recently recognized GECAS for our “People Development.” Sure, being part of a large, multinational corporation like GE has its advantages. However, the training and development principles and practices we use can be applied to any organisation, large or small.

1. Maintain a rigorous performance management process for people
At GECAS, business strategy and people development go hand-in-hand. We invest a significant amount of time reviewing both our people and organisational structures to ensure the business is correctly aligned for growth.

The performance management process at GECAS focuses on both the organisation as a whole as well as taking a detailed look at individual employee performance.

Regular performance development meetings between employees and their managers not only provide employees with feedback on performance versus goals, but also gives employees a forum to discuss their performance strengths, development plans, career interests and future objectives.

At a business level, discussions around succession planning include identification of high potential talent ready now and in future years to fill key roles.

The output of these discussions may for example identify employees who are ready for their next big move; employees who would benefit greatly from a stretch assignment such as leading a major project; or employees in need of coaching or mentoring.

2. Develop a people pipeline by partnering with a local university
Several years ago, GECAS partnered with the University of Limerick to create an undergraduate 'internship' programme to give students real-world skills in aviation finance, although the programme is not limited to students from that school only.
Placements range across a variety of business functions including Technical, Legal, Operations, Human Resources, Finance and more. Assignments are carefully chosen so that participants can learn both technical and business skills in a professional environment - while also making a real contribution to the business. The undergraduate programme has served as a strong talent pipeline for GECAS. Twelve students who participated in the co-op program have chosen aircraft financing and leasing as a career and are employed by GECAS today. Since the programme started, more than 250 students have gained professional experience from working in the aviation finance sector with GECAS.

3. Use your own expertise to help train your staff
Learning comes in many shapes and forms across our business: mentoring relationships, roundtables held by senior leaders, and all-employee meetings. GECAS employees themselves are involved in training and development and regularly hold “Functional Forums” in our various global offices to enable employees to meet with employees who are visiting from other locations or other internal experts.

These forums, usually held during breakfast or lunch with a short presentation and a robust Q&A portion, educate employees on a particular part of the business or provide an update on a specific geographical region. Over the last year, we’ve held more than a dozen forums on topics including 'Things Get Better with Age - Mature Aircraft' and 'Accounting Concepts - ELTO and Impairment Fair Value.'

In 2011, GECAS took these functional forums further by creating an in-house operating lease course. The week-long training programme provided an opportunity for employees from all areas to participate in a deal transaction through a case study and to grow their skills by taking a holistic, ‘outside-in’ approach to operating leases.

Our overall training and development strategy has been key to maintaining GECAS’ position as a leading innovator in the aviation finance sector.

Moreover, our focus on people development has benefited the wider aviation financing industry, especially in Ireland, as former employees have moved on to other senior leadership roles throughout the aviation sector.
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