Improve your Load Control efficiency (3): Why culture matters!
Buying "a fully automated" Load Control Solution seems to be for many airlines the perfect ultimate key to achieve increased productivity. But looking in a more holistic way on this topic, I found out, that cultural influence in work organizations plays a much more important role, than one might believe. Moreover: Culture most often can´t be “seen”. But it is there!
Culture is everywhere!
Culture is the environment that surrounds you at work all of the time. Culture is a powerful element that shapes work enjoyment, work relationships, and work processes. But, culture is also something that mostly can’t be seen. Therefore it is often neglected when talking about “better Load Control efficiency”. That´s why I would like to sensitize here for this topic, as many airlines approaching me think that buying “a fully automated application” is the perfect key for increasing their productivity in Load Control – without considering any other possible influence factors.
What is work culture?
Let´s have a closer look on what exactly it is, that influences the work culture in Load Control:
- Attitudes and beliefs of the employees.
- Ideologies and business values of the organization to the employees.
All these elements influence:
- how work is conducted (including being rather more or less efficient)
- behavior and style
- use of language
- how to solve challenges, problems, and conflicts
- how to negotiate and
- how to create (work-)relationships.
How does culture influence load control productivity?
A work organization is formed to achieve certain goals and objectives by bringing the staff together on a common platform and motivating them to give their best. In case of the Load Control department, the goal is to deliver the loading instructions and load sheets safely, correctly, in-time and of course as economical as possible (to save unnecessary fuel burn and human resources). Simply said, a Load Control department is more productive means it is working faster; and when it works faster, it supports the airline to get a leg up on the competition. So, it’s worth the investment for load control centers to build and nourish their culture. The quality of work culture therefore plays an important role in extracting the best out of employees.
Examples of cultural influence
Load Control for network airlines is characterized by work organizations that either have a centralized load control center within their own airline or even outsourced to another country / service provider - or in de-centralized organizations that are connected to other countries for internal or external reasons.
Looking at different Load Control departments across airlines in different countries, I perceived a strong influence of national (triggered by geographical difference) cultures on the level of efficiency. Three examples for different efficiency degrees between airlines of same size and business models, but different national work culture might be:
- In countries, where “clear instruction” in a direct communication is prevalent and doesn´t disturb the ambiance (because it is not perceived as “rude”), generally speaking the efficiency is higher - versus an indirect communication country, where instructions might leave gaps for interpretation and misunderstanding. The handling of unexpected or irregular situations therefore might be a special challenge for “indirect communication work environments”. Within the Load Control context this might appear, if it is for instance not totally clear, what kind of tasks the ramp agent is allowed to do (e.g. enter ULD numbers, switch load items, etc.). This may result in: time consuming and in-efficient interactions and communication between load controller and ramp agent. One possible solution might be here to have roles, processes and tasks clearly pre-defined or pre-configured – best already done within the applications’ Master Data, for me the so called “brain” of the system.
- In some national cultures - mainly observed in Asia - there is a tendency to additionally use (paper) check-lists to double-check the work of a (fellow) Load Controller, even if he works on a fully automated system. This routine shall “double check”, if every step was executed and done correctly. This manual checking costs time and somehow hinders theoretically speaking the fully automated process and sets it back to a time-intensive semi-automated load control. The evident consequence is: a loss in efficiency. The solution: Test and trust the IT. Use a workflow-oriented tool, that actually ensures, that all steps are done properly (otherwise you can´t continue your load control process). Nobody will need additional time to double-check.
- Is a culture task or relationship oriented? Saying: Can you send an email with the tasks you would like help on or inquire, or do you need to build a relationship first? This determines the degree of interpersonal communication that has an impact on efficiency (if speaking about mostly standardized work content, like in Load Control, and not highly complex issues, like for instance developing new product ideas). I observed cultures where load controllers within the same work situation were talking a lot on the mobile or walky-talky predominantly with ramp agents - and others not. This also applied when a call didn´t seem necessary at all and a more efficient means of communication (like messaging, chatting or simultaneous data input via a mobile solution by a ramp agent) was existent. One explanation for that behavior might be, that in relationship-oriented cultures it is still frowned upon to communicate impersonal. Another one might be that the actors simply have to get used to these new communication patterns via chat or message (of mobile solutions). The solution for time- consuming personal talks: Maybe a (refresher) training for the load control staff to emphasize the use efficient communication, like for instance a chat functionality.
All these examples show how culture influences the way we work together and therefore also the degree of efficiency. Every organization has a culture and, depending on what it is, it can either work for or against the business’ goal of being more efficient.
The quality of work culture therefore plays an important role in extracting the best out of employees. To achieve a productive performance the organization must offer a positive ambience to the employees. But how can this be achieved?
Recommendations for better efficiency based on cultural behavior
It is very difficult to generally recommend work organizations - especially when talking about airlines’ Load Control units with different national backgrounds - how to become more efficient or to tell them, where their efficiency-blockers are. Each organization that aims to achieve better efficiency should therefore take an extra effort for an individual review or consultation of a Load Control expert / consultant for this “non-visible”, but always existent impact factor.
But as culture can be consciously shaped by managers, executives, and co-workers, some general characteristics of cultures that promote higher productivity might be:
- Respecting their fellow workers
Supervisor / Superior:
- Employees should be judged only by their work and nothing else.
- Appreciating good performers
- Giving low-performers opportunity to try proving themselves to do it better (instead criticizing them)
- Encouraging innovations. This raises motivation and relationships
- Sparing tedious daily work from employees who like challenges at work.
- Acting more like a mentor than giving only orders
- Providing direction and guidance to the employees
Load Control Management with high responsibility
Looking at this exemplary listing, it becomes very clear, that the culture of a Load Control department is especially influenced by the organization’s executives, and managerial staff because of their role in decision making and strategic direction. They have the most direct impact in shaping the work culture. It therefore should be crucial that managers at all levels are aware of their responsibility in upholding positive workplace environments that can increase employee satisfaction. Dissatisfaction is one major cause of in-efficiency.
I am looking forward to reading your comments about this topics and will be very happy, if you share some of your wok culture experiences also!
Improve your efficiency. Thoughts at the beginning of the year:
Improve Your Load Control Efficiency (2) - Correct Usage of the System:
Improve your Load Control efficiency (4): Why the auto-load button doesn´t always make your life easier…:
Improve your Load Control Efficiency, Part 5.1: Organizational Aspects: