"Airline pilots are the central figures in a complex and dynamic workplace environment; the systems managers at the human-machine interface in the cockpits of sophisticated civilian transportation aircraft. Theirs is a technology-centric workspace, and their role is highly responsible and autonomous (Fraher, 2019). While their industry is known to be cyclical (i.e., prone to periods of boom followed by periods of bust) the recent upheaval in the airline industry due to COVID-19 is unprecedented. In March 2020 the World Health Organization officially classified COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The subsequent actions of the governments of the world to limit the spread of COVID-19 became an existential threat for many airlines, bringing financial damage and shock not experienced since the industry-wide downturn in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 2001 (Suk & Kim, 2021). Airline managers reacted with a variety of financial coping mechanisms, including changes targeting their pilots. These included drastic changes to pilots' working conditions and amendments to their remuneration and employee benefits; some negotiated, some unilaterally imposed. These changes have been most marked for those pilots whose employing airline's business is focused on international routes.
It is known that managers, job design (the way employees are expected to perform their day-to-day work), and rewards influence employee motivation (Gagné et al., 2010), and previous studies on motivation have shown links between employee motivation and employee workplace behaviour and performance outcomes (Anderman, 2020; Frederick-Recascino & Hall, 2003; Zohar et al., 2015). Given the changes to the working conditions, salary and benefit packages experienced by airline pilots during the COVID-19 pandemic, it follows that there may be consequences for their workplace motivation and performance outcomes. Potential workplace follow-on effects are unknown, but could include negative outcomes for a raft of airline industry-relevant variables, including industrial relations between pilots and airline management, pilots' organizational commitment, pilot turnover intentions, and airlines' all-important flight safety standards.
For more information or zoom link, please email the Graduate Research School or phone (07) 4631 1088. The zoom links are included in the ReDTrain Bulletin.