By Roel Huinink, President & CEO, JFKIAT
This past year has disrupted and accelerated the pace of change in people, processes, place and technology across all aspects of the aviation industry. Although we are faced with daily uncertainty, we continue to be flexible, collaborate, share and explore new ways to adapt to the new normal of air travel.
After nearly a year of pandemic operations, it’s become clear that this accelerated pace of transformative change we’ve experienced in 2020 will remain with us for the foreseeable future. A term we have heard industry leaders use throughout the pandemic is resilience – the ability to recover quickly from difficult situations. Based on what we’ve learned at JFKIAT, resilience is just as important to reinforce within an organization’s culture as is crisis response to a global pandemic.
We have prioritized the health and safety of our employees throughout the crisis and as a result, we have a strong culture of unity and placed that first and foremost during this crisis. We have not only persevered, but have also witnessed our community and partners go above and beyond to ensure a safe and secure environment to win back customer confidence. Thanks to our experiences, we encourage and believe deeply the value of building and maintaining a resilient employee culture.
Ensure safety and provide reassurance within the workplace
As essential workers, our employees at T4 have been on the front lines throughout the crisis. For many, this crisis began long before the U.S. response was widespread. Back in January 2020, due to CDC recommendations, our teams were meeting Wuhan flights alongside our government partners. We remained the only terminal at JFK operating 24/7 throughout the entire pandemic, and even as we saw decreases in flight and passenger traffic, our employees continued to come to work every day for 12 hour shifts to maintain separated workforces for social distancing.
In the early months of the pandemic, our team developed a multi-faceted, comprehensive response and recovery campaign to ensure the safety and wellbeing of customers and employees. To keep employees safe, we stockpiled PPE to ensure that our staff had the proper protective gear to perform their work, conducted numerous temperature check pilots for passengers and employees, and worked with XpresCheck to launch the country’s first COVID-19 testing facility at an air terminal to make testing conveniently available for our employees and travelers right in the arrivals hall at T4.
Reinforce your mission
A recent ACI study found that 80% of respondents were confident that airports and airlines are providing a safe environment. Still, we have more work to do to demonstrate that airports are taking the right safety measures to restore customer confidence.
At JFKIAT, a cornerstone of our mission is to provide the highest levels of safety and security, and we have worked very hard to incorporate that mission into every aspect of our culture at T4. Reinforcing that mission became a critical aspect of our efforts to keep T4 safe throughout the pandemic.
Our core values became even more important as our employees implemented enhanced cleaning processes, followed new social distancing procedures, and worked to relieve customers’ anxiety during their travels. Reinforcing your core “why” is important to keep employees, and leaders alike, focused on what really matters – especially in times of crisis.
Express gratitude and appreciation
Keeping our employees and partners informed and connected was essential to our efforts as we dealt with the pandemic’s impacts, and in every communication, we let them know how grateful we were for their contributions to the T4 community. We launched a social media series, Heroes of T4, to spotlight our employees’ exceptional work, launched an employee “thank you” video within the first few months of the crisis, and hosted an Employee Appreciation Day over the summer to express our thanks for their dedication. Continually communicating gratitude to our staff has helped us to boost morale and maintain a positive environment at T4.
We recognized every aspect of this pandemic and response was not easy for most. Our industry and employees will be changed forever. If we have made a positive impact on our community to ensure they know we support their safety, security, health and well-being first and foremost goes a long way – and is the single most important aspect to restore customer confidence. We care about every single person that walks through our doors and we prove that every day. As we look to the future, I believe that resilience within an organization’s culture will be critical as the aviation industry continues to transform.