Optimising communications at KLM Cityhopper

Stress-resistant technicians work energetically at the Maintenance Control Centre (MCC) of KLM Cityhopper. They base themselves on information from the pilots and ground staff engineers and have to decide on instructions about whether the planes in good technical condition to fly. Good communications, according to the Maintenance Control manager, Henk van Dijk, are of crucial importance.

Why is communicating so important for the MCC?
‘The top priority in the airline industry is safety. If my people communicate well with each other, they can take better decisions about the technical status of an aircraft. And when they communicate efficiently with the ground staff engineers at home and abroad as well as pilots, there is a greater chance that fewer planes are grounded for technical reasons. Another aspect that is specific to the airline industry is that tremendous demands are placed on technical issues and we are constantly under a lot of time pressure. But the technicians also need to feel secure. My people need to be able to take decisions under all these difficult circumstances and they need to be able to convince others of their point of view.’

How did you go about this?
‘The trainer of Schouten & Nelissen took a look at our work processes and taught our staff how you can optimise these by setting priorities and delegating. Our people have 24-hour duty rosters, including a 30-minute hand-over to the next shift. In those 30 minutes you have to be able to present a united front so that you present a single face to the outside world. Because we play a key role in which we need the co-operation of others, there is the risk that people want to outplay one another. It is very important therefore everyone responds in the same way any difficult behaviour from other departments and that everyone communicates well. This is why Schouten & Nelissen held different communication training courses.’

How is the team faring now?
“They have indeed become a team. The training courses were customised and were taken separately by the controllers and tech reps. They have now indicated that they would like to take the next training course together. There was a real sense of security and confidence, in which it is normal for colleagues to consult and advise each other.”

‘Standing your ground without incurring opposition’

What do you think about the partnership?
‘It’s very good. With Schouten & Nelissen, we have a dedicated trainer who regularly spends a day with us. They know exactly what’s going on, they know everyone and also know how important good communications are for us. An important lesson that our people have learned from them is people can take co-ownership of a problem without having to dig in their heels.’

What has this KLM Cityhopper project produced?
‘A lot of money. I think that there are not many other companies where the added value of communications is translated so visibly into money. The advantages are so great that working on communications needs to be an ongoing process. This is why we want to look into this further and we are looking at a training course with other nationalities because there is even more money to be made out of communications with colleagues abroad.’