How can Human Factors affect the profitability of your company?
Human factors will have a significant impact on the efficiency, customer retention, and profitability of your business.
For almost 30 years ITS Academy has been working with some of the world’s largest airlines (and some of the smallest!). In fact, we have around 400 clients in more than 70 countries. We have also worked within the rail and medical environments.
The single focus over this period has been to minimise incidents and accidents in clients’ operations by improving safety through reducing human error. Of course, an added bonus is that by reducing error, efficiency and profitability can be improved.
So how can this be achieved?
Well, aviation is a high-risk business and there are many elements within an operation which can go wrong, with potentially devastating consequences. Having said that, in fact most airlines are risk-averse and there are, for example, very many systems, procedures, training courses, checklists and mandatory requirements which are all designed to minimise risk.
However, humans are ultimately responsible for the manufacture, maintenance and operation of aircraft, and for the overall management of the operation; and the one thing we know about humans is that unfortunately we can, and we will, make mistakes.
So, working from the premise that we want to minimise aviation incidents or accidents, it is clear that we need to address the possibility of human error. This leads us to Human Factors, and the concept of Threat and Error Management (TEM).
Then what is a threat?
A threat is anything from within the operation, or external to it, which can have a negative impact upon the operation. Threats may be known/anticipated or unknown/unexpected. Threats therefore are generally not ‘clear and present’ but are future-based.
The two key aspects to managing threats are:
- the need to understand, and to prepare, for threats which can be anticipated in the normal run of the operation.
- the ability to project ahead and to consider the possibility of unexpected threats which may impact the operation.
What about error management?
Given that error is ubiquitous, we can expect them to occur at any time, and at any phase, of the operation.
The two key aspects of managing error are:
- recognising the incipient onset of an error and preventing it from occurring or from further developing.
- at the point at which the error has actually occurred, either correcting it or mitigating the consequences of the error.
Having briefly outlined TEM we should now consider the implementation of the concept, and this is where the Human Factor comes into play. We have a number of ‘tools’ at our disposal and, within aviation, mandatory annual training (known as crew resource management) is required regarding these ‘tools’. Typically, the training will include subjects such as:
Communication Decision Making Teamwork
Leadership Stress Fatigue
Information Processing Human Error Personality
Attitudes & Behaviours Company Culture Situation Awareness
Standard Procedures Assertiveness Briefing
Training is interactive, discussion-based, company-specific, and case-based. To achieve this, we spend some time with a client to understand their needs, their issues and their objectives. The aim is for personnel, through self-assessment and critique, to modify their behaviour where beneficial, and to reinforce their existing desirable behaviours.
The understanding, and application, of these ‘tools’ can have a significant impact upon the safety and/or profitability of an airline.
But you may not be an airline, so what is the relevance for your company?
Well, you may be a high-risk business, and so you will be concerned about causing damage or injury to your clients’, or to your own property or personnel. In which case, you will be considering similar risks to an airline; although of course such risks will be of a different nature and context.
If your business is not of a type which creates such risks, then your primary concerns will be for efficiency and profitability.
In either case the Human Factor will have a direct impact upon your company, its safety where relevant, and its efficiency and profitability.
Mistakes can be very costly; they can reduce profitability and lead to the loss of customers.
So, your primary concerns, for example, should be to:
- Minimise expensive mistakes
- Ensure first class communication and decision making
- Create high performance teams
- Ensure your different teams interact effectively. Cross-functional teamworking
- Oversee compliance with your standard rules and procedures
- Reinforce an effective company culture
In other words, you need to manage all the Human Factors mentioned above!
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