Selecting for Resilience Then Maintaining Mental Wellbeing – Keeping the Stuffing in the ‘Right Stuff’

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Karen Moore, MD & Principal Occupational Psychologist, Symbiotics

Karen Moore is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist with considerable experience of assessing individuals at all levels from graduate to board directors and in a diverse range of industries from nuclear, through utilities to banking and aviation. She is particularly concerned that personality profiling should not be seen as the route to protecting mental health, but as one indicator of the individual’s susceptibility.

Karen joined Symbiotics in 2017 as MD and Principal Occupational Psychologist, to further develop their assessment processes for high consequence industries. Symbiotics specialize in the assessment of pilots for commercial and business airlines, as well as the military; and specialist units within the police, such as firearms officers. 

Selecting for Resilience Then Maintaining Mental Wellbeing – Keeping the Stuffing in the ‘Right Stuff’

A growing issue facing the aviation sector is providing sufficient pilots to meet the burgeoning demand, with a key focus on the training pipeline. However, there is a need to ensure that the entrants to the pipeline have the right attributes not only to succeed in passing the training but also in establishing themselves in their careers, and maintaining their engagement thereafter.

Aircrew perform a role that demands maintenance of operational effectiveness in a situation of steady routine that always carries the potential of high-pressure immediate incidents. How an individual will respond to these can be predicted through sophisticated psychological modelling, and the relevant attributes tested through a combination of personality and aptitude tests, but mental health is a state that can fluctuate on a daily or even hour-by-hour basis. Mental wellbeing is a topic that is now on the agenda for most organisations, and we see the beginnings of a preparedness to talk about what was once a taboo topic. But just how do you keep people who have the ‘right stuff’ mentally fit and able to carry out their duties?

Proposals to address mental health risk by assessing psychological traits at key career points – recruitment, employer change or command upgrade – will not achieve the objective of identifying crew who are at risk of breakdown episodes. 

Symbiotics have preliminary results comparing the risk to mental wellbeing on eight key measures between individuals selected for resilience and those who have not undergone a robust selection process. Using data from our extensive database, we will consider two key areas – what personality traits to assess for to give the greatest resilience to the various stresses put on workers in the aviation sector; and how mental health can be effectively and economically measured to best support them with the pressure they will encounter.