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IATA Case Study: Career and growth to enhance the employee experience

Client International Air Transport Association

Key takeaways

  • IATA identified career and personal growth as an integral part of building a better experience for its employees.
  • The Career Innovation Company designed and delivered workshops for career skills, managing career conversations and to create a strong and resilient learning culture.
  • 96% of managers agreed that the sessions would make a difference to how they approached their managerial roles.
  • IATA saw improved scores on career growth in the employee engagement survey.

Context and the Challenge

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), with its headquarters in Canada is the trade association for the world’s airlines. It represents some 320 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic, supporting aviation activity and helping to formulate policy across a wide range of areas.

IATA had identified career and personal growth as an integral part of building a better experience for its employees. While the organisation had low turnover, it also had low internal mobility among its employees, with many employees in specialist roles. When one engagement survey showed that some employees wanted to see a clear pathway for their career within the organisation, IATA decided to act.

It wanted both to educate their employees around owning their own career and equip their managers to support them, all in the context of a wider cultural shift. So, in 2022, it partnered with The Career Innovation Company to develop and deliver virtual careers workshops, as part of its management development programme.

Managers agreed the sessions made a difference to how they approached their roles

Relationships are so critical to our working lives, not only do we collaborate with others to get our work done, people play a role in our career success and satisfaction.

Rosemary McLean, The Career Innovation Company

Actions taken

After taking time to understand and clarify IATA’s objectives, The Career Innovation Company designed and delivered 25 workshops aimed at both career development conversations and creating a learning culture.

This meant a highly collaborative partnership. For example, IATA provided the context of their brand values, which included:

  • Building standards through expertise;
  • Championing the global big picture;
  • Partnering for mutual benefit;
  • Acting with a simple human touch.

With a clear picture of these values and what it felt like to work for IATA, The Career Innovation Company then designed specialist workshops for managers and employees to cover the following areas:

Changing the Career Landscape

To talk about career development in times of change feels difficult in any organisation. So, The Career Innovation Company set out a narrative based on the “Chaos Theory of Careers”[1], in which many different big picture and personal factors, some controllable, though many not, influence the career development of employees.

The central message is that change is part of life. And by learning to be adaptable and resilient, employees can keep a level of control and sit on the “edge of chaos.”

Mastering Career Conversations

The workshops also looked at the crucial difference between career and performance conversations. Many people managers get training in how to have a performance conversation, but having a career conversation is a very different skill – and potentially more rewarding for all involved, as the table below shows:

The workshops focused on explaining the value of career conversations for the manager, as well as the employees. And The Career Innovation Company set out their “Explore. Focus. Act.” coaching model to help career conversations flow more effectively. The stages of this model are as follows:

  1. Open the conversation – to establish what the employee wants from it and their immediate priorities.
  2. Explore the employee’s career journey, values, interests, motivations and strengths.
  3. Focus on their career aspirations, development needs and opportunities.
  4. Act to bring these to life through setting out goals, objectives, next steps, necessary support and networking.
  5. Close the conversation – in a way that ensures that employees feel all their key needs have been addressed.

Supporting Self-Agency

Through its workshops, The Career Innovation Company also emphasised supporting “self-agency” for employees. This means looking at how they can futureproof their career skills. The Career Innovation Company’s model features the following seven skills:

  1. Know yourself – Understanding their skillset and seeking feedback helps people to appreciate their value, maintain employability and build career potential.
  2. Stretch yourself – Stepping out of comfort zones, by learning new skills, or working on new projects, builds experience and gives confidence.
  3. Adapt to change – Becoming more resilient, positive and flexible helps people to apply their skills to new challenges and seize opportunities.
  4. Spot the opportunities – When people can identify future career options, understand the skills they require and how to make a move, they learn to navigate through a changing industry.
  5. Build your network – Planning a strong and diverse network of relationships gives people a broad spectrum of support to achieve their career goals.
  6. Build your brand – Consciously planning how to present themselves helps shape other people’s perceptions and creates opportunities.
  7. Reflect and plan – Getting career fit doesn’t happen automatically. It takes time to identify goals and milestones for performance, development and future career.

More detail about the 7 career skills and the research behind them can be found here.

Career pulse

In preparation for the workshops, 69 people across 5 continents completed a Career pulse diagnostic to understand and develop their career skills. This also provided IATA with a useful snapshot of career needs. The majority were at mid and late career stages, and most were seeking career growth and a greater understanding of what they wanted from their career.

The diagnostic indicated confidence in career skills around adapting to change, but an opportunity to further develop skills in building their network, spotting career opportunities and building their brand – all of which would support greater internal mobility in the organisation.

Spotlight session – Let’s talk about careers

IATA recognised that while it is important to be intentional and pro-active about one’s own career development, not everyone knows how to go about it. So, in a live Careers Event panel, they reinforced the message that it’s a partnership and that employees need help and support to grow their careers in the context of change. Rosemary McLean was a panellist alongside  IATA’s Learning & Development team and senior stakeholders. It was attended by over 300 employees and recorded as a resource for everyone to access. Rosemary explored some key trends in careers, how people can activate their career growth by practising the 7 career skills – in particular the meta skill of networking.


  • 100 employees and 200 managers attended the workshops and 300 attended the ‘Let’s talk about careers’ panel.
  • 96% of managers agreed/strongly agreed that the sessions would make a difference to how they approached their role as a people manager and 86% of employees agreed/strongly agreed the session would make a difference to how to approach their career planning
  • IATA saw improved scores on career growth in the employee engagement survey.


[1] Robert Pryor, Jim Bright (2011) The Chaos Theory of Careers: A New Perspective on Working in the Twenty-First Century

Made me think deeply about my career.

Workshop participant

Birgit was very engaging, she also shared some real-life examples when briefing us on the concepts. The exercises and breakout sessions went very well.

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