Research conducted by Helmreich two decades ago suggested that culture consists of shared norms, values and practices. Although an organization should have an overarching culture, employee behaviours can also be influenced by a variety of sub-cultures including professional background and nationality. This variation has the potential to cause error and conflict within multi-cultural teams. As aviation has become a global industry the question of culture, and the impact culture might have on flight behaviours, safety and crew resource management training, has become more important.
This SGSSS ESRC collaborative studentship project, with CHC Helicopters, entitled ‘Considering culture in the cockpit: cultural influences on crew resource management’ aims to explore the influence of culture within helicopter crews. The project is now entering the third, and final, year with the following studies completed thus far:
- Exploratory interview study to examine pilot experience of cultural variation, and determine which type of culture (professional, national, organizational) has the most potential to impact on in-flight behaviours.
- Online survey study to assess the influence of professional and national culture on specific non-technical skills.
- Online cognitive study utilising the IAT (implicit association test) to examine the role of culture in implicit risk perception, specifically whether weather-related risk perception differs amongst different professional (and potentially national – sample-dependent) cultures.
Key findings thus far suggest that helicopter pilots consider there to be a marked difference in how civilian- and military-trained pilots approach flights. Most helicopter pilots highlighted the difference as being ‘getting the job done’ attitude of ex-military pilots versus the ‘safety over efficiency’ approach of their civilian-trained colleagues.