Prior to 2013, Limak Kosovo airport was living in the past. Not only did we have a terminal that was barely functioning, with limited amenities and the absolute minimum of resources, but our recruitment and training practices were pretty much non-existent. Worse still, our airport relied on a leaky groundwater well situated 3km away for its water supply.
With the introduction of our new terminal in 2013 came a fresh approach to our thinking.
The following award submission outlines how we repositioned ourselves as a truly responsible business. Specifically, it summarises:
- Our ambitious objectives, which included a desire to deliver tangible environmental and technological improvements while creating more jobs and setting a new national BENCHMARK for recruitment and training best practice.
- How we made these changes, including details – for example – of how we developed Kosovo’s FIRST EVER aviation training programme.
- How our new training programme has increased employment opportunities to Kosovans at a time of unprecedented youth unemployment.
- How we delivered a cutting-edge, ISO-ACCREDITED and entirely sustainable water system that has slashed our water consumption by nearly HALF.
- The way we’ve used this implementation as a springboard for BUSINESS-WIDE, sustainable environmental change, with new areas of focus including noise management and carbon emissions.
- How we’re actively communicating our knowledge and experiences with other organisations, both within and outside of Kosovo, with a view to sharing BEST PRACTICE nationally and globally.
OUR SUBMISSION IN DETAIL
This is the story of how our flagging airport, with a terminal that was reliant on primitive resources and retrograde technology, not to mention archaic recruitment and training practices, managed to completely and irrefutably turn its fortunes around over five years, from 2013.
Desperate to change its reputation, we at Limak Kosovo didn’t just make the minimum changes necessary to bring it up to the standard of its peers – we went a whole lot further, showing how our airport could become nothing less than an industry leader that sets the benchmark for corporate best practice within our own country.
To ensure we started as we meant to go on, we devised and implemented an innovative, multi-faceted plan, with key components including the development of:
- A state-of-the-art water management system, unprecedented within our region.
- A brand new training and recruitment programme, designed to not only help ourselves but to alleviate crushing youth unemployment levels across Kosovo.
- Europe’s most advanced airport security system.
As a result of putting such ambitious initiatives into action, five years on, our airport is now arguably among Europe’s finest – a truly responsible business that inspires others to follow suit.
THE WAY THINGS WERE
When our airport reopened for domestic services after suffering considerable damage during the Kosovo war, it was fair to say that it was in an extremely dilapidated condition. With limited capacity (of just 1 million passengers every year), no car parking, no screening machines and poor amenities, our terminal was not just in need of some improvement – it was barely fit for purpose.
If Limak Kosovo was to have any future at all, we needed to make a change. So, in the first instance, we set about creating a shiny new terminal building, complete with state-of-the-art equipment and enhanced facilities.
While this was definitely a massive improvement to what we had before, it soon became apparent that to make a deeper change, we also needed to turn our attention to something far less visible – our attitudes and ethos.
As the only international airport in Europe’s newest nation, this was our chance to really make a difference for Kosovo and become a leader rather than a follower in the airport industry. Not only that, but we wanted to set the benchmark for corporate best practice within our new country – providing an example for other Kosovar businesses to follow.
Our targeted business aims were to use our new terminal as a stepping stone to continually develop our CSR plans. By doing so, we would create more opportunities for potential and existing employees, while helping wider communities as well as the environment.
With this in mind, we set out to:
- Deliver tangible environmental and technological improvements, and in so doing serve as a model for other Kosovar businesses to replicate.
- Create more jobs, thereby increasing Kosovo’s economic prosperity, while setting a new national benchmark for recruitment and training best practice.
IMPLEMENTING THE TURNAROUND
In line with our objectives, key implementations within our responsible business initiative included the following:
1) IMPROVING OUR ENVIRONMENTAL CREDENTIALS
DEVELOPMENT OF THE REGION’S MOST ADVANCED WATER MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
We used in-house expertise (from our parent company, Limak Holding) to develop the region’s most advanced water management system, featuring:
- Two independent sources of water. (Situated 30m away, our new wells have two pipelines, ensuring a constant supply.)
- Kosovo’s ONLY wastewater treatment plant – designed, engineered and procured to recycle wastewater generated by both airport and aircraft.
- A two-phase water treatment system for sanitary, potable water, which filters, softens, disinfects and purifies water using advanced reverse osmosis.
Our water system represented a first for Kosovo by delivering our region’s only wastewater plant, using some of the world’s most advanced technology. Adhering to ISO 14001:2015 and 50001:2011 standards, the system also:
- Uses reverse osmosis to produce the world’s highest-grade drinking water (source: WHO).
- Provides automised, sustainable irrigation, watering 25,000m2 of airport green areas using dedicated rainwater tanks rather than purified water.
- Provides real societal benefits for local communities.
- Benefits from state-of-the-art monitoring systems and reporting practices – many implemented in the past 12 months alone, as part of our continual improvement programme. In June’17, for example, we fully automated the reporting process – taking the process online, with a shared drive, in order to manage leaks, damage and chemical consumption more precisely, 24/7. We also installed a wastewater flow metre and implemented regular tap inspections (from Oct’17) to help us ascertain where further water and energy efficiencies can be achieved.
See Appendix-1 of supporting document for more information. Also see ‘Impact’ section for more on the benefits and results of this ground-breaking initiative.
SETTING AN ENVIRONMENTAL BLUEPRINT
We’ve used the successful implementation of our water system as a springboard – particularly over the past 12 months – applying the same assessment and planning methodologies to launch a raft of other environmental initiatives, including a:
- Noise management system, focusing on land and air-side noise production.
- Solid waste management system, including waste sorting and recycling facilities.
- Carbon emissions reduction mandate, with discrete, ongoing projects including a solar farm feasibility study.
- Target to reduce electricity consumption, year-on-year. This has been achieved through several measures, including reducing light-bulbs in unnecessary areas and setting automatic lighting within the terminal according to flight schedules/sunset times.
Moreover, our approach resulted in us receiving ACI Airport Carbon Accreditation Level 1 in Mar’16 and Level 2 in July’17. (We expect to achieve Level 3 this coming summer.)
2) DEVELOPING TRAINING AND EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
INTRODUCING MORE ADVANCED EMPLOYEE TRAINING
To meet our triple objective – improve customer satisfaction, create new jobs and develop a national benchmark for recruitment and training best practice – we needed an innovative new approach.
Prior to this change, nepotism was the norm. All airport personnel were hired based on who, rather than what, they knew. Furthermore, thanks to staggering unemployment rates across the country, we found ourselves being constantly overwhelmed with job requests, yet had no easy way to filter the best candidates.
While we put existing frontline employees through passenger handling and complaint resolution training, we also wanted to give new potential employees a chance. Cue the development of Kosovo’s FIRST EVER AVIATION TRAINING PROGRAMME: the Limak Aviation Services Institute.
PROVIDING A FAIRER RECRUITMENT PROCESS
To recruit the right people going forwards, our Institute now gives Prishtina University students a unique opportunity to achieve INTERNATIONALLY ACCREDITED CERTIFICATION in airport management and to take part in a paid internship across multiple departments.
The training programme includes extracurricular visits to key aviation and education institutions, such as Airbus Industry, France Civil Aviation School and Geneva Airport. Those achieving accreditation also receive a full-time job offer in the most suitable area for their specific talents.
To date, we have successfully undertaken THREE editions of the programme, with:
- 90 participating trained and certified students on airport management subjects (30 participants/edition).
- Employment contracts offered to 90% of students from the last cohort, and only one student dropping out since programme roll-out.
Crucially, by focusing on young talent, we’re not just helping our own business. Such proactive steps are also helping to tackle Kosovo’s high youth unemployment rate (currently 50.9%*), setting a standard for best practice across a country where under-25s constitute more than half the population.
*2017 Labour Force Survey.
INCREASING OPPORTUNITIES WITH AIRPORT HELPER
As well as giving those potential employees an increased opportunity to progress in the aviation industry, we’ve also devised an incentive to help develop those who already work for us.
This initiative – entitled ‘Airport Helper’ – was first introduced in Sept’15 with a view to training existing employees to provide any information and guidance passengers may need throughout their journey, ranging from destination advice to restaurant recommendations.
Not only that, but we have also extended our training to our third-party employees (tour operators, care rental staff, etc), to ensure that as many people as possible are given the chance to broaden their skillset for the future.
As of Dec’17, we had already trained over a third of all airport workers – focusing foremost on those that are customer-facing. This will have risen to 50% by Dec’18 as part of the ongoing programme, and has also been enshrined into our induction training.
3) KEEPING OUR PASSENGERS SAFE
DELIVERING EUROPE’S MOST ADVANCED AIRPORT SECURITY SYSTEM
Before the new terminal was built, we had no screening equipment to speak of; therefore, any development would have represented an improvement. However, rather than simply settling for basic technology, we ambitiously set ourselves the task of delivering THE MOST ADVANCED AIRPORT SECURITY SYSTEM IN EUROPE.
Utilising the latest innovative technology to increase security while saving passengers time and stress, our system now boasts:
- An EMA Bottle and Liquid Scanner Standard 3, which detects any possible combustible, flammable or explosive liquids, removing the need for liquids to be unnecessarily confiscated. Ours was THE FIRST AIRPORT WITHIN THE EU to benefit from this technology (others still use ITEMISER 3).
- Shoe examiners, which save time by scanning passengers’ shoes without them needing to be removed.
- An EU and Transportation Security Administration Standard 3 approved screening machine capable of screening 750 bags per/hour; most airports still use Standard 2.
- An MVT-HR system, capable of screening 1,800 oversized bags/hour.
- An OPTEX Department for Transport-approved explosive trace detector: Standard 3.
(For visuals of this equipment, see Appendix-2.)
The impact of this highly innovative project has been wide-reaching, enabling us to:
DRAMATICALLY IMPROVE OUR ENVIRONMENTAL CREDENTIALS
By developing the region’s most advanced water management system, we’ve managed to:
- Nearly HALVE our annual water consumption through continual systems refinement – from c.204,480m3 in 2012 (prior to the new terminal being built) to 110,862m3 in 2017. Moreover, while we witnessed a 23.5% increase in passenger numbers (2017 versus 2012), we consumed 55.8% less water for each of those passengers.
- Achieve ISO 14001:2004 for our new water management system (with ISO 14001:2015 certification due imminently). The environmental springboard effect has also seen us achieve the following certification for our follow-on environmental projects:
- ISO 50001:2011 – July’15.
- Level-1 from Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) – March’16.
- ACA Level-2 – July’17, with Level-3 expected to be achieved this coming summer.
SUBSTANTIALLY INCREASE OUR EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
Our employment figures rose by 1.5% in 2017, in line with the strategies outlined above. The significance of this may not be immediately apparent. However, it is important to understand the volume of jobs we’ve created in the context of wider statistics for Kosovo as a whole.
The World Bank confirmed only last month in its Regular Economic Report Spring 2018 that unemployment for Kosovo is the highest in the Western Balkans, at 30.4%. Moreover, we have the lowest average age in Europe – with 53% of our population under the age of 25. Of these, over 50% are unemployed. Our economy currently only generates half the number of jobs needed annually for young people entering the workforce because of continued political instability and historically sluggish GDP (among the lowest in Europe). So this 1.5% increase is, in fact, substantial.
Rather than staying static or losing workers – as many organisations have done in Kosovo – we are actively creating careers in a nation where few job opportunities exist.
Moreover, our now more tailored selection process – which recognises achievement rather than connections – ensures we maintain our skilled, motivated and young workforce.
GROW OUR ALREADY HIGH CUSTOMER SATISFACTION SCORES
The approaches outlined above haven’t just increased employment opportunities to Kosovans at a time of high unemployment; they’ve also undoubtedly helped us to improve our customer satisfaction scores.
Independently gauged by Airports Council International (ACI), our customer satisfaction has been consistently high since our new terminal opened in 2013. Despite this, we managed to deliver a 22% increase between summer’13 and summer’17, affording us with a current rating of 4.73/5 (according to ACI data) – equating to 94.6%.Limak_Peer_awards_2018_responsible-business_SD
In addition to the results already outlined, our ground-breaking responsible business initiative has enabled us to:
1) INSPIRE OTHERS
As already mentioned, we haven’t just succeeded in becoming a responsible business in our own right. On the contrary, by challenging the disillusioned norms within our country and showing how new successes can be achieved, we’ve become a best practice model for our corporate peers in Kosovo. Examples of businesses looking to learn from us already include one of Kosovo’s leading telephony companies, which has shown interest in our water management system.
2) PROVIDE SOCIETAL BENEFITS
We’ve also managed to provide real societal benefits for local communities. According to the World Water Council, c.93% of Kosovo’s rural population relies on groundwater wells. However, as part of our water management system, we have provided a pipeline to our nearest village, Vrella, and our local NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) military camp, thereby ensuring both communities benefit from a continuous supply of clean water for the very first time.
3) INCREASE PASSENGER NUMBERS AND TRAFFIC MOVEMENT
Our responsible business actions have undoubtedly helped contribute to our commercial success. In 2017, passenger numbers proliferated to a record 1.88m – nearly DOUBLE the volume we welcomed a decade earlier, and almost 25% up on 2014 alone.
Here at Limak Kosovo, we are particularly proud of the way we have gone much further than simply upgrading the aesthetics of our airport. With limited budget and the odds firmly stacked against us (such as staggering country-wide unemployment rates, ingrained nepotism and a decrepit water system), we have created new initiatives that have not only overcome our own challenges, but have inspired and set a clear precedent for others to replicate.
For example, we have:
1) ENGINEERED A UNIQUE WATER CONSUMPTION TURNAROUND
Just five years ago, our airport relied on a groundwater well situated 3km away for its water supply. The pipework for this decrepit system leaked, wasting c.47% of the (non-potable) water we took from the ground. Today, through in-house ingenuity and development, we have an ISO-accredited world-class water management system that has MORE THAN HALVED our overall consumption, while delivering the WORLD’S HIGHEST-GRADE drinking water to both our passengers and nearby communities.
2) EFFECTED ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE FROM WITHIN
As outlined earlier, we regard our responsible business initiative as something that is continually evolving and improving. And one of our most creative tactics has been to use our water management system as a catalyst for additional environmental changes. Specifically, we’ve used it as a springboard, applying the same assessment and planning methodologies to launch multiple other sustainable environmental initiatives. (See ‘Setting an environmental blueprint’ for examples.)
3) HELPED CHANGE THE FORTUNES OF KOSOVO’S YOUTH
Not many businesses can say that they have devised a training plan that has bucked country-wide trends – but through the Limak Aviation Services Institute, we have done exactly that. With the youngest population in Europe and youth unemployment nearing 60%, we had a huge mountain to climb. By setting up the country’s first ever aviation training body, we are giving young people a unique chance to prosper in our industry.
4) GIVEN THE MANAGERS OF THE FUTURE VALUABLE, INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE
Students participating in the Limak Aviation Services Institute are given an unprecedented opportunity – something that simply isn’t afforded to other young people in Kosovo. Ours is a new nation and with that comes with strict visa controls. Yet we have been able to arrange prestigious internships at leading international aviation firms, including Airbus in France and Geneva Airport in Switzerland. In doing so, we’re giving our students – the managers of the future – valuable (professional) life experiences outside of Kosovo.
We believe that several aspects of our experience are transferrable to other businesses.
Our three top tips for fellow professionals are therefore as follows:
1) DON’T BE DAUNTED BY THE IMPLEMENTATION OF A NEW TRAINING PROGRAMME
Our training programme is making a big change, but it has been easy to implement and is therefore easy to replicate. By selecting people who are committed to a career and eager to progress, you can form links with others in the same industry, which can be hugely beneficial to your business.
2) REMEMBER THAT KEY STAKEHOLDERS DON’T JUST SIT WITHIN YOUR ORGANISATION
We don’t simply communicate the aims, progress and outcomes of environmental initiatives to employees across our business; for maximum impact; we also work closely – right from the outset – with members of our local communities.
By interviewing residents from the nearby village of Vrella, for example – and correlating the outputs with both government statistics and international data – we were better able to understand their acute water requirements, delivering a scalable water management system that would suit their needs as well as our own.
3) INCORPORATE SCALABLE, CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY THAT’S INSPIRATIONAL TO OTHERS
Our airport went from having no screening equipment at all, to boasting the most advanced airport security system in Europe. If you’re going to make a change, try to make sure it’s a big one that will not only help to boost your business’s reputation and day-to-day operations, but will influence others!