Karen Moore

Karen Moore, Managing Director, 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 and specialist units within the police, such as firearms officers. 

Psychological Risk in Aviation – Selection, Training and On-the-Job Mental Health

A growing issue facing the aviation sector is providing sufficient pilots to meet the burgeoning demand, with a key focus on the training pipeline. 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 to establish themselves in their careers, and maintain their engagement thereafter. Part of this is down to their core personality traits, and part to their ongoing mental state.

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. New training technologies increase the psychological stress on the individual through realism of scenarios encountered. 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 a preparedness to talk about what was once a taboo topic.

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 this selection process. 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.