Crew recruitment, management and retention

The Islander – February 2016

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Leadership is a life long journey!

Impact Crew was invited to speak on the subject of Recruiting, Managing and Retaining Crew, at the London Boat Show during the Superyacht UK Technical Seminar. The first question we asked the organisers was … how long do we have, a day, a week – really just 20 minutes?!

Listening to the technical seminars, particularly on the subject of post launch, it becomes so obvious that crew are the key to any vessel’s success. However beautifully designed a vessel, however comprehensive the safety equipment and logs; it is down to the crew’s application, behaviour and integrity as to how it all works in practice. An owner or charter guest’s experience is so much more than the nuts and bolts – really it is the crew that will make or break their trip.

So what are the secrets to having a great crew, what do we need to do in order to attract, manage and retain them?

It’s probably not as complicated as it sounds, but it is a challenge and one that many yacht experience.

Focussing on recruitment in the business world, it is common practice to use job profiling when recruiting, to better understand the candidate’s strengths and areas for development. This process typically increases the successful placement of a candidate and the individual fitting in well into the role and team.

So what is stopping the superyacht industry from using this opportunity to get it right for the yacht, crew and the owner? Perhaps in part, the reason is the haste with which some positions need to be filled. However, where possible this approach may beneficial.

Next is managing the new crew member into role. Every yacht will induct a new crew member in terms of safety, where the fire extinguishers are located, the exit routes, security of the yacht, etc. However, how often are those “unspoken” rules clarified? So now they’re not following the unwritten rules. What do you do about it? Do you talk about it, let it go or hope somebody else says something? Often senior crew turn a blind eye, thinking “it’s hard to deal with and with any luck the problem will disappear”. However, as we saw from the crew turnover survey, 64% of junior crew left as a direct result of the leadership they experienced on board. Many comments were around a perception of favouritism, differing standards and allowing crew politics to fester. It’s probably not intentional and is most likely caused by an inability or lack of motivation to deal with the issues. Managing crew is tough. You need to be brave, honest and competent all at the same time.

Looking at crew retention, they will rarely leave for a single reason. The reality is, it’s much easier to stay than to find a new job. But give them the motivation to start looking for a new position and they have already made the decision to jump ship – now it’s just a case of when.

Crew turnover remains a challenge for the industry. Giving senior crew the tools and confidence to effectively manage crew is key. Leadership is an ongoing journey. It’s not just a HELM course – it’s about taking the tips and tools and applying them in everyday life and forming new habits. This takes time and commitment. You never stop learning and developing your leadership skills. People are like the wind – you never quite know what you are going to get tomorrow. The more tools you have in your kit bag to deal with crew, the more effective you become, although it’s unlikely to become easier!

In John Donahoe’s words:-

“ Leadership is a journey, not a destination. It is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a process, not an outcome.”

Impact Crew offers on board team and leadership development. Contact us to see how we can support you in effective recruitment, management and retention.