Inducting New Crew - Getting new crew off to a flying start

The Islander – April 2020

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We remember 90% of what we say and do

Having worked with many yachts and crews, it is interesting to hear about the different approaches which are used to induct new crew. Do you give them a welcome pack when they arrive on board, or even before they come aboard? What goes into it, a copy of the Master’s standing orders, their role and responsibilities, examples of the uniform and when to wear which, bedding and washing days, a photo of all the crew along with names and positions, etc?

Most yachts have the initial induction sorted – their first day on board consists of familiarisation and going through all the legalities, admin, safety procedures, etc. The new recruit receives a huge amount of information and typically a crew social in the evening so they get to meet everyone too. Day two, and they can start to crack on with the job they were hired for.  

What is apparent, if you want a new crew member to fit in quickly, step up and perform, use their initiative (sensibly) and work independently; more time needs to be spent inducting them into your ways of working. However, this does not necessarily mean bombarding them with ever increasing amounts of information.

Take yourself back to the last time you joined a new yacht – that first day was probably an information overload and how much of it actually stuck? Sadly we only remember 10% of what we read and 20% of what we hear! So what’s the solution? You have a legal obligation, hence the information overload on day 1. However, if this is so important shouldn’t it be re-visited to make sure it has actually sunk in?

We remember 90% of what we say and do. The NHS has developed their approach to teaching, which embraces this fact. As a student you will first watch an operation being performed, then under supervision perform the operation, and the last step in the process is to “teach” it back to your consultant. Adopting this style of learning with new crew could be invaluable, particularly around safety critical issues. How else will you ‘test’ that someone has taken in the information during their induction? All too often the first time you realise that your new recruit is missing a critical piece of information is when there is an accident or incident of some description.

Add to this the question of how to get the new recruit (depending on their position) to grasp that when we say everyone has to clear up after themselves, that includes them?!

Every yacht will have slightly different ‘unspoken’ rules and this is what forms the culture on your yacht. Often the issues and conflicts are down to ‘How’ someone does or says something, rather than ‘What’ they are doing. Do you thank the Chef after each meal, or leave your mug in the sink because the dishwasher is running? It can take a new crew member some time to work out the subtleties of how you do things. Some yachts adopt a buddy system for the new joiner, this way they can more easily pick up on the small nuances that makes your yacht unique – turning up 5 minutes before the morning brief, with or without a mug of coffee in hand?....every boat is different!

When do you review how things are going for them? Do you check in with your new recruit after their first day or week? What about thereafter? The sooner you ensure your new recruit is aware of how you like things done the better, but they may need telling more than once (remember that information over-load). It’s just as important to let them know both what you expect them to do as well as how you expect them to behave. Many senior crew out of kindness will generally cut the new recruit some slack…. But what they really need is to be set clear, unwavering boundaries from the start. Meeting with them at regular intervals, initially daily, then weekly and then moving to every two weeks, creates the opportunity to review their performance and give them feedback. If you have decided not to keep them on beyond the trial period, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to them. If you expected something different from them, either in their levels of competence or behaviour, they should have had the feedback and at least been given the chance to improve, but if you don’t make the time to give them the feedback, how can they improve?

Impact Crew will support you to create the culture you would like for your yacht. We specialise in providing team and leadership development, one to one coaching, along with other valuable management consultancy services, including psychometric profiling to support the recruitment process. Give us a call to see how we can support you and your crew.