Working at Sea: Recruitment and Retention

(Photo: Nina Espeli Allen, senior inspector with the Norwegian Seafarers’ Union (front left) and Elizabeth Vavra, crew activities manager with the Port of Miami’s Seafarer Center (second from the right), meeting with crew aboard the Norwegian Sky.)   The industry is facing two challenges: recruitment and retention. On the recruitment side, said Richard Brearley, vice president of shipboard HR for Royal Caribbean Cruises: “We are changing the game from the traditional recruitment model. We are no longer just advertising job openings and putting people on the ships for training. Instead, we are going to schools, educating people at a younger age about career opportunities, and training them before they go aboard.”

Thus, Royal Caribbean is working to introduce the cruise industry through the educational systems in various countries, aiming to reach and interest students 14 to 15 years old, Brearly explained.

“We want to be an employer of tomorrow,” he said.

For 2014, the company listed 73,515 shipboard employees and expects to have 94,923 by 2020. That target also includes raising the Chinese crew contingent from 1,831 last year to 10,831.

In terms of retention, the keys to job satisfaction at sea are similar to those on land, according to Nico Corbijn, vice president of fleet personnel at Norwegian Cruise Line: “Job security, compensation, benefits, opportunities to use their skills and abilities, an environment in which they can feel safe and make a meaningful contribution, and recognition by peers and superiors.”

Corbijn said that Norwegian measures employee engagement on an annual basis and uses the findings to work with crew and management to continually improve.

“We are color blind as to who we promote,” he said. “Color, race, religion, gender or sexual preference do not matter. And regardless of where you are from, we pay the same for the same job.”

Both companies have two objectives: to recruit and then to retain. Hence they realize it is important to meet employees’ needs and offer career advancement opportunities.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2014/2015

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