“One of the important focus areas for us is leadership development both on the ships and ashore,” said Laura Miller, senior vice president and chief human resources (HR) officer at Royal Caribbean Cruises. “We look at the entire leadership journey a leader goes through from being developed as a first-time leader, and that is also part of our succession planning, getting people ready not just for the job they have to perform today, but also in the future.”
Royal Caribbean is partnering with universities and technology providers and also developing its own digital learning capabilities for shipboard employees. This includes Embark, teaching new employees the Royal Caribbean way of doing things before they get on the ship, giving them a head start, and also showing what is required to move the next level. Programs have also been developed with eCornell, LinkedIn Learning and the University of North Carolina.
“Onboard, our strategy is to build talent from within as much as possible,” Miller continued. “We want to do the majority of our hiring at the entry level and then offer the opportunity and the challenge (to advance), that is also why people want to come and stay here because they know they can have a long-term career.
“What is most important to seafarers, they tell us, is that they are able to provide a good quality of life for their families at home, and enter a position that allows them to grow and develop their skills,” she added. “They don’t just want a job, but a career. Of course, benefits, length of contracts, ability to communicate with their families are also important, and the quality of life on the ship. We are spending more time and money on the design of crew areas than before, to maximize their ability to have a good life at sea.”
Every company says that people are their most important resource, according to Miller, but but few are willing to make the commitment and spend the time, money and effort on their employees.
She said that was one of the factors that attracted her to Royal Caribbean. “We want to be head and shoulders above everybody else, not just saying it, but meaning it, doing it and being willing to make the investments.
“It is the crew and the service that brings guests back again and again, and we cannot provide that service if we are not investing in our employees.”
The biggest challenge Miller and her teams face is the company’s growth and being able to ensure that the brands have the best talent in place, when they need it, and that there continues to be advancement opportunities.
With the growth comes faster promotions, which in turn can mean less time to gain leadership experience. Said Miller: “We are finding ways to develop leadership capabilities and accelerate our knowledge and understanding not so much for our needs today, but for the future.”
Miller is projecting that over the next five years, Royal Caribbean will need to hire from 15,000 to 20,000 new employees a year for turnover and the new ships. The company presently has approximately 80,000 employees, including some 70,000 seafarers, she said.
Her advice to young people? “Take the tough assignments. If you do well, you will learn more and be far more successful than doing easy jobs that many others can do just as well. And seek feedback, not only on what you are doing right, but what you need to work on to do it even better. Listen and learn from others, but also come up with new ideas. Ask why, and if the answer is ‘because this is the way we have always done it, that is an unacceptable answer.”