Poor crew retention and how to solve it has been a serious talking point for a while, not least here at OnboardOnline as we look at potential pathways to remedying this enduring and costly issue.
With the recent evolution of events organisers ACREW into the crew retention arena following the launch of ACREW+, and their partnership with Luxury Hospitality to power some innovative and effective strategies, it’s encouraging to note that this problem looks set to change for the better.
Fundamental to solving this age-old dilemma is a team that brings its strengths, blue sky thinking and A game to the fore – and the collaboration between ACREW+, LH and a third partner, Sentini Marine, is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
The primary aim of ACREW+ is improving crew retention and optimising crew performance by ensuring that individuals are properly matched to the dynamic of the yacht they are employed on.
Luxury Hospitality’s Erik Smit explains the synergy identified in ACREW+ and their four pillars, CrewTalent, CrewMatch, FutureCrew and CrewSkills, which led to LH agreeing to align and power the first three elements (CrewSkills is powered by Sentini Marine.)
"We’ve been involved with ACREW for around eight years, joining their gatherings, events, masterclasses and workshops worldwide," explains Erik, LH’s Operations Manager. "ACREW has always been involved in creating fun whilst learning and that’s essential for us too.
"We like to focus on what you’re good at and give you the support to grow, which is something ACREW is also aware of, having managed their company through LH’s Talent Dynamics principle. We talked about how we could evolve together and saw improving longevity in yachting as being the way forward."
Following on from a decade in the business of hosting in excess of 100 learning events globally, ACREW owner and director Onno Ebbens believes that the new service builds naturally on the previous success ACREW has enjoyed in events.
"Over the past 10 years, our high standard events have introduced professional development opportunities to superyacht captains and crew," he says. "They are invited to attend free workshops, discussion groups, networking and social activities at our events at yacht shows, shipyards and marinas to help to progress their careers in the industry.
"Moving forwards, ACREW will deepen its relationship with captains and crew and by focusing on the crew experience, we can raise standards on board for a better owner and guest experience."
Explaining the appeal of pooling resources and networks with LH, who have become established industry leaders in training and leadership, Onno, whose members represent over 1,500 vessels, adds: "Combining forces with LH will enable us to empower crew members through CrewTalent, by undertaking a personality assessment so that crew can better work on their strengths and understand their challenges.
"As professional insight specialists, LH can also conduct a debrief session where we seek to improve upon the effectiveness, cohesion and productivity of the team through understanding the individuals. Improved crew retention will also add positively to the crew dynamic, productivity and eventually, the guest and owner experience too."
The problem of crew retention cannot be overstated. "Crew with low job satisfaction are likely to leave their position," adds Onno, and the statistics bear this out, with an incredible 69 per cent of all junior crew and 65 per cent of chefs leaving their job during their first year of employment.
"When compared with an onshore average retention of 90%, it’s evident that the low retention rate on yachts needs to be addressed,’ he asserts. ‘Less motivation, engagement and positivity ultimately lead to a less productive workplace and poor crew retention leads to higher recruitment fees and other crew replacement costs as well as more management and a heavier workload for HoDs and captains."
CrewMatch is the perfect accompaniment to CrewTalent, according to Insight specialist Lynne Edwards, who is spearheading LH’s delivery, "as it enables captains, HoDs and management companies to make informed choices about the individual best suited to match any specific team using the Luxury Hospitality Skill Assessment Test, and subsequent report results are generated for the final selection of candidates."
FutureCrew brings new career crew into the industry via completion of the LHD Assessment test which identifies personalities, strengths and competencies before the selection process begins. "The superyacht industry will benefit from accessing motivated, personality-profiled green crew efficiently through a video database in order to find the perfect match for existing teams, with no placement fees attached," adds Lynne.
That just leaves CrewSkills, a user-friendly app powered by Sentini Marine, who specialise in technical operations manuals for superyachts. CrewSkills is a digital version of the current paper GUEST Training Record Book for interior crew, which keeps an organised and easily accessible record of all training and experience undertaken by crew and can also be used offline.
"Previously paper TRBs were completed physically, which meant they could get lost or damaged, verification signatures could be falsified and the contents could be difficult to share with prospective employers," explains Sentini Marine’s Jon Lee.
"Digitising increases the integrity of the system by requiring double verification from senior crew as well as giving crew the benefits of a cloud-based digital back up. Placing the TRB on a phone allows for notifications to be sent, encouraging the completion of tasks and reaching the end goal."
Together, these four pillars work in harmony to enhance each other, says Abi McGrath, ACREW’s Commercial and Strategic Director. "Each pillar is vitally important and supports the other pillars. CrewSkills not only encourages engagement and improved expertise but also becomes a tool for CrewMatch as the future candidates can digitally share their professional development progress with a potential employer.
"This sits beautifully alongside CrewTalent too as we gain a deeper understanding of the personality strengths and aptitude of a candidate. An internationally accredited ACREW+ Engagement test is part of this, to determine how engaged and happy they are. It includes 17 questions examining productivity within the team. The results will conclude with the workforce’s overall percentage of engagement across three scales: Vigour, Dedication and Absorption. The higher the test results, the higher their work productivity will be, leading to a happy crew and a lower turnover.
"Captains and crew are the heart of our industry and as ACREW+ provides the tools that encourage them to thrive in their work, this will in turn provide cost saving and experiential benefits for the owner. It’s a win-win for all stakeholders."
Erik is happy to describe the collaboration as a drive towards a new industry standard, bringing about greater job satisfaction, longevity and overall happiness within the superyacht industry.
"We’re looking for a revolution," he laughs. "This is a fundamental change we want to bring about in superyachting – for everyone to be valued for the talents they have. As team cohesion grows, crew will want to stay with that team, which will naturally lead to greater crew retention.
"ACREW has a great network and we are thrilled to be combining our services with their experience. Our goal is to touch as many people as possible and help them to become the best version of themselves."
Image credits: Mark O'Connell