Over the past five years we’ve seen a trend towards the professionalization of the interior department, beginning with the introduction of the GUEST Program, now widely regarded as an entry level standard for yacht Steward/esses.
Increasingly, career crew are seeking out more specialist courses to upskill and develop their careers, and naturally crew training companies are keen to deliver.
To get a better understanding of the courses interior crew are looking for, Interior Trainers Sophie Leach and Rebecca Mulhern of The Crew Academy conducted a survey at a recent Acrew event in La Ciotat. A cross section of interior staff were interviewed including stewards, stewardesses, housekeepers, chief stewardesses and heads of department. Overall 53 crew members working on superyachts of between 56m to 125m were surveyed and the findings are summarized below.
Q. What do crew believe are the most important skills a steward/ess needs to be confident and successful?
Most crew responded that a stew must be an all rounder with knowledge of the industry and skills necessary gained from practical experience. Rated highly for this guest-facing role is the ability to interact professionally and confidently with guests. Showing willingness to learn, responsibly complying with procedures and adapting to situations that come up are all qualities that are valued. Also deemed important are being service-orientated and carrying out the job with confidence and a positive attitude.
Q. What, in your opinion, is the biggest gap in people’s knowledge and skills that you have noticed in the industry currently?
Answers to this question touched in one way or another on a lack of preparedness, experience and a service-minded attitude in crew.
Senior crew bemoaning a lack of experience and knowledge are concerned that many young crew enter the industry with little understanding of the yachting world, intending to make a quick buck, unmotivated to develop their skills or invest in training.
There is also a perceived shortfall in leadership and management skills even among those who have worked in the industry for some time.
Crew also deplored a lack of common sense, no eye for detail, ignorance of wine (and pairings), and struggling to perform under pressure.
Q. Which 3 key skills do you want all your interior crew to be confident in before they work for you?
Simply put, heads of department all want their crew to be confident, naturally inclined to high standards of service and skilled and comfortable interacting with others, both guests and fellow crew.
On the practical side of things, highly valued skills are basic laundry, general housekeeping and the life skills that combined with common sense and adaptability make for a reliable team member.
Personal qualities that chief steward/esses are looking for include taking initiative, asking questions to accelerate learning and effectiveness, being motivated and a team player, willing to learn, thinking outside the box and on one's feet, motivating other crew members, being smiley and friendly.
Interior Training at The Crew Academy
The Crew Academy offers the following courses and a number of the crew who took part in the survey believe their yacht would reap the benefits:
Pure Service Excellence - 19
Complete Interior Course - 16
Interior Excellence - 15
Management & Leadership - 13
Purser Course - 8
Bespoke Tailor-Made Training - 7
The results of the questionnaire revealed that despite HoDs being first in line both to observe shortfalls in skills and knowledge among crew, and to take responsibility for any failures or mistakes that result from them, they have little idea what kind of budget exists on their yacht to remedy the problems and elevate standards of service. Only 7 of 53 surveyed said with certainty that a training budget existed, none knew what it would stretch to.
The time permitted for training varied from 1 week to 1 month.
Q. When is the ideal window of opportunity for training?
Responses to this question depended on how busy the boat is and whether it is dual season or single. Some crew want to take advantage of the winter season, while others would schedule training at the beginning of the season (March/April or Oct/Nov) so that what they've learnt can be put into practice swiftly.
Q. If you could upskill in any area of your role, what would it be? And why?
Many crew want to upskill in areas that they do not necessarily focus. Many yachts are run according to a strict schedule whereby crew get used to routinely doing the same tasks. When crew come to change yachts they can therefore be unequipped and need to upskill very quickly.
Many crew expressed a desire for specialist skills that are unlikely to be covered in a basic course: Silver service, cigars, champagne, wine service, massage, floristry, barista, management skills.
It is interesting to note that a number of answers suggested a desire to improve creativity, understand trends and learn how to create 'ambience', indicating that crew are aspiring to exceed the always high expectations of this luxury industry by creating beautiful and unexpected experiences for their guests.
Such qualities can seem intangible, but these answers demonstrate that crew would embrace inspiring training to help them up their game.
Q. What previous formal training have you had and where?
A British Company
A Ukraine Company
The Crew Academy
M&L – Airline
Customer Service – Airline
Stew Course – Super Yachting South Africa
Cert. wedding planner
American Yacht Institute
Triple S Butler
WSET Int 8 Advanced
5* Restaurant training awards
Q. If you could create ANY training for your interior team, what would it be?
Answers suggested that crew want training that will cultivate team bonding, mutual respect and effective working on the yacht. Other popular ideas are courses to instil professional etiquette, correct engagement with guests and excellence in fulfilling guests' needs. Work with wine, olive oil, flowers and table setting would also be valued by a number of the crew surveyed.
Overall the survey confirms a growing desire among interior crew to keep learning and developing their hopsitality skills. There's certainly no lack of motivation out there, and the findings will help TCA and the industry at large to keep delivering the training courses that keep interior crew at the top of their game.
A big thank you to everyone who took part!