Perspectives on Onboard Culture in Yachting: Round Up

Posted: 23rd January 2020 | Written by: Naomi Chadderton


Links to all articles in this series at the bottom of this page

Workplace culture is the environment that surrounds us during our professional lives. It’s the shared values, belief systems, attitudes and the set of assumptions that we share (hopefully) with our colleagues.

It is also one of the great intangibles, but it’s well known that a positive workplace culture improves teamwork, raises morale, increases productivity and enhances staff retention. On the other hand, a negative workplace culture can lead to toxic relationships, poor mental health, low engagement and higher rates of absenteeism.

Working on a superyacht is a prime example, with crew coexisting in close quarters with varying degrees of harmony and success so, last year, OnboardOnline set out to uncover what determines the culture on board a yacht and how to change a negative one to a positive one, from the perspectives of three experts working in this field.

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So how can organisations create a positive work culture? Here’s what we discovered:

Have a purpose
It’s not enough these days to simply say: “This is your job, go and do it”. The majority of crew are classed as millennials, and millennials need to see the bigger picture. It’s therefore important for heads of departments to create that for their crew in order to evoke team spirit and help them progress in their career.

This can also be reflected in everyday yacht life. “Having a single uniting purpose for the yacht as a whole can be both motivational to individuals and help create a sense of unity within the crew,” explains Karen Passman of Impact Crew. “A good example would be choosing a charity to support and working together to raise money or taking a more hands-on approach, for example, conducting beach cleans in various locations.”

Encourage real teamwork
As the saying goes: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Good teamwork is proven to bring numerous benefits to companies, including high performance, exceptional service, retention, harmony and more. Yet teamwork is something that doesn’t happen by accident – it’s down to managers to foster the team spirit that will take crew to the next level.

To expediate the process, Sara Ballinger of Crew Glue recommends bringing an expert on board if necessary. “The science of teams and high-performance teamwork is as complex as the different teams we work with on a daily basis. The hope is that you will never need to bring anyone aboard to deal with a fractured team – prevention really is better than cure,” she explains. “The ideal scenario is preventative and proactive. If you can, bring a team building expert on board to facilitate a truly effective and embedded culture of high performance teamwork.”

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Let the conversations flow
Crew spend a significant proportion of their time at work, so creating a workplace culture that helps employees feel fulfilled will result in greater levels of happiness, which works in everyone’s favour. A big part of that culture is cultivating meaningful discussions, which can in turn promote intellectual curiosity, create bonds, keep crew thinking creatively, allow them to get to know each other’s personalities, and even be a catalyst for meaningful change. “Make conversation part of the culture on board,” advises Sara. “Encourage it, set time aside for it or simply normalize it. We are not all great talkers; we just need to know that we can share our thoughts if we feel it is important and when we are looking for a connection with others.”

Deal with conflict as it happens
Conflict is often viewed as something to be avoided at all costs, however experts believe that managed effectively, conflicts on board can actually have positive outcomes. Afterall, if everyone agreed all the time, there would be no reason to consider different perspectives or look for new ways to handle situations.

“More often than not, some of the best decisions are achieved through group thought and debate. And if people do not throw their opposing views into the ring, that debate will not occur,” explains Karen. “Yet while there are crew who are more than happy to share their opposing views, if the senior crew don’t have the tools to manage the situation to a productive conclusion, the situation will potentially escalate out of control.”

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Feedback is key
A positive culture is vital for a happy crew, and feedback is a major part of this. Feedback that is constructive is vital to crew’s ongoing development, it clarifies expectations, helps people learn from their mistakes and builds confidence – all of which are vital in encouraging a culture in which crew can grow and learn from one another.

“Feedback is probably one of the most vital skills required by a leader to ensure they keep a highly-motivated crew who continue to learn on a day-to-day basis,” explains Karine Rayson of The Crew Coach. “As a leader, you should walk alongside your crew, supporting them in becoming the best version of themselves. This involves giving praise when it’s due and giving constructive feedback when required.”

Here's a round-up of the topics we covered in 2019:

How Team Talk Shapes Onboard Culture by Sara Ballinger
Getting Onboard with Millennials by Julia Matheson
Managing the War of Words Onboard by Sara Ballinger
Conflict Happens and Here’s how to Deal With it by Karen Passman
Inspiring and Motivating Crew Across Generations by Karen Passman
How do Deliver Effective Feedback Onboard by Naomi Chadderton
How to Build High Performing Teams by Sara Ballinger
How to Build Confidence by Sara Ballinger
Managing Your Emotional Responses Onboard by Karine Rayson

 Images: Pixabay, Pexels

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