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Inspiring and Motivating Crew Across Generations

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How do you engage crew to do what needs to be done? Gone are the days where a simple “do it because I told you to!” was enough - the younger generations now vote with their feet. If they don’t feel valued, empowered, or have clear and timely career progression, they will simply up and go to pastures greener. And with a shortage of experienced junior crew, it’s not hard for them to find that new and better position.

The industry has now reluctantly accepted that a season is ‘ok’ longevity, but what can be done to extend this? First we need to consider why crew are looking for that new opportunity. When did you last look for another position, and what was driving you? Perhaps it was an overly demanding boss, a lack of resources to do a good job, or maybe you couldn’t get the work/life balance that you felt you both needed and deserved.

Unsurprisingly, these issues cross generations and although expectations may be a little different and perception of what good longevity is will vary, ultimately there are some shared core reasons why employees start to look for another position. Understanding these reasons and working to mitigate them will help to ensure good longevity among your crew.

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According to Maslow and the subsequent work of Herzberg, we are either driven towards or away from our current position and in terms of motivation, this can be extrinsic (external to ourselves), or intrinsic (internal to ourselves – for personal pleasure or satisfaction).

How to Inspire

Hertzberg states that there are factors which will tap into our intrinsic motivation and inspire us to reach greater heights. A sense of achievement is one – whether that be a job well done, a new skill acquired, or a challenging to-do list completed. Having the opportunity to develop skills and experience through courses or on-the-job training with a clear route to success can also be highly motivational so leaders should take the time out once a month and spend just 20 minutes 1:1 with juniors and their training record book in order to find opportunities to help your people progress and shine.

It isn’t always about the actual progression to a more senior position. Sometimes simply gaining experience and/or taking on a little more responsibility is hugely rewarding.

Being respectful should come as no surprise, showing gratitude and giving recognition will also help crew to feel valued. Sometimes it’s just a simple ‘thank you’, or an unexpected reward such as a small gift. Go out of your way to catch your crew doing great things, and don’t forget to tell them!

We know how important time off is for crew, so when possible, look for that window of opportunity to grant it. However small it is, it will be appreciated – as long as it isn’t expected!

Other ideas we have seen put to good use have been treats such as a “crew cruise” after the guests leave, or more regular incentives such as the yacht paying for boot camp training. In terms of increasing responsibility for crew members, a great tactic is to assign a designated area to take care of, which might be as simple as looking after one locker before progressing to the toys and tenders.

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Stay United

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

Perhaps the simplest and most potent way of engaging and motivating crew is in recognising the power of laughter. ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ is a quote we have all heard – it decreases stress hormones, increases our sense of wellbeing, and can even increase our resistance to disease. We are not suggesting that you establish a compulsory ‘happy hour’ where people have to tell jokes and laugh, but encouraging (appropriate) jokes and banter, laughing at ourselves and finding the humour in challenging situations carries quite some merit!

Lead by Example

According to Herzberg, there is no quicker way to de-motivate people than by being a poor leader. Crew expect leaders to behave appropriately, lead by example, be self-motivated and provide them with the tools and resources to do a good job – none of us come to work wishing to struggle or fail. Aside from ensuring crew are treated with respect, leaders need to manage expectations, and there is nothing worse than being kept in the dark.

When the rumour mill starts it can set off a vast range of emotions in crew, from elation to despair.  I was recently with a crew whose vessel had just been bought, and the rumours were rife. They ranged from: “We’re off to Alaska – fantastic, I’m staying!” to “We’re all going to be replaced – I’m leaving before I’m fired.” None of the rumours were founded on fact, yet some crew made significant decisions based on them and acted upon them. Keeping crew informed and reigning in the gossip is key to maintaining crew motivation. How disappointed are crew when the anticipated world cruise turns into the Med / Caribbean milk run year on year, or the promise of a bonus doesn’t come to fruition? The importance of managing crew expectations through open communication cannot be understated, even it is just to say, ‘right now we don’t know’!

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Qualities of Leadership

Much research has been conducted in the field of staff motivation and what is expected from a boss. At the top of the list is someone who motivates and inspires, quickly followed by someone who is a ‘good listener’. Giving crew a voice and involving them in some of the decision making is key. Obviously, there will be times when this is not possible, such as in a crisis, however when the decisions include crew’s involvement, such as revising a Standard Operating Procedure, being asked to provide input should be common sense. Unfortunately this is not always the case.

Dan Pink’s book ‘Drive’ is based on several decades of research into what motivates and drives us, in particular the younger generations heading into the industry. He identified three core areas of motivation:

  • Autonomy - people are more engaged when they have some control over when how and where they work, so being listened to and involved in some of those decision is vital.
  • Mastery - all of us can relate to the value of learning a new skill, progressing our career and having a senior or mentor willing to take the time to help us grow.
  • Purpose - our work has to matter. While this may be hard to see on a day-today basis, being involved in other projects as a team can be life-changing. A perfect example would be the crews of M/Y Loon and M/Y laurel, and the work they did in the Bahamas post Hurricane Dorian.”

Inspiring and motivating across the generations need not be daunting or insurmountable task. Often it is the small things that combine to make a big difference. Impact Crew has amazing consultants who can support you and your crew to be the very best you can be and feel great in the process. Give us a call to learn more.

Images: Pixabay, Unsplash

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