Investing in crew is like making a good wine
Peter Vogel looks at the importance of giving crew adequate training…
“What if we spend time and resources training our teams but then they choose to leave?” is a question often heard in the corporate world ashore. The response to this is simple: “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”. Peter Vogel, managing partner at Luxury Hospitality Management, looks at what this means for interior crew.
Training and certification in our industry has been the standard aboard vessels in the maritime divisions for decades, but it is only over the past 10 years that education has become more prevalent in the hospitality divisions. Companies such as Amazon, Marriott and even Royal Caribbean dedicate vast resources to training and development across the board of their teams, and they reap the benefits; as their employee confidence and satisfaction grows, so do their profits. Educated teams mean greater satisfaction in the workplace and, therefore, a much reduced staff turnover. Of course, an educated team also leads to smarter and better business decisions that result in enhanced customer satisfaction. And the increased dividends generate happy investors, so everyone is happy!
The trend of training and retaining your employees has been trickling into the yachting industry, especially in the interior department where certification and education has not always been top of the priority list. For years, the only interior person who was requested to have a degree in accounting was the purser. Oddly, for those crew (interior) who had the most personal contact with the owner and guests, very little education was required.
With much emphasis placed on training and education within the maritime divisions of our field, one would think training would have had a much larger priority in the hotel division as well, but this, typically, has not been the case. Budget forecasts largely did not include training resources for the interior division, especially since these crew have been quite transient. However, you must calculate the risks of having untrained crew from the moment they step on board; these include poor service to the owner, complaints from guests and interpersonal issues within the team, all of which can lead to more and more turnover.
"Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to."
This trend was prevalent for a very long time as the longevity of interior teams had proved to be rather variable, and often was non-existent. Fortunately for the owner, this has come to an end. Over the past decade, a vast number of interior crew have chosen to turn their ‘first job abroad’ into a serious career path. As a result, interior crew have invested, and continue to invest, a significant amount of time and resources into improving their knowledge, skills and confidence. This is positive for the employee because it makes the them much more marketable for future career growth opportunities within the industry.
Principals, captains and managers have also taken note. They have come to realise that the knowledge and experience gained in a variety of education is beneficial for all parties. It started with the cost of books being reimbursed by the yacht and has evolved into something much bigger. Additional holiday periods are provided for educational purposes, and courses are often sponsored if not reimbursed.
Attaining a Level 3 WSET wine certificate is now within reach of any inspired wine enthusiast. Such course material is now widely available through a variety of yacht-specific courses at several institutions. Becoming a certified barista is another example of an area of expertise that is also accessible. Imagine the benefits of having an entire yacht’s complement as potential guinea pigs for such training material! Boats have sent their full interior teams to collectively follow a range of courses on location that are sponsored by the vessel. In the end, everyone benefits.
The reasons why all this training for the interior department has become so important is that it has made the interior crew more skilled and professional. It has helped create a more consistent culture of interior teams being on the same page, having obtained the same qualifications. Vessels that have a solid training programme have noted that this has had a very positive effect on their crew retention. As a result, this has been great for recruitment as a lot less of it is required, and a vessel with a great reputation for training and retention has a host of qualified candidates to choose from.
Investing in crew takes a great deal of effort and patience. It is very similar to making wine. You must start out by planting vines and these must come of age. Even in times of inclement weather they still require nurture and TLC. Then, with the right conditions, something truly remarkable can be bottled and enjoyed for many years to come. But if you do not plant the vines, nothing will happen.
Sir Richard Branson has the best take on the subject: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
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