Seafaring ‘backstage’. Continuum development for Maritime HR professionals

Why soft-skills training and continuous education are crucially important for HR Departments and shore-based personnel of Shipping Companies? The Maritime Telegraph turned to Board Director of Intelligent Management & Crisis Response Solutions Alexander Dimitrevich to look into this issue.

When we talk about a Maritime job we always think about seafarers but the Maritime Industry is a huge complex conglomerate of different people doing different work. This complex maritime adventure involves those who work ashore in offices and their work is frequently ‘behind the scenes.’ Today crew managers who are engaged in facilitating seafarer’s employment, travel, crew recruitment and management perform their tasks in a highly competitive and commercial environment. Constant changes to the Industry require them to be well trained and up to date not just in technical aspects but also to be equipped with soft skills comprising bases of psychology and crises management.

One of the main roles is to be able to support seafarers and deal with various issues they are subjected to face in the course of performing their contract as well as taking care of the seafarers’ welfare and mental health. Sometimes negligent response affects the emotional state of seafarers and can even jeopardize safety on board. All these facts necessitate the need of using a multi-faceted approach which includes soft skills training and workplace mental health provisions both for seafarers and the office staff. These will create a safety culture and a healthy environment in the whole company. In its turn, it gives a lot of benefits to the reputation for the whole Maritime company’s brand.

In the Maritime Industry, most of the conflicts between seafarers and ship operators or owners start with a misunderstanding which gives rise to aggression which in its turn may become a root cause of eternal legal proceedings involving ship detention and huge financial loses. Crew managers are often tired, burned-out, on the edge due to high workload and are not provided with an opportunity for professional education and developing of proper stress management skills, conflict management techniques. Great number of various researches show that:

A)  Untrained Employees = Unhappy Employees

Employees who feel inadequate, underachieving, or unsupported are unhappy. They aren’t satisfied in their work, which will cause them to underperform, make mistakes, and not care about their work result. It is hard to retain staff and you are constantly recruiting and training new staff which costs the business in lost time and money.

 B)  Untrained Workers Have a Low Production Value

The quality of their work and performance is lower than it could (or should) be.  Here you are entering a conflict zone where your external clients are unhappy with mistakes done by your office and it causes distress for all.

C)  Untrained Workers Are Inefficient

More time (and therefore money) and effort are spent when employees aren’t fully or properly trained to perform their tasks or to fulfil their responsibilities. It takes them longer to do the work consecutively it disappoints managers and clients.

D)  Insufficient Staff Training Means Lost your Clients

Untrained employees can make many false steps of the listed above. As a result those mistakes and inefficiencies can cause your business to lose clients. That is the worst possible scenario, but it happens.

Meanwhile, giving your staff training in soft skills you will provide them with useful skills, sharpen existing skills, perform better, increase productivity and be better leaders. Investing in training and development generally tends to produce satisfied personnel. Every individual has some shortcomings and training and development helps them address and their performance improves.

One of the best training available is Emotional Quotient (Emotional Intelligence), effective communication skills, conflict management and stress management.

Why?

Emotional Quotient – describes an ability or capacity to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of one’s self, and of others. Emotions have the potential to get in the way of our most important business and personal relationships.

Effective communication – Maritime Industry is a multinational environment and most of the conflicts start with miscommunication. We seldom pay attention to how we pass information and assume that people understand exactly what we mean.

Conflict – is it an inevitable thing. Is there anything positive in conflict? Is it a manageable process. Conflict is a crucially important topic because unmanaged conflict can have expensive legal consequences as people do seek litigation as a way to resolve disputes. Secondly, managing conflict is important because high level of negative conflict can cause individual dissatisfaction and expensive turnover as well as decreased productivity and increased level of distress.

Stress management – it has:

Economic benefits: Reducing stress increases an individual’s productivity at work and reduces the number of days your personnel take off due to psychological issues;

Physical health benefits: Being stressed consumes energy and nutrients which could otherwise be used to protect the body (e.g. from infectious diseases);

Psychological health benefits: Reducing stress improves sleep and reduces irritability, anxiety and depression;

Relationship benefits: Improved interpersonal relationships with co-workers or family members.

Sometimes company’s owners have doubts whether to train their staff and say: ‘What if we train people investing time and money into them and they leave?’ traditional answer is: ‘ The scariest thing is if you don’t train them and they stay with you’.

Take care of your people and they will take care of your business.