N2 People Skills

Thursday, June 16, 2016

WARNING: Using this knowledge on crew will create serious change!

Why is CREW engagement important?

John was 22 years old and a new deckhand aboard a 60m yacht. He had been onboard for three weeks now. 

He was beginning to wonder if he had made the right choice of joining this crew as he was with the bosun in a tender now doing 30+ knots, with no kill cord or lifejacket worn by either!

John was thinking he would feel o lot safer if he could only wear a life jacket at appropriate times and wondered what happened to the standing orders he had listened to when he first joined the yacht.

John had taken his RYA power boat 2 not

that long ago where he had to wear a lifejacket and kill cord (as did the instructor), yet here he was in a much faster boat, not wearing either and he was beginning to feel this yacht was not as safe as he had hoped it would be.

Just yesterday he had to wash the transom on the yacht without a lifejacket or harness (or anyone watching), and had to hang off railings and balance on a small ledge.

The crew he worked with never seemed to wear lifejacket's in tenders, or remember to put a kill cord on. He was a bit unsure of his role on the deck team, and while he put this down to being the new kid on the block, he did not feel energised or empowered. 

In fact the thought of offering his wisdom or insight, or expressing his views so they might be taken into account as decisions were made, seemed like a wish and dream!

John wanted to say something at this moment, he wanted to put a lifejacket on, wanted to shout to the bosun "can we stop so you can put the kill cord on and we can both put lifejackets on!"
But he had the feeling he would be scorned at if he did.

John was not engaged, was having a hard time putting his best foot forward as he was not feeling supported. Some crew had also started to feel that John was not putting his best in, and the chief mate was thinking that perhaps he had made a mistake in hiring John. 

When crew are not engaged they may foot drag, procrastinate, make poor decisions, skip or ignore safety procedures, and likely not put their all into what they are doing.

This was a fictitious story, BUT the points mentioned have all come from real interviews with real yacht crew and first hand observations. While this may not happen on all yachts, it does happen and outlines what can happen when a whole crew or even one are not engaged. 

In fact a report in the UK was commissioned to take an in-depth look at employee engagement and report on its potential benefits for companies, organisations and individual employees. What it found set out evidence that underpins what we all know intuitively, which is that only organisations (or yachts in our case), that truly engage and inspire their employees (CREW), produce world class levels of innovation, productivity and performance.

The report revealed (amongst other things), that only one in three employees were found to be engaged. 

Given yacht crew are employed to offer a safe, ‘out of this world experience', this is perhaps something everyone in the yachting industry should pay close attention to.

What is engagement and why does it matter?

Lets call engagement something that is based on trust, integrity, two way commitment and communication. Something that should happen between yacht/captain and yacht crew, and between managers aboard and team members. 

It's an approach that increases the chances of work success, it contributes to team and individual performance, productivity and well-being, and: 

  • It can be measured
  • It varies from poor to great
  • It can be nurtured and dramatically increased
  • It can be lost and thrown away

Engagement is not something extra, its what people do, and how they do it. It’s how we survive and grow. How we give our best, how we align with a vision and how we champion that vision to get the best results.
yacht crew engagement

When crew are engaged they pay attention, feel proud of the yacht they work for, are inspired to do their best and motivated to deliver team and yacht objectives. Engaged crew understand their role aboard, they are aware, energised and know where they fit into the team’s purpose and objectives.

When you have an Engaged crew they will:

  • Have a clear understanding of how they and their team are to fulfill its purpose, objectives and goals
  • Know how they might change to fulfill these better 
  • Know they have a voice in this journey to offer ideas, express views 
  • Know these will be taken into account as decisions are made

Why does it matter?

 The report showed that 64% of the people surveyed said they had more ability and skills to offer than they were currently being asked to demonstrate at work. They were not engaged.

It also showed that organisations with high levels of employee engagement were more efficient and effective, and that highly engaged employees were more customer focused (great for the large yacht industry).

Engaged crew care about the future of their organisation (yacht), and put in greater effort to help it meet its objectives.

They feel proud of the yacht they work on, are inspired to do their best, and motivated to deliver the yacht objectives.


Organizations that have succeeded in the engagement of employees (in the UK study) had five common enablers in place. These were noted as:

  • Strategic narrative
  • Engaging managers
  • Coaching employees
  • Real listening
  • Sense of integrity

Of course, you will have noted the lack of some of these in our fictitious story of John where this obviously boiled down to leadership and management issues.

Crew engagement hits at the core of professional (hospitality) yachting. 

Considering it's the owners that ultimately foot any extra cost of high turnover. The owners that will have to face any resulting problems and costs of accidents and/or crew issues, and the owners and guests that ultimately get the short stick if crew are not engaged. We feel crew engagement is something that every owner, captain and management company might want to investigate.

Of course the dark horse is that time is always an issue in yachting. There never seems to be enough of it, and there are plenty of crew looking to fill any vacant positions. So while looking into whether your crew are engaged, and what level they are, time can be the enemy.

Stay Ahead of the competition

If as a management company you want to produce world class levels of innovation, productivity and performance to set themselves above the rest and gain new clients, or a captain that wants to insure his/her place as captain aboard. Creating crew engagement makes for an interesting and affordable case to get ahead and stay ahead of the competition. Yes time will always be an issue but if you want to give the best then there is always a price. Perhaps the questions should be. How much are crew that are not engaged costing?

We would love to hear how you engage your crew? Where your level of crew engagement is, and how do you review and keep...

N2 People Skills works with clients on crew issues, performance and crew harmony, charter excellence, operations tune ups, onboard trouble shooting and our safety special. We work on crew engagement, leadership, management vision, and alignment of values and other areas where a small about of coaching/training offer significant long term results.  To find out more about our work, or to discuss your particular challenges, please get in touch today. +44 208 1330 855
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