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Yacht Manager - South of France

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Employment Guidance

New Entrants: View our guide, 'Careers advice'.
Candidates: View our guide, 'Getting Through the Interview'.
Clients: View our guide, 'Retaining Staff and Reducing Recruitment Costs'.

MLC 2006: Click here to read a draft of the Seafarers Employment Agreement.


wilsonhalligan are here to assist your recruitment needs, but we also ideally want to introduce candidates who have shown a continuity and longevity about their service in the superyacht world and previous careers. More particularly, we want them to stay with you. All too often however, we see somewhat short-term, disjointed records of service, brought about by excessive turnover within vessels.

There are no doubt a host of reasons for this, including the crew’s lack of competence or flexibility, perhaps; or maybe a change in their domestic circumstances. Or it could quite simply be due to a change of Owner, Captain or team. Many reasons are entirely valid and acceptable, and some less so. However, the old adage remains true today - ‘without turnover, there would be no recruitment’.

Senior yacht personnel are generally vastly experienced in their field and most, intuitively good at dealing with people. Hence the idea of understanding and reducing turnover will come naturally to them. However, in the interests of trying to minimize the costs associated with replacing crew, the following is given in an effort to focus the thoughts and crystallize the complex issues that surround turnover.

The most basic form of measurement is by use of the following formula:

(Total number of leavers (over a given period of time) / Average of the number of crew employed (over the period)) x100

This figure, of course, is a rough guide only and needs to be analysed against dismissals, resignations, sickness etc.

Is it a problem?
Some turnover can positively benefit the yacht – for example, when a poor performer, or difficult character, is replaced by someone more effective; or when fresh faces, help to re-invigorate the team.

It also depends very much on supply and demand. Where the crew are easy to find and can be trained to a comparable standard, quickly, high turnover can often be sustained. By contrast, where skilled individuals are hard to find and it takes several weeks to fill a vacancy, there is the possibility of accepting less than ideal candidates, and turnover becomes a problem for management.

In simple terms, a specific period’s turnover costs can be assessed by working out the costs of replacing a leaver by the new joiner and multiplying it by the result of the formula above. Into the figures should be added, the ‘hidden’ costs of re-training, downturn of productivity, your own time and consequent cost, etc.

Reasons for leaving
Very significantly, studies indicate that a great deal resignations occur in the first few months of taking up the position. This seems to be as a result of factors such as a degree of uncertainty/vulnerability, a lack of ‘induction training’, a mismatch of perceptions about either the job or the crewmember; or perhaps a forced acceptance of someone who is either unsuitable or unsuited to the position. This latter situation is often as a direct result of turnover creating a vacancy, which needs quickly filling.

As we have said, people otherwise leave for a variety of reasons some of which can be predicted, and some not.

Sometimes it is the attraction of a new challenge; sometimes domestic circumstances quite beyond the control of the yacht. Sometimes it is salary; sometimes it is team dynamics. Or it may be factors which are incorrectly perceived by the crew and possibly non-existent. Factors such as a believed lack of support, lack of responsibility, unfairness, undue pressure (in senior individuals, particularly), a lack of development or training – all of these and more, may come into this category.

We realise it is never easy, particularly in the superyacht world where jobs are passed on so easily, by word of mouth. It would also be presumptuous to suggest anything pertinent to your particular circumstances, with which you will no doubt have full control. Therefore the following , in no particular order, are a few ‘generic’ points on the subject, which might help to focus the mind, and in most cases will hopefully already be done.

  • Give a realistic, or even slightly less than rosy, job preview.
  • Maintain fairness at all times.
  • Consider temporary appointments, where possible for a mutual assessment of employment prospects.
  • Where promotion is not possible, think of ways of improving job variety or responsibly for good people.
  • Maximise the training and development possibilities onboard.
  • Consider a bonus after a set period of service.
  • Be aware of the work/life balance and that whilst some individuals prefer to work longer periods onboard, many require, or have domestic pressures, that necessitate shorter.
  • Try to do everything you can to assist the feeling of security, subject to good performance.
  • Ensure that not just salaries, but the package is comparable to the market rate for a superyacht of your size/type.