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Invest in people – lessons from maritime HR

Day 2 of the Maritime HR Association conference has been an enlightening one with a definite theme; people. After a great night out networking, drinking, and chatting with the delegates, we all returned to the America Square Conference Centre for a second day of sessions.

Performance management was the focus to kick off, with Paul Hayes of Scorpio Group and Lucinda Carney of Actus Software discussing the collaboration they have made to drive engagement within Scorpio. A great quote came from Carney, who said that "People are important. If you're going to grow, you need to have a people strategy in place." There was also the ethos that if your senior managers don't endorse what you're trying to achieve, they risk seriously undermining the process! Performance management is a great tool but it’s also about selling it to your staff; isn't a box-ticking exercise for HR, it gives a role meaning, with a real business purpose. Interesting stuff, and food for thought for our delegates.

Next there was a panel discussion about HR in shipping, featuring Tom Boardley (Lloyd’s Register), Jens Martin Jensen (formerly Frontline Management) and Nicholas Fisher (Masterbulk) led by Spinnaker Chairman Phil Parry. We learned that previously in some areas of shipping, the HR department ‘was always the nearest pub’ but has now become, thankfully, “critical” and a real-life essential within maritime, according to Fisher.

But, in shipping, we’ve always had a bit of a problem with investing in leadership. We are not developing talent in the same way as other, more forward-thinking industries. A clear career path is vital when engaging staff, and you have to invest in your people. This is applicable for both sea and shore; make sure you’re promoting the right people into the right jobs. Sometimes, staff end up in certain roles, and simply don’t have the skills to adapt within an increasingly complex industry.

Disengagement and mismanagement is dangerous within shipping. From a risk management perspective, putting the right people in the right roles is, as Fisher said, “critical”. What causes accidents in shipping? Well, people do. Why? Stress. Poor management. Not feeling valued in a role. Fatigue from bad processes. Investing in leadership can directly have a positive result on morale, staff retention, and even reduce accidents.

You can put your best salesman or woman into a managerial role, and if they’re not right for it, not only do you have a bad manager, but you’ve also lost your best salesperson. This sort of issue is not uncommon within maritime, and all it takes is to invest in good leadership training. Sounds simple, but it can be daunting for HR departments when the ROI can be difficult to measure.

People also have to be suitably rewarded, the panel discussed. Jens Martin Jensen said “Pay people what they are worth! If they deserve it, let them have it!” The panel shared some of their top leadership tips:

• Remember that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers
• The HR department is the conscience of the company
• Always stick to your guns when it comes to policy
• As a leader, ask for feedback. Even if it’s given ‘off the record’, you need to know what staff are thinking. “The worst thing in a company is to have to find out what's happening by standing at the coffee machine,” said Jensen
• Don’t stifle the people beneath you. They will move up and be a successor one day!

We ended the conference on sessions on Career Bridges, our new initiative in collaboration with Facet5, a personality profiling tool that helps understand people. Personalities cannot be changed, but behaviours can, so this helps HR departments understand the people behind the jobs they hire for.

What makes Facet5 different from other personality profiling tools is that it measures emotionality; how people react under pressure. As shipping is so dangerous and high-risk, this seems a perfect way for HR departments to tackle risk management head on, and learn about their staff – and themselves – along the way.

A huge thank you to all the delegates, the HR Consulting team, all speakers, America Square Conference Centre and all the staff involved, and our generous sponsors from Day 2 – Zurich. We’ve had a fantastic two days, and we hope you have too.

Read our tweets from the conference here

And you can find out more about our Career Bridges programme here:

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