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Lookback to Maritime People & Culture Conference

Having attended for many years, The Spinnaker Maritime People and Culture Conference is always a highlight in the event calendar for me and this year was no exception.

Building on the quality of previous years, Phil Parry oversaw a value-packed programme of exceptional speakers and eye-opening talking points that spilt over into the coffee break and social events. It’s always been a special event in that it brings together a very concentrated audience of Maritime HR and Crewing community, but as the realisation grows in our industry, that our ship’s crew and shore staff are the key to delivering our ambitious goals, The Spinnaker Maritime and People Conference has grown in relevance, providing crucial insights for today’s maritime HR professionals and business leaders.

The Only Constant is Change.

Undeniably the most ambitious of those goals is decarbonisation. New fuels, new ships, and new ways of modifying the existing fleet will all play their part in decarbonising our industry. Each step along the way will impact our maritime professionals.

Trade routes will continue to change, whether that’s because of the economics of cargo supply and demand, the availability of specific bunker fuels, geopolitics, regulations such as EU ETS, or climate change impacting the suitability of routes and availability of certain ports.

The rapid pace of technological advancements and regulatory changes is outstripping traditional training models. Few professionals are equipped with the knowledge to handle new technologies, and even fewer have hands-on experience. This calls for an urgent reassessment of how we prepare maritime professionals for the future.

Adapt, Evolve, Overcome

The current training and development models aren’t set up for the future. We can no longer rely on yesterday’s seafarers training the seafarer of tomorrow.

Joining the panel on future seafaring we discussed how the dual challenge and opportunities of digitalisation and decarbonisation will call for a new model, one in which we take advantage of learning technologies to train at scale. With change as a constant we will all need to embrace lifelong learning and encourage a change from push to pull where learners understand how the learning benefits them

I also pointed out that technological change is outpacing regulation. To ensure that our maritime professionals are equipped to work safely and effectively, it is vital that those creating the training are in the room with those drafting the regulation and the manufacturers developing new technology. This collaborative approach ensures that training materials evolve in tandem with technological advancements and regulatory changes.

Building Sustainable Businesses

Creating a sustainable business goes beyond environmental considerations; it involves understanding and addressing the unique needs of a diverse workforce. Implementing policies and support frameworks to nurture this diversity unlocks a wider talent pool, fostering innovation and increasing job satisfaction.

The key is to recognise individualism and have systems in place that are flexible enough to respond to individual needs.

Businesses can achieve by through the four-pillared approach shared by Heidi Watson:

  1. Create an open and supportive culture
  2. Raise awareness
  3. Train line managers
  4. Take an individualised approach to recruitment and management

Everyone has unconscious biases and having them does not make you an inherently bad person. Awareness of these biases is key; seeking them out in yourself and in your business systems and addressing them is the most important step to making positive change.

Unlocking Hidden Value & Talent

In the afternoon I joined Nick Chubb from Thetius in presenting a compelling case for adopting human capital management approaches in maritime. Despite the common assertion that people are a company’s greatest asset, salaries are often viewed as liabilities. Research Thetius conducted with Ocean Technologies Group provides a framework that helps businesses make better decisions about investing in people and processes, emphasising the true value of human capital.

We firmly believe, that adopting human capital management can transform how businesses perceive and leverage their workforce. By treating employees as valuable assets rather than costs, companies can unlock potential, drive innovation, and improve overall performance. This approach promotes a deeper understanding of employee strengths and areas for development, enabling more targeted and effective training programs as part of a culture of continuous improvement and engagement.

Women in Maritime

Promoting gender diversity in maritime is something close to our heart at Ocean Technologies Group. To attract more women into the industry, it is important to provide visible role models for young women and highlight and share the stories of female trailblazers, As Claudine Sharp-Patel said, “Women need to see it to know they can be it”.

But it was the session from Torild Boe Stokes that really caught my attention when she addressed the rarely spoken about challenges of midlife and the topic specific to women of perimenopause. With 77% of women unaware of their perimenopause symptoms, businesses and HR professionals must foster awareness and support. Symptoms like sleep disturbances and cognitive changes can start in women as early as their 40s and can significantly impact mental well-being, making it essential for businesses and HR professionals, to foster awareness and support.

Building robust support frameworks is crucial to retaining experienced and skilled female employees, promoting diversity, and ensuring a healthy work environment. Fostering an inclusive culture that encourages open discussions about health issues will empower women to seek the support they need without fear of stigma.

Embracing the Future

The maritime industry faces an uncertain future filled with change. While we cannot control all external factors, we can control how we prepare by building systems that support diverse teams and individuals.

By taking a more personalised approach to employee development, and adopting human capital management approaches to recognise and address individual needs and career aspirations, enables businesses can build the teams and retain the talent they need to meet the challenges of tomorrow. This, in turn, translates to higher job satisfaction and reduced turnover rates, both of which are critical for long-term success.

By investing in our people and creating systems that support continuous learning and adaptation, we can navigate the challenges ahead and build a resilient and innovative maritime sector.

As always I’m grateful to the fantastic team at Spinnaker for providing the platform in which these valuable discussions can take place.

Article written by Raal Harris, Chief Creative Officer, Ocean Technologies Group

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