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People – your company’s key resource

“Speaking at the British Ports Association Conference in Belfast on 16 October, I wanted to ask thought-provoking questions to help businesses understand that perhaps not enough focus is put on the HR element of the business.  The questions weren’t necessarily easy to swallow:

  • Do you know the total value of your workforce?
  • How much investment do you make in your people?
  • How much does staff absence cost you?
  • What is the make-up of your organisation likely to be in 10, 25, and 50 years? (this covers diversity and inclusion, of course)
  • Are your managers actually successfully managing?
  • How do you nurture talent within your organisation?
  • Why is the training budget the first thing to be cut?

When I raised these questions, it gave the delegates food for thought that good HR practices can, and do, make a difference to the bottom line. The absence management issue brought up the challenges of not just lost days of work, but the impact on other staff, and the wider issue of wellbeing within the workplace. Similarly with training – it’s an easy target for cost-cutting, with little regard to the fact that it relates to the future investment of the company’s key resource – people!

I was keen to express that these aren’t just my opinions – these issues are also being reflected in the British government’s Maritime 2050 policy [], their vision and guidance for the future of British maritime. Within this policy building a diverse talent pool, preparing for a changing skills profile, and wellbeing and welfare are all touched upon.

When it comes to leadership capabilities, all facets of the maritime industry can benefit –at sea, at shore, including of course the port sector, and also that in-between area that can be so difficult to navigate, the ship-to-shore transition. As with Spinnaker’s Maritime Leadership development programmes [], we’ve really seen people have their eyes opened to understanding different leadership styles, and where the command and control style (which can be essential at times at sea) is not always appropriate.  What can help to improve leadership and management skills is a deeper understanding of one’s own personality style.  The personality profiling we do here at Spinnaker can highlight the full scope of an individual’s personality including even how that person reacts emotionally to situations (very apt for a risk-filled industry) and we have developed this to be specific for maritime.

There are pressures to keep up with other industries, with whom maritime is in competition, who handle people management in a more structured and forward-thinking approach. We’re still a long way behind the curve, this is something we all know. People management is a specialised role. It’s vital for the future success of a business.

Ultimately, my message at the BPA conference was that you cannot operate your organisation without your people. From an employer’s point of view, they’re your assets. They’re all unique and need to be invested in just like other assets, whether it’s your ports, your ships, your rigs. Machinery is serviced and updated. So why not your people?”

Karen Waltham, Managing Director

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