You Snooze, You Lose

People in a workplace feedback meeting

I sat down this week with my colleagues in the senior recruitment leadership team at Spinnaker to discuss the state of the maritime recruitment market.

It should come as no surprise that it’s not business as usual.  Whereas there is usually a trend, whether it’s up or down, the only consistent thing about the market for the last two years is that it is very inconsistent.  “One day it’s up, the next it’s down,” according to Spinnaker Director David Tubb. “It changes with the wind.”  However, David agrees with Spinnaker’s MD of Executive Search Teresa Peacock that “people seem to be more optimistic in terms of their recruitment plans at the moment; there’s a sense that clients are positioning themselves for a better year in that respect. Old jobs that were on hold are crawling out of the woodwork and there is a renewed interest to see CVs and candidates for those jobs.”  

Overall recruitment volume is up at the moment.  Director of commercial recruitment, Matt Cornelius, says the market is “really competitive” for operations and chartering staff, particularly in dry bulk and that a number of companies have given “solid” pay rises and bonuses recently, which naturally makes it more difficult for their competitors to tempt staff away.

There is a palpable supply-side shortfall. A lot of people have left the workplace thanks to covid – the consequences of people deciding to make lifestyle changes and to take early retirement cannot be overstated. Only a small amount of Spinnaker’s recruitment is for UK employers, but the situation there is exacerbated by Brexit and the loss of a significant potential workforce. Put together, these factors mean that shipping is facing even tougher competition than usual from other sectors that are facing the same supply problems.

Across industry, inexperienced and unskilled people have choice in a way that we’ve never seen before. The market for support staff, for graduates and second-jobbers is red hot. As a group, these people will never before have felt so wanted.  It’s making recruitment very difficult for employers who are having to pay inflated salaries for people with little or no experience and who, on paper, might previously have been their second choice.  At the same time, the recruitment process is frustrating to say the least, with no-shows and poor communication from candidates becoming run of the mill.  We have certainly been on the receiving end of this ourselves in our search for new junior members of the Spinnaker team.

But it is what it is. We can speculate about how sustainable this situation is and whether we’re setting up the younger generation for unrealistic expectations, but that doesn’t change the here and now. If you need staff, you have to fish in the same pond as everyone else and cope with the same market conditions.

Employers are in an impossible position.  Inflation is at levels not seen for decades, interest rates are rising, there is a war in Europe, we’re just emerging from covid and understandably they (we) are keen to keep control of costs while fighting to retain their staff and to hire new staff in a tight market.

The reality check is this: If you do have to hire at the moment, then it’s crucial to understand the current market and to get the salary budget right at the outset, or face a long and frustrating process.  If you don’t have to hire and can wait things out to see if the market settles down, then that is an option worth considering.

David Tubb again: “Candidates can pick and choose at the moment, whether that’s new entrants, accounts staff, lawyers or technical superintendents. I know of accounts staff getting for or five headhunting calls and social media messages a day. You have to move fast – you snooze, you lose. Some get this and others are completely blind to it.  There is no point making optimistic job offers at the moment by which I mean below candidates’ current salary levels or below clear indications of what the candidates are looking for.”  

Of course, there will always be a natural tendency to think a recruitment consultant who gets paid a percentage of salary has a vested interest in talking the market up.  The truth though is that recruiters – other [partly] than executive search consultants – only get paid if they make placements. Their motivation is to fill the job.  If the candidate turns an offer down due to salary, it is just as likely in today’s marketplace that both the client and the recruiter lose out. “Our interests are aligned therefore,” says Matt Cornelius. “I’ve had to learn to be unequivocal in what I say to clients, otherwise I’ll just be wasting their time and mine and that’s no good for anyone.”

Steve Cox, Spinnaker’s CEO notes the difficulty for employers: “I don’t think it’s arrogance that drives employers to try their luck despite the advice they’re being given. If you are looking for one new hire in a team of ten, you have a real problem if you break existing pay scales for that one new person. At the same time, competitors are sniffing around as they too are struggling to recruit. So, what we’re seeing is quite a lot of offers being turned down due to existing employers making defensive counter-offers and competing new employers offering more money. In the current economic climate, it’s even easier than usual to understand why candidates are accepting the higher offers.”

That all being said, it’s not 100% about the money. Covid has shifted the balance of power when it comes to employee demands to work from home.  It’s quite normal in the current market for candidate interest in roles to be subject to some guarantee of hybrid working. Two days a week from home is probably the most common request.

But, while there is much more focus on company culture nowadays, we don’t see too much of that at the recruitment stage – that tends to come when candidates are on the inside – the exceptions being vacancies with companies known to have high staff turnover or long-hours cultures.

When it comes to cross-border recruitment, there has also been a shift, this time in employer willingness to hire overseas workers based from home, but a number of assignments we have been involved in have not come to fruition due to the practicalities and legalities: where is the employment contract legally situated, which tax laws apply, must a local subsidiary company by set up to employ the new hire, can they not work as self-employed…and so on?  As with salaries, we have learned from experience that it’s important to explain to employers what’s involved before they get too far down the line with someone without thinking all of this through.

So, the market is odd, it’s often frustrating, but it’s buoyant …this week that is!

It’s also a candidate’s market and that means that now is a good time for candidates with a genuine reason for wanting to change jobs to make their move – lack of promotion opportunity, a desire for different experience, personality clashes and so on are the usual push-factors and short-term salary increases don’t tend to solve those problems for long so candidates motivated by this sort of thing are so much less likely to accept a counter-offer.

Phil Parry, Spinnaker

Leadership training in maritime

Colleagues at work together

Spinnaker is continuing to deliver our Maritime Leadership Development Programme virtually in 2022. After adapting to demand at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic we’re using our online leadership training to help keep employees engaged who are still working remotely.

Effective leadership

According to our research only one-fifth of maritime industry employees believe their employers develop their people well or promote those with the best management aptitude.

Effective leadership creates a positive impact on team members – performance, productivity, behaviour and morale.

Personality profiling

For managers of today and leaders of the future, our maritime leadership training incorporates the personality profiling tool Facet5.

We use Facet5 because it is a ‘trait-based’ profile, in preference to type-based profiles such as Myers Briggs, which categorise people as one type or another. 

Before the workshop sessions, each attendee completes their Facet5 personality profile and receives feedback via video call. The one to one coaching that follows the workshops not only helps to embed changes at an individual level but provides a confidential overview for the CEO of any challenges.

The programme came at the right time for me, transitioning from sea to shore, expanding to a different world where I am not constrained by the limits of the ship.” – previous maritime leadership training attendee

Virtual or in-person delivery

Delivered globally as online maritime leadership training for individuals or small group attendance, it is also available for exclusive, in-house delivery. We are able to deliver this virtually if you are continuing to work remotely.

Our next open programme, launching in March 2022, can be booked by contacting Helen McCaughran at [email protected] or call +44 (0)1702 481643.  

Survey: Leadership in shipbroking

charles deluvio

Spinnaker are delighted to publicise a survey on Leadership in Shipbroking being conducted by researchers at Bayes Business School at City, formerly known as Cass Business School at the University of London. As most of our regular readers will know, Spinnaker has been advocating the benefits of investing in leadership in maritime for many years and offers maritime leadership development programmes. Our next open programme starts in December and is fully booked but do register your interest for Spring 2022 by contacting Helen McCaughran on 01702 481643 or by email.

Improving the industry for future shipbrokers

Is leadership in shipbroking an oxymoron or are 21st century shipbrokers investing in developing the leadership potential of their people?  Are shipbrokers simply promoting their biggest billers into management roles only to find that their talent doesn’t extend to leadership? The survey aims to find out, to understand attitudes and perspectives, and how the industry can be improved for future generations of shipbrokers, analysts and operators.

All shipbrokers, from trainees to directors and company owners are invited to take 10 minutes to answer the questions in this survey and so help contribute to this unique piece of research on the industry. You can do so by clicking here: 

DISCLAIMER: Spinnaker are not involved in the conduct of this survey. We are helping to publicise and distribute the survey to our network of contacts and will not have access to any of the data submitted by survey participants. Responses will be anonymous and confidential and all data will be held on a secure system independent of Spinnaker and maintained by Bayes Business School.

IN MORE FORMAL TERMS:  A research team at Bayes Business School (formerly Cass) at City, University of London, led by Dr Amanda Goodall (Associate Professor in Leadership) is conducting new research to better understand the link between leadership, people management, strategic decision-making, diversity and execution in the shipbroking industry.

Hired: COO, Shipowner


Spinnaker’s Executive Search team are busier than ever with senior-level recruitment, and we’d like to share with you some of our success stories. In this case, we take a look at a recent COO hire for a shipowner based in Europe where we were able to utilise video interviewing in the face of hiring during the height of the pandemic.

The brief

Client – Shipowner, Europe
 A new but very successful shipowner was looking to expand their team by bringing in a Chief Operating Officer.  A newly created role meant discussion and clarification on what their expected deliverables would be.  Advice on job description, person specification and remuneration was given.


CEO and PE based in Europe.  Private equity backed gave several stakeholders with views and opinions that all needed to be taken into consideration.


A small but growing organisation, they wanted a skilled and capable person, not only with the correct technical knowledge to manage the day to day operations, but someone who was adept at looking at the longer term. At this stage in an organisation’s life there are inevitably growing pains, so the right person needed to manage those issues at this critical point.  A person who could grow with the business,  so someone with lots of potential to develop further as the company grows. Therefore finding the right ‘level’ of candidate was interesting.  Too senior and the organisation would be too small for them, too junior and they wouldn’t have the right experience yet. Covid restrictions meant interviewing in person was not possible, however, they did not want to delay.

Execution & solution

A mixed shortlist was presented; those with very established backgrounds who would consider a move to a smaller company for the promise of exciting growth plans, and those ready for that next step up.  Those with the potential to grow with the business, who were demonstrating through the process their drive for personal development, and future capability.

Using our extensive network and database and gaining referrals, alongside a social media campaign, 104 people were gathered and reviewed by the Search Team.  8 were shortlisted and presented to the client.  3 were interviewed.  One was selected, offered and accepted, and commenced.

Of course, covid was continuing to present major challenges in interviewing, so video conferencing was used extensively enabling the process to move along.


The role was filled by a candidate already based in Europe, so there were no relocation issues.  They had significant operational experience, along with good management experience.  They were ready for the next step in their career so this was an ideal match for both them and the company.


We remain the client’s partner of choice for their search and selection requirements.

Want to know more about Spinnaker’s Executive Search offerings? Click here.

Spinnaker named Executive Search Partner of the Year 2021

maritime leaders

The Global Ports Council has announced Spinnaker to be “the most deserving winner” of the Preferred Port/Terminal Executive Search Partner of the Year 2021 award.

Spinnaker has provided executive search services to the global shipping industry for 24 years, placing top shipping executives in some of the most senior roles in the industry.

Teresa Peacock, Managing Director at Spinnaker, says “We are honoured to have been voted Search Partner of the Year. 2020 came with many challenges, however, our Search team was incredibly busy.  Recruitment is a very exciting profession, and identifying that perfect person who not only has the skills and experience to do the role, but who also fits with the company culture is very rewarding.  Search isn’t just about those senior positions, it is also about those difficult to fill roles, or those vacancies where speed is of the essence. Whether the organisation is making a big splash about the new hire, or whether it has to be a confidential search, we can happily accommodate both approaches.

We’re three months in to 2021 and already our Search team are busier than ever. Much research time and resource goes into these C-suite hires, setting it apart from regular contingency recruitment.

Search isn’t just about filling roles,” says Peacock. “It’s about a great hire because we understand how to identify potential. The approach is key: we market-map a sector, understanding every element of the market, a dedicated project team ensures a proper and thorough process that is proven to work. We have major companies coming to us to handle their top vacancies, and it’s really satisfying to have this award as a reminder of the hard work we do.

The Global Port Forum Awards 2021 aim to recognize the most valuable contribution made by organizations and professionals in different areas of Ports and Terminals Industry and acknowledge their roles and achievements in different categories.

These Awards are awarded based on the nominations received and also in recognition of the important contributions and achievements made by organizations and professionals across our industry in the last year.

Find out more about our Executive Search work, team and successes, click here:

5 simple tactics to help you build an open feedback culture

open feedback culture

If you can create an environment where people feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback openly, it can transform your organisation. But building an open feedback culture doesn’t happen overnight, especially if people are used to ‘feedback’ being something that comes up only once a year at annual reviews.

Research shows that people aren’t often confident in giving feedback to others, especially to their managers or those in more senior positions. It takes time to get everyone feeling comfortable giving feedback so openly.

1. Use a non-anonymous 360-degree feedback tool

It’s near impossible to make an open feedback culture stick if you’re still using anonymous 360-degree feedback tools for annual reviews. An anonymous approach wholly contradicts the message you are trying to send across about the benefits of open feedback. Taking away the anonymity from formal feedback processes reinforces to people that it is ok to give feedback openly.

2. Teach people how to give effective feedback and provide opportunities to practice

If people have a framework for giving feedback, they will be more comfortable and confident giving it, and more likely to incorporate it into their everyday practice. They will be even more comfortable and confident if you give them opportunities to test out these frameworks.

Techniques like feedforward, DESC, and what/why, as we talked about in this recent post, provide people with helpful frameworks to help them deliver feedback in a way that is effective. But people will never really feel confident unless they are given a chance to hone their skills. Workshops can be a valuable way for people to practice giving feedback in a safe environment.

3. Introduce debrief sessions after meetings, projects, etc.

One simple tactic we often encourage clients to introduce at the end of a meeting or during a project debrief, is the ‘Smiley face, Straight face’ exercise. On a flip chart or white wall, draw two columns, one headed up with a smiley face and the other with a straight face. On the smiley face side, people share what went well. On the straight face side, people share what could go better.

By making feedback part of everyday work processes, like meetings and projects, you give people an opportunity to practice feedback.

4. Hold regular meetings where people can share their views

An open feedback culture doesn’t just refer to peer-to-peer feedback. Providing opportunities for people to get together and talk face-to-face about things they think are going well and not so well within the company, from frustrations with ways of working, to ideas to make processes more streamlined, or how to tackle a recurring issue, can have many benefits for companies. Not only does giving people a voice make them feel valued, but it empowers them to speak up and is a great way of warming people up to feel more comfortable sharing their observations.

One example could be to hold regular Stop-Start meetings. Get everyone in a room together on a regular basis, perhaps quarterly, to discuss what people think the company should start doing and what it should stop doing. You’ll need someone to facilitate the session who can moderate the activity and bring clarity to what is said.

5. Encourage people to recognise others publicly

Creating an open feedback culture isn’t just about encouraging people to point out how things could have gone better. People also need to feel comfortable giving praise and recognition when things go well. People generally aren’t given enough positive feedback. The risk is that people end up feeling unappreciated, and you start to lose good people as a result.

There are simple systems organisations can introduce to help people become better at recognising when things go well. It may be that you introduce a way to give praise within your company’s online HR system, or introduce a ‘people news’ section to company meetings.

There may also be more imaginative ways you can get people in the habit of giving praise. Here at t-three, we helped one client establish an initiative based on the “invisible gorilla test” which you can read more about in this post. ‘The Order of the Gorilla’ meant that if someone noticed someone doing something well or something that had helped them or the team in some way, the law was that they were to give the stuffed toy gorilla to that person. They also had to tell them what/why; what they had done well, and why it had a positive effect. The gorilla would then sit on the person’s desk for a week. In this case, what we found was that it became a talking point in the office, and slowly, people started to get better at noticing when things went well and offering praise and recognition.

Feedback is a skill. And the best way to develop a skill is through practice. The good news is there are many ways you can adapt or introduce structures and processes to get people practising giving feedback. These do not have to include the Smiley face, Straight face exercise or The Order of the Gorilla – find something that resonates with your people and works for your company. The important thing to remember is that practice builds confidence and creates habits. And this is how an open feedback culture can be built and sustained.

Spinnaker offer bespoke HR solutions. Contact our team of HR experts to find out more about how we can help you.