Shore-based marine employers should broaden their search, beyond high ranking mariners, to fill managerial roles, said speakers at London International Shipping Week on 7 September.
Speaking at Nautilus International’s roundtable Shore Enough? Meeting the Demand for Maritime Professionals, recruiters said there is an “over-emphasis” by employers on the need for masters and chief engineers to fill managerial roles.
Phil Parry, chairman of Spinnaker Global, a shore-based shipping recruitment, executive search and HR consulting firm, said, “There are a lot of people who are employed because they are former master mariners, former chief engineers [but] where that is simply not necessary.”
Whether or not the stereotype of, for example, engineers being too detail-oriented to be good managers is true or not, said Parry, employers should be hiring people on their motivation and potential to lead, rather than their rank.
“Background is largely irrelevant when it comes to being a good manager. A good manager is a good manager,” said Parry.
“A second or third mate, in their mid- to late-20s with seven years’ sea experience and who have got themselves a degree” makes a “very attractive” package for recruiters, he said, adding, “What we are looking for is motivation to lead; people who like leading, for they are likely to be better at doing it.”
The mistake of a wrong managerial-level hire is expensive on several levels, with a negative impact on staff retention, effectiveness, and the company’s bottom line. The wage paid to the new hire could also vary significantly.
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Susan Thomson, marine and projects superintendent at BP Shipping Ltd, pointed out that masters can annually earn up to GBP100,000 (USD153,500) tax free, on a six month-on, six month-off rota.
“How can employers ashore possibly compete with this? Do you need a master?” she asked.
Parry said that employers need to define their needs more carefully and invest more time and effort to select the most appropriate candidate for the role.
“Certainly from a competence perspective employers often don’t have a clue what they are looking for. What do you want out of this person? What is going to make them a decent manager such that your retention improves, and your people are performing to their best?” he said, and advised employers to use alternative recruitment tools than merely interviews and references.
“Interviews and references are the least effective way to identify leaders, but we do these most of all. The reason is because they are easy and require less investment of time and money. We hire the nice bloke or woman, or the tough one, whatever we think we need. But it does not often match what we should be looking for,” warned Parry.