Inducting your new crew member
As with some of these earlier articles this has got a lot longer than originally planned. Part 3 is about inducting the crew member and their first 3 months on board, the probation period.
Part 4 will be the actual nuts and bolts of managing a crew member, doing performance reviews etc.
Having worked with many yachts and crews, it is interesting to hear about the different approaches which are used to induct new crew. Do you give them a welcome pack when they arrive on board, or even before they come aboard? I would suggest prior to them arriving would be a nice touch which will make you stand out further from other yachts, far too many of which struggle to even get a contract to a crew member months after they have started! What goes into it, a copy of the Master’s standing orders, their role and responsibilities, examples of the uniform and when to wear which, bedding and washing days, a photo of all the crew along with names and positions, etc? Some other suggestions may be general information on the yacht, the planned itinerary etc.
Most yachts have the initial induction sorted – their first day on board consists of familiarisation and going through all the legalities, admin, safety procedures, etc. The new recruit receives a huge amount of information and typically a crew social in the evening so they get to meet everyone. Day two, and they can start to crack on with the job they were hired for.
What is apparent, if you want a new crew member to fit in quickly, step up and perform, use their initiative (sensibly) and work independently; more time needs to be spent inducting them into your ways of working. However, this does not necessarily mean bombarding them with ever increasing amounts of information.
Take yourself back to the last time you joined a new yacht – that first day was probably an information overload and how much of it actually stuck? Sadly, according to research, we only remember 10% of what we read and 20% of what we hear! So what’s the solution? You have a legal obligation, hence the information overload on day 1. However, if this is so important shouldn’t it be re-visited to make sure it has actually sunk in?
We remember 90% of what we say and do. The NHS has developed their approach to teaching which embraces this fact. As a student you will first watch an operation being performed, then under supervision perform the operation, and the last step in the process is to “teach” it back to your consultant. Adopting this style of learning with new crew could be invaluable, particularly around safety critical issues. How else will you “test” that someone has paid attention to their induction? All too often the first time you realise that your new recruit was missing a critical piece of information is when there is an accident or incident of some description. I would also consider some sort of test at the end of week one regarding standing orders, safety etc. Doesn’t need to be huge but the new crew member needs to be able to tell you where all the emergency hatches are, BA sets, and the fire extinguishers in the main saloon for just a few example questions.
The “unspoken” rules
Every yacht will have slightly different “unspoken” rules and this is what forms the culture on your yacht. Often the issues and conflicts are down to “How” someone does or says something, rather than “What” they are doing. Do you thank the Chef after each meal, or leave your mug in the sink because the dishwasher is running? It can take a new crew member some time to work out the subtleties of how you do things. Some yachts adopt a buddy system for the new joiner, this way they can easily pick up on the small nuances that make your yacht unique – turning up 5 minutes before the morning brief, with or without a mug of coffee in hand?….every boat is different!
I actually think that the “unspoken” rules are just as important as the official ones and if feasible I would actually get as many of them down in writing as possible. I think the “unspoken” rules are also an area where a lot of crew come unstuck, especially regarding nights out and alcohol. This is the sort of thing which I would really clarify at interview stage as people have very different interpretations of want a ‘sociable’ boat means. For some this means out boozing several times midweek until the early hours. For others this means crew who play sport together, go out for dinner and have a few drinks on a Friday. Very easy for a new recruit to fall foul of this early doors if it isn’t made very clear what is expected of them prior to joining. Many senior crew out of kindness will generally cut the new recruit some slack…. But what they really need is to be set clear unwavering boundaries from the start.
Performance & Feedback
When do you review how things are going for them? Do you check in with your new recruit after their first day or week? What about thereafter? The sooner you ensure your new recruit is aware of how you like things done the better, but they may need telling more than once (remember that information over-load). It’s just as important to let them know both what you expect them to do as well as how you expect them to behave. Meeting with them at regular intervals, initially daily, then weekly and then moving to every two weeks, creates the opportunity to review their performance and give them feedback.
I would suggest:
End of day one, end of day two, end of day on their first Friday, end of day 2nd Friday, then 4th Friday, 6th Friday, 8th Friday, 10th Friday and then final 12th Friday which covers the probation period. Each meeting doesn’t have to be long, 5 mins is more than enough if there aren’t any issues but it needs to be private.
I would pick the brains of various people on board at regular intervals too. So after the first week speak to the bosun and see if he has any feedback. After the 2nd week speak to the Chief Stew and see what she has heard from her stews. And so on with other HODs. All of this will help nip any behavioural / cultural problems in the bud early doors.
If you have decided not to keep them on beyond the trial period, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to them. If you expected something different from them, either in their levels of competence or behaviour, they should have had the feedback on multiple occasions and at least been given the chance to improve, but if you don’t make the time to give them the feedback, how can they?