Quay Crew Logo

Retaining crew in the yachting recruitment crisis

Tim Clarke
November 23, 2021

There's currently a recruitment crisis in the yachting sector, which means a focus on retaining crew should be a top priority for boats.

Currently we are going through unprecedented times (yes, everyone’s favourite phrase over the last 18 months!) in yachting and retaining good crew is now more important than ever before.

The build market is booming, and yachts are selling like hot cakes, even the rust buckets which have sat neglected for years.

The upshot of this is that there’s a recruitment crisis in the sector. All crew have multiple job options if they choose to actively look - certainly at the junior end, less so at the senior end. Their heads are being turned by more and more yachts are offering 3:1 rotation to junior crew. Just this week I have had several clients reach out to me asking for advice on implementing a 3:1.

In my last blog I highlighted the importance of being quick with recruitment. This blog is going to look at things from a slightly different angle. Instead of improving how we recruit yacht crew, how do we hold onto them instead?

Retaining crew vs recruiting crew

Believe it or not, despite being a crew agent and my income being directly attached to making placements, I don’t want my clients to experience turnover. I want them to have stable working environments where the crew stay for years and it’s great for everyone.

Currently Quay Crew and Andrew from The Crew Academy are working closely with a large, well known yacht to improve some aspects of its operation. Together with the family office we have looked at all the costs and hidden costs of recruiting a crew member. This covered everything from obvious things like crew agency fees, flights and uniform to less obvious things like hours the Captain and HOD spend on recruiting to back office costs relating to HR, admin and accountants, etc.

In summary, the list of expenses is long, most of which people won’t even be aware of. So what did we find? That each hire was costing the yacht over $21k. Years ago, a well-known yacht fleet commissioned a report which looked at the cost of a bad hire for them. They arrived at a figure of over $60k. Disclaimer...I haven’t seen the report and don’t know how they arrived at this figure but I was told this by a senior Captain within the fleet who I have an excellent relationship with and see no reason why he would be incorrect.  

The point of my last two paragraphs? To demonstrate it really is better to hold onto your good crew instead of trying to recruit someone. Although not the case for crew who are poor at their job or poor for morale. Definitely get rid of them!

This subject is something I’m passionate about and speak to lots of clients about on a regular basis. Whilst throwing money at the problem can certainly help, improving rotation and salaries only goes so far. If the work environment is toxic, then people will still leave in droves.

The first question as Captain or HOD I would ask of myself is why would someone want to work on this yacht? This DOESN’T relate to salary or leave, it relates to the perks and the benefits of the role and for some yachts, this list is very short.

Some of these things cost money, most of them only cost time and some commitment from the Captain and HODs to implement and embed them into the culture onboard.

In no particular order, and by no means comprehensive, a few ways of retaining crew onboard your superyacht could include:

  • Implementing a training regime where each HOD holds structured training sessions on a regular basis. I would literally timetable it and plan the topics being covered during periods you don’t have guests/boss on.
  • Holding regular one-to-ones with crew and scheduled appraisals every three or six months. The appraisals must look at performance, areas for improvement etc and quantify these things where possible.
  • Looking at the work culture. Is it genuinely a happy, productive work environment? If you aren’t sure do an anonymous survey of the crew. Find out what they really think. Take steps from there. Develop a positive working environment. Lots of things you can do to improve this.
  • Considering onboard health and fitness. I believe a fit and healthy crew perform better, have less mental health issues and will stay on a yacht longer. This isn’t my idea but it’s a great one. I believe it came from Ben Craig Cameron originally. Hire a PT somewhere in the team and have them hold training sessions Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning before work. Start at 7.30am and finish at 8.00am. Everyone who takes part finishes work 30 minutes earlier. Obviously, this can only happen with guests off. But the rest of the time is doable.
  • Giving crew access to the yacht’s facilities and amenities. Let them use the toys during boss/guest-off periods. If they damage them, the privilege is revoked. Simple. Also let them use the crew car/people carrier. This facilitates them getting away from the yacht together for a weekend.

If you are a currently a client of Quay Crew and would like a complete list of ways you can demonstrate added value to crew and improve retention, please email me at tim@quaycrew.com.

If you would like to become a client and see how we do things differently then please get in contact too.

Finally, if you are currently having a bit of an epiphany and are working with training providers to improve your leadership, team culture, etc then we’d be happy to explain how we can complement all of this by really improving your recruitment process and build some solid foundations to your crew.

Photo credit: serenaandrassy | talesofastewardess

Sign up for Blog updates

We'll drop you a line when we've written a new blog post. Guaranteed no spam.