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Lines need to find the right talent, and more of it, to meet explosive growth

Orlando Ashford - 'The way we filter talent is inefficient and [new] technologies promise to allow us to do it in a much better way'
The cruise industry is riding a growth wave as more people are opting for cruise vacations than ever before. The ability to attract and retain crew talent will therefore be critical to sustaining growth, experts said Tuesday during a Seatrade Cruise Global session.

This year, 27.2m travelers are forecast to take a cruise globally, up from an estimated 25.8m in 2017, according to Cruise Lines International Association.

A record number of new cruise ships are on order to meet growing consumer demand and, in turn, more shipboard talent will be needed to cater to the slew of first-time and repeat cruisers planning to hop aboard.

'The employee-staff churn in all aspects of the cruise industry is becoming critical,' said Mark O’Neil, CEO of Columbia Marlow Shipmanagement, during a discussion about talent acquisition strategies to prepare for growth.

Industry studies have shown individuals who opt to work in cruising are interested most in its vacation, adventure and travel opportunities and also the social and regional interaction it affords, O’Neil noted. Compensation package and benefits generally are the last considerations.

'Statistics show that recruitment into the industry is not that much of a problem. What is a problem is spitting them out at the other end,' O’Neil added.

On the flip side, however, the top four staff retention motivators tend to be package/benefits, career development, identification with employer and organizational support, O’Neil said. 'Get those [four] right and you will keep your people. There is no point in spending a lot of money on the recruitment and acquisition side if we’re only going to spit these people out after their first contract and not keep them with the company.'

Cruise lines also need to be more involved with the recruitment of lower-level shipboard employees rather than delegating that mostly to third party entities, O’Neil advised.

If you match the right people to the right job those individuals are more likely to stay with the company, he said.    

Among the CLIA member cruise lines adding a new ship this year is Holland America Line, set to take delivery of its second Pinnacle-class vessel Nieuw Statendam in early December.

'A lot more people are going to be needed in our business,' Holland America president Orlando Ashford affirmed to attendees, reiterating the current orderbook.  

In 2018 alone, 27 new ocean, river and specialty ships are slated to debut, according to CLIA.

Ashford, who has 18 years' experience in organizational design and human resources before his cruise career, also offered some perspectives on hiring and retention.

Holland America and its sister brands are focused on exploring ways to attract the right talent, retain them and position them to be effective and successful, noted Ashford, author of the book 'Talentism.'

'Talentism,' he explained, refers to the notion that human capital fundamentally drives growth for both business and society. In the book he explores that theme and how technology can be used to identify key resources that foster organizational success.

For the cruise industry, heavily reliant on people to deliver services and experiences, understanding the changing dynamics of the world today will be critical to hiring and retention success.

To help demystify that process, Ashford offered these insights to ponder:

- We’re living in a world of rapidly changing demographics and a rapidly changing landscape (mobile, virtual, project-based)  

- Companies are not solely hiring individuals based on skills, but also for the value of their networks

- More employers are using different assessment and evaluation tools to determine job fit including behavioral and psychometric tests, social media and facial recognition technology

'In today’s world there are 202 million people actively looking for work yet 34% of companies say they can’t find talent. There’s a problem,' Ashford added. 'The way we filter talent is inefficient and these technologies promise to allow us to do it in a much better way.'

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