10 September 2020

Faststream Recruitment conducted a global employment review of over 5,500 Naval Architects and Marine Engineers to gain a unique insight into the views, thoughts and feelings that these individuals have about the industry they work in. It has been a tough few months for many and we have aimed to establish the impact the pandemic has had on the answers provided throughout.

This insight includes the following information:

Retention and job security

In a u-turn from 2019, 60% of respondents stated that they were planning on changing jobs in the next 12 months with a further 2% retiring.

There is the potential that if these sentiments are true, employers will need to replace nearly two-thirds of their teams by mid-2021. A 54%increase from 2019 is simply staggering.

Those with the least experience (0 – 5 years) were the most likely to be planning a move but all experience levels had increased significantly year on year. When asked if the pandemic had impacted their plans to change jobs, 64% agreed that it had.

Not all employers will be aware of how their team is feeling or what effect the pandemic has had on their employees’ personal and professional lives. As a leader, it can be easy to get bogged down in the here and now, prioritising crisis management activities of the business and forgetting how life-changing one of the biggest events in history will be.”

We asked respondents how valued they had felt by their employer during the pandemic and 25% felt less valued than normal.

It is not difficult to see how this can happen. Without clear and regular communications from the top, as well as a lack of celebrations of success, it can make employees feel alone and not valued for what they are doing.“

When an employee doesn’t feel valued, it isn’t surprising that they may feel they are better off working for another business.

55% of all respondents had felt concerned about their job security in the last 12 months. Of those planning to move jobs, this increased to 63%.

It is clear that people are feeling insecure about their futures and making plans. Putting aside the anxiety and stress that this causes, it is clear that respondents are getting prepared and being responsive to the situation.”

But it wasn’t just the pandemic that was causing concerns in job security. Just as we saw in 2019, employees continue to be concerned about the future of the industry. 37% cited they believed the industry is in decline, exactly as we reported last year. COVID-19 was the second biggest factor with 34% concerned about their job security highlighting the pandemic as the cause.

It wasn’t all external factors that were causing job security concerns. Those with three to five years’ experience stated that their concern came from the lack of feedback, reviews, or progression plans they had received.

“People become concerned about their job security when they aren’t receiving the feedback or reviews they are used to. Business leaders, managers and HR face the challenge of being pulled in different directions at the moment. Performance evaluations can take up a lot of time and focus for everyone involved. Many people are simply wary of performance reviews and will do anything to avoid them. Pair with this the stress that many people are experiencing, and it could be very easy to decide to postpone until better days.”

For those who are performing well and exceeding their objectives, not evaluating their performance collaboratively could be one of the worst things you can do. When good or even great performance is not recognised, celebrated or rewarded, it can make employees feel despondent. In the worst-case scenarios where they feel they have failed to receive the recognition and opportunities they deserve, it can lead to staff turnover.

On the other side, if you have employees who are not performing well, ignoring the situation could be bad for all parties. If poor performance is not identified and talked about rationally, employees who need support or better direction can end up struggling and performance decreases further.

An unfortunate outcome of abandoning performance evaluations is the loss of communication and stability that regular feedback enables. Consistent feedback keeps employees on track and working towards agreed, business goals, and it also helps them feel a sense of connection which is critical in these times. 

Career Progression

The nature of the industry has traditionally offered a structured career path, with clear and specific roles defined by activities and ranked from highest to lowest based on the level of responsibility and pay.  We wanted to find out if this was still the case and whether employees felt their employer offered good career progression opportunities, 49% believed they did not.

For many, moving forward, securing promotions, being offered new challenges is at the heart of why they do what they do. Take this off the table and employers could be in danger of losing key staff who have looked elsewhere for these opportunities instead.”

We continued by asking whether they had received a promotion in the last 12 months and only 19% agreed that they had. Of course, we must factor in that some people will be at the top of their game with no real opportunities on the horizon. However, we expected to see a third receiving a promotion based on the traditional progression levels in the industry, usually every three to fours years of experience.

We see more career job-hoppers who feel they need to make a move to simply secure a promotion. This can be increasingly frustrating for employers who have put time and effort into training and sharing knowledge with employees, only to lose them further down the line.”

Mental Health

There has been a noticeable shift in attitude towards mental health over the last decade. You cannot avoid a headline at the moment that doesn’t mention mental health and the impact the pandemic has had on people. We wanted to go deeper into understanding whether employees felt they had a forum at work to air any issues. We asked whether employees felt their employer cares about their well-being. Reassuringly 61% agreed that they did. However, this still leaves over a third who don’t think they do.

“No business wants a reputation that they don’t care about their employees. Employer brand is becoming increasingly important when prospective employees are making job change decisions. They want to work for someone they believe in and care about but expect this to be reciprocated too.”

We continued by asking whether their employer encouraged them to talk about their mental health, 57% said that they did not. If employees are working in an environment where they aren’t encouraged to talk about this important subject and their mental health deteriorates, what do they do and who do they speak to?

Mental health is not about good or bad. It is about creating a positive workplace culture where it is ok to talk about mental health and to share best practises throughout the business.”

We followed on by asking whether they felt they could talk to their employer about their mental health, 50% said they could not. We have seen employers in the last two years develop more robust mental health policies, but there have not been any legal changes to make mental health first aid training mandatory in the workplace.

We believe that businesses that can create, implement and deliver a mental health policy with a trained professional available in the business will enable employees to open up more freely. Mental health affects employees’ emotional, psychological and social well-being. Improving dialogue between employer and employee will mean businesses benefit from how their employees handle stress, relate to others and how they make choices, all of which are important aspects of working in the industry.”

Work-life balance and stress

We reported in 2019 how important work-life balance was to Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, but many felt they were not reaching the equilibrium between the demands of their personal life, professional life and family life. 75% were working unpaid overtime, 21% were working an astonishing 10+ hours extra per week for no additional compensation.

The demand for work-life balance does not mean people don’t want to work hard, rather they don’t want it to negatively affect their home life overall.”

It is difficult to see how working more hours than contracted to is not going to have an impact on the coveted work-life balance.

We were interested to see if there had been changes year on year and whether the pandemic had made it easier to achieve. In 2019 working from home and flexi-time were available to 30% and 33% respectively. In 2020, flexi-time increased to 35%. Working from home increased to 44%. Initially, we were surprised that this wasn’t much higher as the pandemic has forced the majority of employees to work remotely. We can only imagine that people answered based on the normal practices outside of lockdown.

Has lockdown impacted the balance between life and work? We asked this year whether the move to remote working has meant people are more likely to work more hours and 71% agreed that it had. As mentioned, with 75% in 2019 already working unpaid overtime, we wonder how many extra hours this is accumulating to today? How many more hours can employees work before their work quality suffers and potentially lead to burnout?

Naval Architects and Marine Engineers appear to be resilient people, and when we asked how stressed they felt from one to five (one being not stressed) only 12% identified as being very stressed (level five). However, respondents were quick to cite the reasons for any element of their stress. Management was picked as the top pick, followed by market conditions and COVID-19.  

Please contact Mark Charmanor Adam Gravesto discuss the findings in more detail.

View Naval Architecture jobs here

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