05 November 2020

On Thursday 5th November, the maritime community gathered online to hear Mark Charman, CEO & Founder of Faststream Recruitment and Kelsey Purse, Director of Shipping deliver their maritime employment and industry update.

This insight includes the following information:

You can enjoy the recording here:

The most critical and complex subject today in the maritime sectors amid the COVID crisis is the people. I have been asked by global leaders to share my thoughts, experience and what our clients are telling us across three key areas in maritime: Hiring, Recruitment and People.

People in maritime

The first trend we have identified is ‘change’. The world of work has been forced to significantly adjust as we all contend with the new circumstances the pandemic has presented to us.

We have seen huge numbers of people in the maritime sector move from traditional office working to a new remote reality. The way we work has changed too. Whether that is communicating via technology such as Teams or Zoom or learning to lead and manage teams without physically being present in the same place.

Even the work that you do may have changed. People have had to move sectors or even change their job. Many have had to become more flexible in the activities that they do day to day to survive and prosper in the future. For those who have had to change jobs, this has meant that they may have never met their colleagues and have never stepped foot into the physical office.

For those who traditionally have worked in Cruise or Offshore, they have simply found that there is no work, that jobs have been made redundant and job offers have been withdrawn.

Significantly for the maritime sectors, amid all this change, candidates have told us that one-third of them are re-thinking their careers in light of the pandemic.

People want to work somewhere else

Ex-patriates don’t want to be ex-pats anymore, they want to come home. We are hearing stories that being an ex-pat and being away from home, is not the most enjoyable experience during the pandemic. The ex-patriate lifestyle with lockdowns and increased restrictions on social activities is making it unappealing.

People don’t want to commute into big cities

This is hardly surprising due to what we are all going through at the moment. However, people are telling us that even when COVID is over, that they have rethought their lifestyle and work-life balance and remote working after COVID remains a hot topic.

Business Travel

Maritime has been a sector of international travel, but the border restrictions and travel bans have set this on pause and people aren’t sure whether they want to go back to doing this again.

Widening divide between older and younger job seekers

The younger generations don’t want to work remotely. They want to go into the office and have a social life. They are happy to relocate and are more relaxed about COVID. On the other side, older employees don’t want to commute, they certainly don’t want to use public transport and they want to secure the coveted work-life balance.

People are frustrated

The pandemic has made some people put their careers on hold. Career progression opportunities or promotion promises have not materialised, as well as pay rises being put on hold and bonuses not being available. 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 people will become frustrated, and employers are at risk of losing key staff.

In fact, in a recent survey we conducted, 57% of candidates were still planning on changing jobs in the next 12 months, despite the pandemic. We saw no key differences based on location, this is a global trend.

So, what are these job seekers doing in the pandemic?

Job seekers are behaving differently

Candidates are doing more homework on potential employers and employer branding has become more important than ever. How have you treated people during the pandemic? What are the extra benefits that they will receive? What are your policies on working remotely after COVID? These are just some of the questions that they want the answers to.

There are of course some concerns about job security if they change jobs, so this homework is imperative to their final decision making. Executives are asking for repatriation clauses in their contracts as well as negotiating terminating bonuses to increase the feeling of security.

Many have become ‘window shoppers’ and are happy to have conversations about new jobs, perhaps even move to a first interview stage but as recruiters, we have had to work even harder during this time to ensure we find the highly motivated candidates who are seriously considering a job move.

Hiring in maritime

Employers are telling us that pay will remain static for the next 12 months. 77% of leaders say that they do not plan to increase pay over the next 12 months. In commercial functions, a staggering 89% saw pay remaining static whilst in the more skill short occupations of technical shipping and operations, 64% saw it remaining the same. If we look at our research from the last two years, this means that we are heading into a future of three years of static pay.

The impact of this is that people will simply change jobs to secure a pay rise. It will be harder to attract new talent to maritime, let alone retain those who are currently employed. Employers have always agreed that maritime needs to pay more to attract people from other sectors, but unfortunately this does not seem a reality for at least another year.

Businesses are still planning to hire

46% of employers told us that they planned to make new hires in the next 12 months. Vacancies have held up okay through the pandemic and we have seen an uptick into the second half of the year. We have even started to see the odd cruise vacancy come through.

Most businesses are now comfortable with remote recruitment and onboarding. In January we expect to see businesses wanting to get ahead of the curve and increase their hiring.

The three ‘R’s are driving current hiring

Businesses are ‘Restructuring’ – they are looking at how their businesses are organised and the changes they need to make. Others are ‘Reshaping’ – and are analysing the make-up of their teams and the people they need to survive and move forward to the other side of the crisis. Another group of businesses are simply ‘Replacing’ – the only changes they will make to their team is to make critical replacements of employees who have left the business.

However, I would also say that a fourth ‘R’ is emerging – ‘Reinvention’. Some businesses are soul searching and making the decision to reinvent themselves around how they can prosper post-COVID. This means that changes in leadership and management may also be required.

The rise of flexible employment

During this period, we have seen double the number of contract vacancies. We are seeing these vacancies from businesses that are uncertain about the future, or who perhaps have had to make redundancies and that are sensitive about being seen to hire. We see projects that need specific skill sets, who may not be required when it has been completed. As we mentioned in our last webinar, we continue to see a drive for interim executives.

Overall, the trend indicates caution from those seeking contractors, and a ‘try before you buy’ mentality.

Access to a global talent pool

With remote working becoming the new norm, some businesses are seeing the benefit of this and how particularly in very skill short areas like technical shipping which has been restricted to their local talent pool, are benefiting from what now seems like a global talent pool.

Relocation has been expensive for either the new employee or the employer, it comes with risk as well as the increased difficulties we have seen in getting work permits.

What impact will this have on the global shipping hubs? Will businesses need to sit people in expensive cities like Singapore or London? Or could remote working make even the most far-flung locations acceptable as remote working locations?

My prediction is that a hybrid model will evolve. It will be a combination of remote working, some travel and then time working in the main officers or a regional hub space.

This topic brings up some interesting discussion on pay.

Global pay strategies

Businesses are starting to ask themselves how exactly remote working pay will shape out in the future. ‘Are we going to pay people the same no matter where they are located?’. We see three potential strategies for Remote Working Pay:

  • Pay based on employer location

  • Pay based on employee location

  • Pay based on the national or international median

Making a decision will take some time and consideration, there are pros and cons of implementing a different pay strategy for remote workers. Will businesses see this as an opportunity to lower their expenses by changing to a location-based model or will they want to remain as competitive as possible to secure the best talent?

The reality is, when we asked candidates whether they would take a pay cut to remote work forever, 66% said they would not. 

Kelsey Purse’s insight into the recruitment of seafarers is covered in our next insight ‘Who will sail the world’s ships?'

You can also enjoy here the Q & A with Mark Charman and Kelsey Purse from the session:

Read here

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