Following the launch of our Superintendent Report in the summer, we have continued to monitor the trends in employment and recruitment in the superintendent profession from both a candidate and client point of view.
People strategies in ship management have continued to dominate conversations this year, and more so in the latter part of 2022. As we close the year, we are using this opportunity to share our findings on what is happening in employment and recruitment in the superintendent profession and what we expect to see in the coming year.
This update will focus on key points, including:
What are candidates doing?
The activity of superintendent candidates is typically one of the first indicators of upward or downward trends in recruitment in ship management. We wanted to provide a closer look at what superintendents have been doing over the last six months.
Applying for jobs
In our Superintendent Report, we shared that 80% of superintendents surveyed were planning to change jobs in the next 12 months. The reality has been that we have seen an uptick in applications from superintendents in the last six months. There has been much talk in the media about the ‘great resignation’ and the activity by superintendents certainly reflects this.
Open to conversations with headhunters
Whilst some superintendents are in an active job-seeking mode, those who are not applying for superintendent jobs, are more open to having conversations with headhunters. When previously the market felt more passive and candidates were staying in a safe port in the COVID-19 storm, many of these candidates have moved from being passive candidates to candidates on the cusp. They are now more open to conversations about opportunities and happier to be gently persuaded to consider these jobs.
There has never been a time when we have seen so much confidence from superintendent candidates about their ability to secure new employment. There are now more superintendents who are assured in the knowledge that their skillset is in demand. We have seen examples of when a superintendent has felt that they have not got what they were promised, and they have resigned without another position to immediately go to.
Interviewing for multiple opportunities
The market is busy and there is not a shortage of superintendent job opportunities. It is now unusual to speak with a superintendent who is not interviewing for multiple positions. On top of the number of opportunities available, with clients embracing technology like video interviewing, it has made it easier for superintendents to fit in multiple interviews. Their new confidence is also making them unafraid to share this.
Counteroffers have become increasingly common, but what we have particularly seen over the latter half of the year is how aggressive these counteroffers are becoming. Clients know that replacing a superintendent, particularly an experienced one is going to be costly and time-consuming. Creating these aggressive counteroffers is now a well-used strategy with varying results with superintendents.
Deliberating multiple job offers
Not only are superintendents faced with aggressive counteroffers from their employers, but they are also in a position of being able to consider multiple job offers at one time. Now for some, this will seem a blessing, but for others, it is causing some serious deliberation and reflection on what the right path will be for them.
Losing patience for bad recruitment processes, onboarding, or broken promises
We have already mentioned a new sense of confidence amongst superintendents, but this confidence has also created a loss of patience. Bad recruitment processes, including decisions, job offers, and employment contracts being severely delayed to enduring poor interview experiences will not cut it with superintendents anymore.
On top of this, if either the pre-onboarding or post-onboarding of a superintendent is not up to scratch, we hear about it. Superintendents want to feel engaged with their new employer from the interview to the job offer, to their first day and beyond. Receiving no communication between an agreed start date and their first day can leave superintendents in doubt about whether they are valued coming into the business.
Broken promises are often reflected in the more junior or assistant superintendents. Assurances over training, development, and career progression are not always followed through. Superintendents do not have the patience for this, and many will already be active again in their job search for an employer who will promise these things but who will also deliver.
What do candidates want?
Understanding what superintendent candidates want can be crucial to getting the recruitment process and job offer right and ultimately being successful in hiring.
In our Superintendent Report, we shared that the global average for home working was 47% and 27% for flexi-time. The reality is that most superintendents want more flexibility and the pandemic proved to them that it was possible. This has created a desire to see this continuing and for job opportunities that offer a working style that is simply more flexible.
The desire for a more flexible working style has been driven by a wish for better work-life balance from superintendents. Many have cited that they don’t want to be contacted when they are on annual leave for a start. Flexible hours or some remote working makes work-life balance more of a possibility for many superintendents and they aren’t afraid to ask for it.
The demand for higher salaries is rife, and in some cases is simply becoming unrealistic. Superintendents appear to be going through their “L’Oreal” moment – because I’m worth it.
Superintendents want pay rises to come without having to resign. In fact, in our Superintendent Report, we found that 51% of those who had a pay rise in the last six months felt very valued, whilst only 31% responded this way if their last pay rise was over two years ago. Pay rises can be a short-term strategy for retention but we must question the sustainability of this.
On top of the desire for higher salaries and pay rises, superintendent candidates are also asking for additional benefits. Private healthcare for both themselves and their family is popular as are bonuses. Job offers cannot simply be a salary anymore, superintendents want to see the full benefits package on offer. Those employers who are providing this are getting a competitive advantage against other employers where their job offers are just a salary.
Smooth recruitment processes
Superintendents want to feel valued throughout the recruitment process from the response to a job application to interview arrangements, the interview itself, and ultimately the job offer. We have seen that those employers who have been responsive and transparent throughout have more success and superintendents are responding very favourably to these processes.
The superintendent profession can be stressful, and we have found that it is important for superintendents to have good relationships with their colleagues and management. This is where culture and management become important in how it is described in the interview stage and what the reality is.
Excellent onboarding processes
Delivering great engagement and communication with a new employee has never been more important at the pre-onboarding and post-onboarding stages. It can be easy to believe the hard work has been done once the start date has been agreed but it is not. In a period where your new superintendent is still with their employer, you are still in a vulnerable position to counteroffers and other job offers. Creating a great communications plan in the pre-onboarding period will set you apart from the rest. On top of this having a structured first 90-day plan for post-onboarding will take your recruitment to the next level.
What are clients doing?
It is now important to see what clients are doing and how they are responding to the activity and wants of superintendent candidates.
We have continued to see clients favour in-country hiring over the last six months. Particularly in Asia where mobility has been slower to recover since the COVID-19 pandemic. In Europe, Brexit has also made in-country hiring more favourable as issues around the right to work have become more prevalent.
Many clients are using counteroffers in their retention strategies, in many cases very aggressive counteroffers. We are seeing variable results, but it is making more superintendent candidates think that bit longer and harder about whether they want to stay with their current employer or start fresh somewhere new.
During the pandemic embracing technology in recruitment became a must but many clients have continued to use it and it is now an established part of their recruitment process. It is not just video interviews via Teams and Zoom that are popular. Some clients are using technology earlier on in the screening process by asking candidates to record themselves answering several competency and behavioural-based questions. We see this becoming more popular in 2023 with more clients investing in this technology. On top of this, the use of automation in communications through the onboarding stage is just starting to take off.
Considering other skills pools
Traditionally, many clients have preferred to use a traditional route to hiring talent by either recruiting established superintendents or attracting top-ranking seafarers to opportunities ashore. However, a small number of our clients are now looking at other skill pools and naval architects are at the top of their list. If you are interested in finding out more about naval architect candidates, you can read our Naval Architecture Employment Report here.
In an ideal world, hiring would only be done because of growth in a business. The reality is that based on superintendents’ activity, many clients continually need to hire replacements too. This is creating some serious stress purchasing, with pressure on hiring managers to quickly and efficiently attract, interview, offer, and onboard new employees.
Out of date onboarding processes
We are still seeing clients that have not invested in more robust onboarding processes. As we mentioned earlier, superintendent candidates have lost patience and this means that onboarding processes need to be slick, and well thought out and ensure the new superintendent feels valued.
What do clients want?
It is important to understand what clients want and whether this correlates with what the people they are recruiting desire too.
Plug and play
Without a doubt, our most popular hiring request is for experienced superintendents that clients can plug and play into their business. These superintendents need less training and supervision and show their value very early on.
You either fit in or you don’t – hiring managers want new employees who effortlessly align within their business and understand the culture. Therefore communicating what it is like to work in your business in the recruitment process is so important.
Loyalty and longevity
Our clients don’t want to continuously rehire for superintendent positions. When you lose an experienced superintendent, you also lose their knowledge and experience. Clients want superintendents who are going to be loyal and be with them for the long term. There are many strategies to make this happen and we will talk later about what we are seeing in other disciplines.
Not only are we seeing in-country hiring, but we are also seeing this as the preference. Costs, time, and the organisation of hiring someone without the right to work is often a headache hiring managers don’t want and is often the last resort. This is making competition fierce for talent in some locations.
Recruitment strategies we see in other sectors and disciplines
It is useful to look at other parts of maritime and to see if there are hiring strategies that ship management businesses could replicate.
Signing on bonuses
Particularly in commercial disciplines, more clients are offering signing on bonuses to attract talent. This is often to counteract candidates who may be holding out for their end of year bonuses.
Some employees want to see a reason to stay loyal and remain with their employer for the long term. They may believe they could achieve a higher salary elsewhere by moving on. Some employers have identified this and are offering financial incentives for loyalty to retain talent.
A focus on training “the future”
Many skill pools in maritime appear to be drying out into skill puddles and so employers are having to rethink who their future people will be. Some are now investing from the bottom up, creating their own “future”. With this investment, many are hoping that this will keep their people loyal and with them for the long term.
Across maritime, savvy Human Resources departments are scrutinising their benefits packages. We have seen instances where employees are now offered a menu of benefits and they get to choose what is most important to them. This is working brilliantly for businesses that have multi-generations in their teams.
No sector or discipline operates in silos and many market influences are impacting the employment and recruitment of superintendents.
Global pressure on salaries
We cannot escape that we are potentially on the brink of a global recession. The cost of living has increased exponentially, along with the rate of inflation and energy prices. This is putting pressure on all employers to relook at their remuneration strategies and how they can help their employees through this difficult time. We have never been through a period where so many clients are seeking advice on remuneration in all parts of maritime.
Making maritime attractive and competitive
This isn’t a new trend, but it is becoming increasingly urgent. The pressure on maritime to not only remain attractive and competitive to young people but to also do enough to keep people within the sector is at an all-time high. The world is continually changing, and as other sectors develop and prosper, there are more career options than ever available. The Institute for the Future (IFTF) predict that 85% of jobs in 2030 have yet to be created.
New generations – Generation “C”
We shared in our Superintendent Report the impact that Generation “C” will have. C is for COVID, C is for Carbon, C is for Climate and C is for Choice. Their experiences over the last few years mean that this generation is going to have different needs and wants than any other we have seen before. This is the generation that will be in our workforce in 2030 and they are going to have a huge impact on employment and what sectors and disciplines are attractive.
Making shoreside opportunities attractive to seafarers
We saw during COVID-19 a small number of superintendents decide to return to sea, to not only do ‘their bit‘ to aid the mobility of seafarers back home but to also enjoy the financial benefits too. This highlights where not just the superintendent discipline but other shoreside disciplines are struggling in attracting seafarers. In many cases, they can make more money at sea, and in a cost of living crisis, this is more important than ever before. Attracting these seafarers is going to be difficult in the top ranks without a compelling proposition.
We want to take this opportunity to thank our clients, candidates, and the media for their positive response to our first Superintendent Employment Report. Our mission is to continually add value to our customers and also the sector. We are honoured to share our thoughts and findings with the maritime community, and we take our responsibility very seriously.
We can confirm that we will be releasing a Superintendent Employment Report in 2023. If you would like to be one of the first to see the results, please do get in touch.
We appreciate feedback and so if you would like to discuss any part of this update or the original report, we’d love to hear from you.