As a leading international player in the Executive Search industry we are dedicated in our work towards the shipping and maritime industries, working to match people in this truly internationally orientated candidate market with potential employers worldwide. In recent years we have seen a radical change in the type of skills and experience the shipping companies are looking to attract, and in how e.g. maritime seagoing and/or onshore shipping experience does no longer carry the same weight as it used to.
One obvious explanation for this change is simply driven by the share lack of highly qualified ex-seafarers, but also in how the requirements for new and other types of skillsets are changing in line with the rapid pace at which society as a whole is constantly being challenged and disrupted. With this in mind – are candidates within the maritime industry consciously aware of what is and will be required of them? And, do their overall expectations match with how their future careers are destined to evolve?
The shipping industry is constantly being challenged by rapid changes and shifts that are directly influencing how its players need to position themselves for the future. The availability of people with relevant backgrounds, how the maritime industry will be faced with industry-changing technical and technological advancements, and how companies will be able to efficiently build competence through facilitating cross-over experience between co-workers are only a few examples to this. With an ever-increasing push for more local content and a continuous focus on delivering more sustainable technical solutions, these are all things that have a direct impact on the search for talent.
There are no simple answers to the question of how to best position oneself for the future. Change and innovation will be key in order to stay competitive, also in how companies manage to adopt best-practice solutions from other industries. Changing market conditions is not however something new to the maritime industry. Being fully aware of how the future will demand a more proactive approach many players are already driving change and innovation within their own field. Battery driven vessels, unmanned vessels, a shift from oil to LNG are only some of the innovations entering the market, with vast resources being invested in new and potential opportunities for the future. New rules and regulations will continue to take credit for some of the innovation happening within the industry. For the most part though, it simply makes commercial sense to be taking a more pro-active role than facing the risk of becoming irrelevant, or ultimately obsolete.
The Human Capital Perspective
From a human capital perspective, we see a clear trend to hire people with more formal academic backgrounds than ever before. Going back five, six years, many of the people working in the maritime industry had a background from being at sea. In Europe, the US, and other advanced countries, this is no longer the case as fewer and fewer shipping professionals have been exposed to sailing altogether. The few that are still sailing however is either happy staying onboard, or their employers want to use their experience to train the next generation of seafarers. Consequently, there is a shift in the skills represented with the onshore workforce, which can both be seen as a positive thing, but also a potential challenge in how many people within the industry do not have any actual practical sailing experience. The question that remains is whether that still has any relevance to the future workforce of shipping?
So, what are the shipping companies then looking for in bringing new talent on board? People with a technical marine education having the ability to combine technical know-how with commercial awareness are very attractive to employers. Also, innovative people with the flexibility to work across industries are in high demand. The obvious reason being that people with experience from other sectors like IT, automation etc. see things from a different angle, often applying non-maritime solutions to challenges that can provide a necessary disruption to real issues within the maritime industry. Self-starters, who do not rely on big internal support systems, therefore, seem to be of preference with at least the smaller and medium-sized companies, which again can often provide the organisational agility necessary for people to remain motivated over time.
Personal drive and motivation are therefore also factors to be considered more important than ever before. With the world becoming increasingly advanced and to some extent more complicated, companies supporting openness, agility, diversity and innovation will be the winners in attracting top talent, making sure people are happy with the platform from which they are working from. Our in-depth understanding of the maritime sector has allowed us to successfully hire people from outside the industry, representing a different type of skillset that has added value to our clients. Although their initial contribution can sometimes be a challenge to understand and appreciate for experienced industry players, there are great synergies to be made for those with the right attitude, and willingness to adapt. Simply being respectful of the ideas that others bring to the table can often be a good start, and a future key to success.
Written by Christian M. Lange and Jan S. Øinæs for intersearch.org.