3 Easy ideas to regain crew morale

Many crew are either in or heading towards a second lockdown which will likely take a further toll on crew wellbeing and morale. Having spoken recently with a client, she reported that she is finding it difficult to find the motivation to engage in her daily work tasks and feels disappointed and confused about why her enthusiasm for her work has waned.

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Having worked on a few yachts, I can identify with the feeling when your efforts are not serving a bigger purpose, especially when you are polishing the same surface yet again and your efforts are simply void. As leaders, we need to ask ourselves whether the tasks we set out for our crew are for the sake of giving them work or are they actually worthwhile. The commonly used phrase “this is yachting” or “because I told you so” attitude is not a good enough excuse or justification. Instead, it is a sign of an inability to lead with initiative and innovation.

I would certainly check in with your crew and name the feeling or atmosphere on board. If you are facilitating a meeting like this, I would lead by example by sharing how you feel and how your life has changed for you or has been impacted (this is called being vulnerable, an extremely powerful leadership tool).

It is rare to have these opportunities where we can focus on strengthening the crew working relationship. Therefore, I would recommend using this time to build crew morale and team cohesion.

In The Crew Coach Accelerator Leadership Course, which is a 3-month course, we focus on building your confidence so that you can run crew development workshops with ease.

As leaders, we really need to ask ourselves whether the tasks we set out for our crew are for the sake of giving them work or are they actually worthwhile.

Reasons to have a Crew Development Workshop:

Owner Benefits

  • Lower crew turnover = better service, lower costs, less downtime (training newcomers/handovers)
  • Investing in crew development = more loyalty, more care for vessel & guests, better service

Management Benefits

  • Less time searching for new crew and onboarding new crew
  • Better reputation
  • Better charter income prospects
  • Better care of the vessel

Captain Benefits

  • Improve and build on existing skillset
  • Reduce management pressure, and dealing with crew politics
  • Maintain crew morale and motivation, working as a productive unit
  • Increase loyalty and reduce turnover
  • Strengthen existing personal brand
  • Better reputation of the overall running of the yacht and crew
  • Greater recognition from management / owners

Whole Yacht Benefits

  • Reduce crew turnover
  • Happier crew = more engaged and productive
  • More motivated = better service
  • Better service = better reputation
  • Better reputation = higher tips & bonuses

Like anything in life if we neglect someone or something or do not give it the attention it deserves then the cracks will appear in due course. In most businesses, you have systems in place from professional development to formal feedback reviews to keep the interpersonal dynamics healthy. These approaches help with keeping tabs on the pulse of your team before it manifests into a large scale cost on resources. I have found running my crew opinion surveys, and 360-degree performance reviews on board have been invaluable in pinpointing underlying crew tensions, miscommunications and learning gaps. Once the red flags have been identified, we can move on to providing the right solutions, which in turn will increase productivity levels, job satisfaction and morale.

If you are not yet confident to run crew workshops, here are some creative ways to lift the mood on board. 

1. Photo’s and mess fun

Photographs are a great way to capture memories of your crew and you can have a lot of fun with this. Of course, remember to keep things professional, don’t use photos that would embarrass any of the crew. Ways in which you could use photos would be to create a photo board in the crew mess. Make it fun, add captions or comments that will help crew remember the good times together. Another way in which you can use photos is to create a photo book. This is a great end of season gift to give to Crew to say thank you for all their hard work.

Regain Crew Morale

2. Awards, competitions and outings

Another way to encourage fun among the crew is to have friendly awards and competitions. It’s okay to allow for silliness as long as it is always done in good humour and kindness, never to degrade someone or put them down. The purpose of the awards is to show what a great team you are and recognise the effort that people put in to make the crew a success. 

Friendly competitions are also a great way to encourage pride. The idea is to build up the team as a whole so that everyone is working together for the success of the yacht. The friendly competition could be something like going go-karting or on a kayaking expedition but given our situation today you can do trivia, themed dinner nights, board games etc. These activities should be fun and encourage bonding of your team. My favourite would be getting the crew involved in some kind of charity work such as helping out at a homeless shelter, orphanage or RSPCA. 

3. Courses, sport and fitness

If possible, encourage the owner of the yacht to invest in the professional development of the crew it not only benefits the person individually but the yacht on a whole. The crew member should be motivated to share and implementing their learning with the team. Also encouraging Crew to participate in sporting activities such as swimming or running is another way in which you can encourage people to bond. When they have common interests, work becomes more than work, it becomes a place of meaningful connections and inspiration.