Camper and Nicholsons

Ask the Crew Coach - our leadership Q&A column

5th May 2014

This month's topic is all about the key to preparing for the arrival of a new crew-member and what the best steps are to keep ahead of the game.


I’m putting together a new team this season and we haven’t got a lot of time to get up to speed before our first charter. What can I do so my new crew members get a head start and hit the ground running so we are ready and prepared for our first guest trips in June?

The Crew Coach:

Regardless of the job they are doing, when you bring a new crew member on board you want them to get settled and up to speed as soon as possible. Funnily enough in the corporate world there is a formal human resources process known as ‘onboarding’ for new recruits, a term which is very appropriate in our industry. When done correctly this can make a significant difference in how crew perform individually and as a team, and how efficiently the yacht operates. People can often make the mistake of thinking they are too busy to spend time with their new hires, but this is a false economy – because time invested in onboarding the new crew member will have them fitting in and working better much faster, and this can also help avoid any potential personal problems that could affect performance early on. Content crew enjoy their job and generally perform well, so if you get this right from the start it will help you build a better performing team much faster.

Here are five small but important things you can do to help new crew settle in fast:

  1. Introduce them properly:

It’s really important to establish a culture of welcoming new crew properly so everyone in the team is encouraged to include and get to know the new crew member. In a crew meeting with everyone present, introduce the new crew member and share a bit of their story and personal interests (with their permission of course). Include some thoughtful details and career highlights, being sure to mention the strengths and qualities they bring to the role. This will help the crew member feel like a valued part of the team from the outset and help others appreciate and respect them from the beginning. Often when meeting someone for the first time people don’t know what to say because they don’t know anything about the new person, so providing some background information gives your crew some talking points that helps people to connect with them. You can also do some thoughtful things like have their cabin-mate make their bed in preparation for their arrival, ask the chef to cook their favourite food for dinner on the first night, or even give them a welcome gift as a gesture of your appreciation and belief in them as a great team member.

  1. Create a buddy system:

Assign an experienced and trusted crew member to show the new person around and keep checking in with them for the first few weeks. It doesn’t need to be a senior person, or even someone in the same department, just someone who will look out for the new person, check to see how they are going and answer any questions that they might think are too silly to bother their Head of Department or Captain with. This will give them an opportunity get up to speed on the procedures and work method preferences specific to your yacht and crew. Creating a buddy system has the effect of drawing in the new crew member as part of the team and can really help them settle in. It also increases the existing crew member’s sense of responsibility and team pride, so it’s a great thing to do with a less senior but keen and enthusiastic team member.

  1. Personalise orientation:

When they are being shown around the boat, make sure the person doing the orientation relates everything back to the new crew member personally, so they remember better what they are being shown and why it is important. For example, when showing them where the laundry is you could say “This is the laundry. We do personal crew laundry on Wednesdays and Fridays only so if you want clean clothes to wear for the weekend you need to make sure they are in this basket by Tuesday or Thursday evening.” Encourage the team to chat with the new crew member and find out where they’ve worked or travelled before. This will show them that people are interested in them as a person and not just as an employee. When it comes to onboarding, familiarity breeds contentment, and you want them to be as content as possible as soon as possible, as this will be reflected in excellent performance.

  1. Have a one to one meeting with the new joiner

As soon as possible when the new person joins, you need to have a one to one with them to get the ground rules in place from the start. If they are a junior crew member this will be brief and you will go on to arrange another meeting with their Head of Department (HOD) after this (see point 5), but if they are a HOD themselves this should be a longer meeting where you confirm your expectations of them and their role (see my previous article on this here). Either way you need to give them the standing orders and explain when and how they will receive the safety briefing specific to your yacht. This is also an opportunity to discuss your personal expectations of them too, in other words their performance and behaviour off duty, both onboard and ashore, because as a crew member of your yacht they represent you even when they are not working.

  1. Schedule a one to one HOD meeting for the new crew member

If they are working under an HOD it is important to create the connection between the new person and their supervisor. In this meeting the HOD must clarify the new person’s professional objectives and role so they know exactly what is expected of them and precisely what constitutes ‘good performance’ on this boat (in other words the standards they need to adhere to). The HOD should also address specific department objectives and assess the person’s current skill levels to determine where any additional training or supervision might be required. They should also establish a check in system to monitor progress and give the new crew member early feedback about any adjustments that might need to be made in order to quickly get them on track and working efficiently and smoothly. 

Camper & Nicholsons International provides complimentary leadership training and coaching including a private and confidential hotline for the Captains of our Managed and Charter yachts. For more information about our Crew Development Program and our Crew Coach please click here.

by Camper Nicholsons

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It’s really important to establish a culture of welcoming new crew properly so everyone in the team is encouraged to include and get to know the new crew member