The average American worker will stay in their current job for 4.4 years. It is now common, if not expected, for employees to jump ship in order to climb the career ladder. However, there remain other factors that are central to peoples’ decisions to join, stay or leave an organisation. Beyond the title and salary, employees are increasingly concerned about working conditions, flexibility for family commitments and work-life balance, as well as finding purpose and meaning in their work.
Since the global economic downturn in the mid 2000s and the present imbalance of ship carrying versus capacity, managers in the shipping industry have been under pressure to cut costs and trim down employee numbers and spending. Nonetheless, companies still need to ensure that they are attracting top talent and retaining experienced employees that are productive and able to generate value for their company. This is particularly important in times of economic volatility and unemployment as job insecurity and the threat of layoffs can erode employee trust and loyalty, as well as reducing employee efficiency and productivity.
The four basic needs
More than 19,000 respondents were asked in a Harvard Business Review survey: What stands in the way of our being more satisfied and productive at work? HBR found that people perform better when four basic needs are met: renewal (physical); value (emotional), focus (mental) and purpose (spiritual). When broken down, these results are unsurprising:
When employees have an opportunity to rest, take breaks and feel renewed, they are better able to maintain their energy levels and productivity at work, whilst also being better able to manage the stresses and demands of their role.
Feeling like a valuable member of a company helps create a deeper sense of security and trust at work, which in turn allows employees to spend more productive energy creating value, rather than spending energy seeking and defending their ability to contribute.
Living in a digital environment in which our attention is increasingly divided, gaining better focus can help employees to improve the quality of their work and producing more in less time.
Purpose can be a powerful source of motivation and perseverance with employees. When employees feel connected by a sense of community and purpose (i.e. having a bigger picture or vision in mind), it can be a transform ordinary work into a means for making a positive contribution in society.
Making a commitment to improving your employee wellbeing does not necessarily have to be costly. Often is less of an issue of resources and more of one of genuine employee engagement. However, there remains a stigma within the shipping industry that individuals who raise issues of employee wellbeing or work-life balance will be perceived as less driven or committed to their company. Ironically, it can signal exactly the opposite.
Three Top Tips and Actionable First Steps
Top Tip # 1: Conduct a Pre-mortem rather than a Post-mortem on Employee Wellbeing
To overcome this, employers can conduct pre-mortem and seek to identify potential adverse impacts on their employee’s wellbeing (and therefore productivity) before they happen. This approach is more proactive and has an advantage over a post-mortem as it allows managers to identify and address potential issues before the damage is done i.e. employees jump ship or burn out.
First step: One way of conducting a pre-mortem and creating an open and honest dialogue with employees is to task a small group of employees to identify the top four threats to productivity that arise from issues of employee wellbeing and to brainstorm two or three recommendations for remediation. This counter-balances the stigma of discussing issues of work-life balance as the exercise is framed in terms of risk management and improvements to productivity.
Top Tip # 2: Consider a structured approach to managing your employees’ wellbeing by joining a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative.
It can be challenging for managers to know where to start, so learning from established systems and best practice can help your company to leverage the ideas of others. Ultimately, this will reduce the time and resources needed to implement your CSR strategy.
First step: One of the exercises that new IMPA ACT members conduct is to scope their actual and potential impacts on several areas, including employee wellbeing and rights. IMPA ACT members are given guidance on how to perform their risk assessment in alignment with international standards.
Top Tip # 3: Provide opportunities for current employees to upskill.
Not only will this assist your company in addressing any skills gaps, it will also demonstrate to your employees that you are investing in them and that that their career potential can be fulfilled within your company, rather than elsewhere.
First step: Build your capacity on CSR through employee CSR trainings. For example, IMPA ACT recently ran a Copenhagen workshop on CSR and Responsible Supply Chain Management (RSCM). Tailored for the shipping industry, the IMPA ACT Training taught shipowners and suppliers (pictured below) how to integrate CSR and RSCM within their own companies. Details of the next IMPA ACT Training in London is listed below.