Managing Diverse Age Ranges Aboard

The Islander – December 2021

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Young, trendy deckhands sitting side-by-side weathered old fishermen...

When I stepped ashore the island of Vava’u in Tonga, as a fresh, young diving instructor (too many years ago for comfort), the only place to get a beer after 10pm was the Neiafu Club. Upstairs, off a dusty road, it is fair to say that the decor lacked the ‘wow’ factor, but this tired old club had two big redeeming features. The first was a balcony, the perfect place to watch the sun dip lazily below the tree line across the aptly named Port of Refuge harbour. The second was that it played host to the most diverse and interesting gathering of folk I have ever seen. I remember young, trendy deckhands sitting side-by-side weathered old fishermen, with an intergenerational affinity I had seldom seen in the pubs at home.

All these years later, it was the Neiafu Club that popped into my mind when reading an article about managing the age gap in the contemporary workplace. What do leaders and Captains in our industry need to consider when managing the Millennial’s, who make up the majority of their crew? Not to mention the new Generation Zs who are starting to enter the workforce.

Having an open mind and being prepared to embrace new ideas seems like good advice for any leader, along with learning about what makes your crew tick, regardless of age.  Appreciating individual personalities, skills and needs will help to make crew feel valued. Setting achievable goals, especially for newcomers, is essential for building the confidence of the crew, and with a few ‘wins’ under their belts, they will become more loyal and motivated to face the season ahead.

Instead of despairing about social media, ask your crew how you might use it to the benefit the whole crew. Organisations who have taken this step are finding that it has helped to bring cohesion and integration bridging the generation gap. From WhatsApp groups (love or loath them, they serve a purpose) to a range of Apps to manage work lists.

Above all, listen. It sounds simple, but we seldom do it very well. Simply listening and paying attention to crew can be transformational. It worked for one of the old fisherman in the Neiafu Club. After paying rapt attention to a young deckhand’s story of his success using a new fishing lure, the fisherman brought one and the very next day landed a 1000 lb Marlin.  

Managing age and diversity is an increasingly challenging issue both on board and in corporations across the globe and is being heavily invested into both in time and money.  Why not talk to Impact Crew’s experienced team of highly professional consultants and discuss the many different ways to mould your diverse crew into a harmonious team.