Learning the lessons of 2021, part 1

Learning the lessons of 2021, part 1: the maritime recruitment market in the year ahead

It is safe to say that 2021 wasn’t the year that many of us expected or hoped for. Given the challenges that employers and employees have faced, with so much disruption and uncertainty, it would be understandable if we sought to put 2021 behind us and looked forward to life returning to ‘normal’.

However, the changes we have made to our working lives will be felt for years to come, and employers need to understand how these experiences will shape the priorities of their teams. With that in mind, we asked the Halcyon team to look back at 2021 and the lessons to learn for the year ahead.

In the first of two articles , our team discussed how maritime recruitment has changed in the past year and the state of the market going into 2022. Ben Darnton, our Commercial Director, looks at the European market, Cara Carter, our Director for APAC, offers the Asia-Pacific perspective, and Heidi Heseltine, our CEO, looks at the global maritime market.

What are your key takeaways from 2021 when it comes to the global maritime recruitment market?

For Ben Darnton, 2021 began and ended on a cautious note, albeit with a more positive middle of the year. He notes the longer-term changes that are taking root when it comes to working patterns, as well as the sustained pressure felt by many shoreside professionals:

“In 2021 hybrid working became the new normal. The traditional long, daily commute undertaken by so many pre-pandemic, may now have been lost forever. In general people have enjoyed the work life re-balance associated with working from home, but for many, the ongoing stress of living and working through a pandemic is taking its toll. Operational departments and personnel are being stretched to the limit and now even where there was some slack in the system, backlogs of work are building up.”

However, according to Cara Carter, not all employers are yet sold on the long-term role of hybrid working:

“Working from home has been proven to work within the maritime sector, but many companies are keen to return to standard office working. There is a question by management on levels of productivity, whereas employees generally feel that hybrid working has helped them to be more productive. Will the three-day office week be maintained? This will depend in part on how effectively employers engage with their teams. Some companies have done a great job of supporting their employees during the pandemic, but others have not been as successful.”

Ben also points out the impact on recently graduated candidates looking to enter the workforce:

“It has been a terrible time to be a graduate. Candidates with 1-2 years’ experience just don’t exist, thanks to the disruption to graduate recruitment over the past two years.”

In addition, Ben highlights the challenge of Brexit for recruiters in the UK and the EU:

“Brexit has made it harder to hire EU candidates in the UK and UK candidates in the EU. Although there is now an easier process for UK employers to obtain a work permit, it is expensive!”

What do these trends mean for candidates? According to Cara, many are adjusting their approach and expectations, with some employers taking time to respond:

“In the past year, we have seen candidates become much more considered in their approach to changing roles. At the same time, many clients are being rigid in their requirements. This has made many roles harder to fill, as candidates need enticing away, whilst clients still want an exact match for their requirements and without much flexibility.”

Through a turbulent year for maritime employers, Heidi Heseltine believes that organisations now recognise the need to place more emphasis on how they recruit, retain, and nurture their people:

“Organisations are increasingly considering their approach to their existing and future talent. The volume of people being recruited for roles with titles relating to Organisation, Culture, and People has increased significantly, particularly in Northern Europe. This clearly indicates that those organisations are seeking to ensure they look after their people in order to maintain a competitive edge and be an attractive employer. This means focusing on training, development, culture, inclusion, belonging, equity, and opportunity for all.”

What does the global shore-based maritime market look like going into 2022?

According to Ben, the global market in 2022 is summed up in four words:

“Volatile. Uncertain. Complex. Ambiguous. We expect to see confidence levels continue to fluctuate in 2022. It might get easier to hire and get hired, but just around the corner it could get harder again.”

For Cara, the key challenge of 2022 will be “an increasing shortage of talent.” This places more pressure on organisations to respond to the requirements and expectations of job seekers in such a market and make the necessary changes to stay competitive.

Heidi highlights the importance of shore-based employers taking a ‘people first’ approach to their business strategy if they are to make the most of their talent.

“In 2022 we will see an increasing focus on recruitment and retention strategies being ‘for the people’. We are also seeing greater focus on leadership training and development, developing a culture of belonging and empowering people internally to contribute and work cross-departmentally. Finally, in a very welcome move, there is greater focus on breaking down real and perceived barriers within organisations.”

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