Crew Agencies: ‘The Modern Method’ – an evolution or does it need a revolution

Let it be said now, I love my job. Yes, it is what I do to put a roof over my son’s head, but there are plenty of other – and easier – jobs I could do to the same end. I’ve never considered crew recruitment ‘easy money’. I work in crew recruitment because I am passionate about it. I enjoy working with crew and clients and making it happen. I take pleasure in watching ‘my’ crew do well, working their way up the ladder. Helping them find the right job, a job that excites and enhances them. I am passionate about helping them make the right choices with their career and have always been available to talk through their options with a clear eye. I have a relationship with my crew, I know who they are.

For my clients, I feel the job of a crew agent is to offer a personalized service. Finding perfect crew based on their requirements and needs. Every boat is different.

Another element of yachting that I have always been proud to be a part of is that it is classy. It is discreet, and it is very private. Yachting has always been somewhat elitist; this niche it isn’t for everybody. I’ve worked hard to earn a reputation for providing a quality of service that treats crew and clients with integrity and honesty. In fact, I have been told that my honesty is legendary – or brutal, depending on which side you fall.

Much has changed in crewing since I started in the industry in 1995, and not all of those changes feel like a positive evolution. Then, there were fewer than 10 agencies, and most of those were connected to management companies. What I will tell you is that all of them interviewed crew, wanted to meet crew face to face where possible and references were checked. It seems now, every time you turn around, there is another crew agency with a shiny website and a ‘new method’ for crew recruitment. However, what really seems to be happening is that crewing is getting further and further from the human element. From what I am told by crew and clients alike, this just does not seem to be working. I honestly think that the rise in use of social media and other ‘market style’ crewing seems to have reduced yachting to little more than a cheap date. One of my senior crew overheard a captain talking on the phone how he ‘chose the stewardesses from the database according to their photos’. Really? Remove the human element from crew placement, and what are you really left with?

I recently responded to a comment on LinkedIn, where the crew member posting implied that a recent response from a crew agent was extremely negative. The fact that she had taken time out of the industry for study etc, was seen as less than positive by this agent. It was following this post that there were multiple comments to the negative regarding crew agencies in general. I have also been working with a client recently who made a comment that ‘you’re definitely not like the other meat merchants’.  No, I certainly am not, but it really made me wonder, is this how crew agencies are viewed now? Maybe expectations of crew and clients have changed. What do clients and crew expect from a crew agency now?

I believe that crew recruitment is one of the hardest things to get right on a yacht, yet it is almost seen as last on the list in importance.  ‘Saving money’ on crew recruitment seems to be seen as a positive, yet perhaps this is false economy, if no one is happy.

I hear complaints from senior crew/captains and owners about poor crew retention, disjointed or poor quality crew: ‘It’s the younger generation’. It isn’t the younger generation, it is the system. I meet super junior crew every year – and some not so much – but it is the job of an agent to be selective on the part of a client, is it not?  Crew aren’t happy with the reception given by agencies – treated like a number, in their words, they can vote with their feet – crew can choose who they work with.

As nobody appears satisfied with the outcome, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate. Einstein said, ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different a result’. I concur. For clients seeking crew, I would say the same. If you are disappointed with the service you are receiving, maybe try something different.