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Fred.Olsen – Accredited training at work

Helen Mayson

Fred.Olsen cruise ship

Family-run Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines is working with ILM on accredited training for managers and supervisors aboard its four cruise ships – and it’s proving a real benefit for staff. David O’Connor, corporate training and development manager for Fred.Olsen, speaks to Helen Mayson

Employing over 500 staff, the Fred.Olsen group of companies is used to investing in staff training and development to get the best from its ship and shore-based employees. The cruise line’s new programme, Supervising Management Development, is recognised by ILM and is leading the way in terms of both recognised training and cross-departmental within the cruise industry.

David O Connor, corporate training and development manager, looks after training and development for the ship-based crew at Fred.Olsen. He thinks that offering recognised training is one of the ways in which the company can differentiate itself from other cruise lines in terms of the development opportunities that they can offer ship-based staff.

“We’ve currently got almost 200 crew signed up to the in-house programme at various stages. Some are just starting and some are coming quite close to completion,” he says. “Everyone – from potential supervisors right up to senior management level – is involved, selected first by job role (there’s a criteria for particular job roles that are suitable) and then progressed on a volunteer basis.”

Kickstarting development

O’Connor joined Fred.Olsen in 2012 and kicked off a programme to develop supervisors and managers while providing both a solid framework and a recognised outcome for staff. 

“When I came into the business just over a year ago it was an area that I felt that we could strengthen, and also it was a way of motivating and ‘giving back’ to our supervisors, who are very important for the smooth running of the ship. Rather than just keeping training in-house, we wanted to show that a benefit of our training was that staff could earn a recognised qualification.”

Successful completion of the programme would be recognized by ILM and staff who complete it would gain a certificate to show their development.

The focus of the new programme is to develop the skills of both existing and potential managers, something that Fred.Olsen will be assessing through the metrics that O’Connor will be putting in place in 2014. These will include how managers and supervisors conduct and review performance appraisals, and how they implement different ways of working.

While it’s still too early to tell the definite impact that the course has had, feedback from the crew being managed by those on the course is positive, and feedback from the crew members themselves is also encouraging. “We get feedback from the individual cohorts and one of the recurring comments is how grateful they are to have such a rewarding course to take part in.  This course is unusual for a cruise line, which do a lot of training, but not very often at an accredited level,” he says.

Getting on board

Being a cruise line, there are logistical challenges to undertaking a management development course on this scale. “Our biggest challenge is getting around to all the people on a regular basis to make sure that they continue on the programme in a regular way,” says O’Connor. “They are often away from the ship for three months at a time, so we were conscious that we didn’t want too big a gap between modules.”

All the development is ship-based and crew can be on a contract of between four and nine months at a time, with two or three months back on shore, depending on their rotation. “I personally travel around all four ships to deliver training on a regular basis,” says O’Connor, making sure that there’s never too long a gap between training sessions.

The training is cross-departmental – so that people from across a ship get an opportunity to see how other departments approach things, how they deal with issues, and can learn from the different management styles that come from different backgrounds and departments.

“A lot of the training is often done departmentally and we’re finding that by doing it this way, we are actually helping and strengthening the relationships between various departments,” says O’Connor. “There are so many different disciplines on board the ship and different backgrounds, it’s been a real benefit for staff to see not only other people’s challenges, but to benefit from their experience as well.”

So, where will development be going next for the intrepid cruise line?

“We’re looking to add further programmes as we move down the line,” says O’Connor. “The feedback from employees has been excellent – they haven’t had the opportunity to do a programme like this before, so there’s been a lot of excitement on board the ships.”

For further information on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, visit their website.

Find out more about careers at Fred.Olsen here

Find out more about ILM accredited development here

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