When the Sea is Choppy, Don’t Let Them Jump Ship

by Dhrubajyoti Das

After the economic recession, whilst several industries in Singapore have sprung back to their original grids on the growth chart, it has not been a very smooth sail for Singapore’s shipping industry. In fact, market consensus indicates that it would take another two to three years for the industry to regain its buoyancy and recuperate with the losses it incurred during the financial downturn.

Given the inherent cyclical nature of the industry, ups and downs are regular norms of the business and could have been viewed as a regular feature of the industry, if it were not for this exceptional situation. The concern at present is underlined by the existing upswing in the rest of the economy. This has led to a serious talent drain in shipping as good performers are not only jumping ship, but changing the entire course of their professions by accepting lucrative offers from other industries. Talent retention in this economic climate is thus the gravest issue facing the industry at present.

I personally feel there are a few strategic long-term measures that companies must adopt now in order to change the situation. To begin with, as employers in the shipping industry, you must understand that if you can improve productivity, you will be able to afford higher salaries, which in turn, will retain star performers. Of course, to improve productivity, you will have to look at the work processes and definitely use technology that will improve efficiency. All of this will mean further investment. But without investing in technology, it will be difficult to improve productivity and without improving productivity, it will be difficult for the shipping industry to compete against other industries to retain good talent.

Another logical course of action will be to outsource to other countries in the region. Shipping companies may not outsource critical decision-making roles such as manager jobs but other simpler supportive roles could be outsourced to other markets where talent is cheaper and easier to attract. And if that happens, shipping companies will be able to compete as they will have more resources to pay for good quality talent here in Singapore.

The third most important and logical way to address the shrinking pool of talent would be to continually maintain an inflow of fresh recruits in the industry. Some of these recruits may not stay for long. Therefore, organisations must attract, recruit and train young graduates for jobs in Singapore on a continuous  basis to ensure the talent bench is always ready to take on leadership roles should there be an opportunity to prove their mettle.

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