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A fresh tide

How will the generational shift affect shipping?

As of 2020, millennials make up around half of the workforce in many countries. Having grown up with technology, they expect simplicity and flexibility. If companies can adapt to their needs, the digital natives could provide the traditional maritime industry with favorable tailwinds.

Every new generation brings new behaviors and carries their own stereotypes. As many millennials started their careers a few years ago, there was much discussion about how their expectations and needs differed from previous generations. This led to a number of contradictions: millennials are seen as lazy and entitled, but also flexible and ambitious. The bottom line? They’re here to stay, and companies will have to cater to their needs if they want to succeed in future.

Bridging the skills gap

As experienced engineers near retirement, shipping needs a fresh wave of talent. Appealing to new generations of employees will be key for the industry in years to come. Recent research by Lloyd’s Maritime Academy has revealed that over 67% of maritime professionals believe there is a skills gap in the sector. 20% of respondents specifically indicated a gap in technology and IT skills.

This can be partly attributed to what many would call shipping’s image problem. The average millennial cares about climate protection and seeks a comfortable working environment equipped with modern technology. With long periods away from family and a lack of internet connectivity, the maritime industry would not appear to suit these expectations.

Creating a new culture

However, the industry is starting to move in the right direction. Global regulations are making shipping greener, and tech startups are changing the maritime scene. Oceanis, for example, is a fintech startup in Hamburg, aiming to digitize ship financing. In the recruitment sphere, there is the ShipStock network, an online platform that helps connect maritime talents and experienced market players. BunkerTrace’s end-to-end fuel tracking service could help ensure IMO 2020 fuel compliance. And with plenty of other startups out there making waves, the marine industry’s future is clearly full of bright ideas.

To make maritime careers more appealing, companies need to change their corporate culture. In office environments, workplaces are shifting toward more flexible, collaborative set-ups. SKF, for example, will have an activity-based workplace at its new headquarters, once it’s completed in Gothenburg. This approach allows employees to choose the environment that best suits their current task—be it a meeting, a call with a customer, or project work.

While it may be tempting to focus on what’s different about the younger generations, it’s important that companies learn to maximize the value that its younger employees bring. Change in work culture driven by millennials can help employees of all ages work more productively and creatively. The companies that will lead the marine industry into the future are not those that are shrinking from generational change, but those who will look for value in that change and embrace it.

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