Navigating the challenges of multigenerational crew

During the 2023 Crew Welfare Week, Mrs. Penelope Robotis Clinical & Organizational Psychologist Msc., of IMEQ Center, referred to the key challenges of multigenerational crew and highlighted that we need to systematically explore and analyze factors that may covertly interact and negatively impact crew welfare.

In a rapidly changing world, the maritime industry faces a series of challenges including geopolitical tensions, economic crisis, environmental regulations, new digital technologies, and workforce shortages. These are all critical issues that can potentially impact industry.

The pandemic gave rise to the importance of human sustainability and the need for implementing strategies to tackle issues such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, attracting and retaining talent.

Crew welfare refers to the overall quality of life of seafarers that includes their physical, mental, emotional, and social health that may be impacted by various risk factors. Recognizing the importance of crew welfare, maritime organizations systematically address the issue by taking actions to ensure seafarers wellbeing.

Key elements of crew welfare

  • Physical conditions onboard
  • Health and safety
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Communication
  • Social relations
  • Career and training development

Companies take actions  to ensure  crew welfare by providing clean, safe, comfortable accommodation onboard safety measures ,  proper medical care; offering internet services onboard for regular contact with family and friends; promoting   activities for social interaction and recreation onboard and providing opportunities for training and career development.  However, inherent to the job of the seafarer are a number of risk factors that include:

Significant risks

Long periods away from home

-Social isolation

-Lack of shore leave

-Poor physical conditions on some vessels

-Long working hours

-Demanding workloads and high risk of accidents

-Noise vibration and weather conditions

-Exposure to hazardous substances

-Piracy dangers

-Multinational and multi-generational crews

This last risk factor presents a new set of challenges for shipping companies as they navigate through the challenges of a diversified workforce, where the days of one size fits all management are gone.

Organizations need to understand and address the  existing cultural and generational differences in order to foster an inclusive organizational climate and leverage the differences in communication, decision making and task/work approach styles.  These differences may constitute risk factors that can lead to anxiety, misunderstandings and conflicts in the workplace that potentially compromise crew welfare.

A systemic approach  is needed  in order to better understand potential risks  to crew welfare,  since this is the first time in history where we have a melting pot of four  different generations interacting in the workplace.  Having an awareness of the  impact of multigenerational values  on communication, leadership, work ethic, diversity and environmental sustainability,  can help companies take actions to  moderate  generational differences  that  can lead to biases, stereotypes and misperceptions creating a red zone in the workplace.

Generation Y:    Born between  1981 to 1996

Generation Z:    Born between  1997 to 2013

Generation X:    Born between 1965 to 1980

Baby Boomers:  Born  between 1945 to 1964

Values and  Expectations of Generations X,Y,Z and Baby Boomers


               Generation Y & Z


Generation X & Baby Boomers

Communication: Value and prefer digital communication ; emails, social platforms etc. Communication:  Prefer traditional forms of communication ( phone calls or face to face communication) .
Leadership & Authority: Value a collaborative work environment where opinions and ideas are shared; value dialogue to solving conflicts; value open communication . Leadership & Authority: Value authority, traditional hierarchies and are motivated by status and prestige.
Work Ethic: Prioritize work & life balance ; value flexibility ; Gen Y values career development; Gen Z seeks job stability ; value opportunities for personal growth and development. Work Ethic:  Value  hard work, self reliance,  loyalty, commitment and prioritize work commitments over personal time; they have a more disciplined approach to work.
Recognition & Feedback:  Value immediate and specific  feedback on their performance,  highlighting strengths and areas for improvement . Value transparency, clear work expectations and  achievement recognition. Recognition & Feedback:  Value recognition and feedback  based on long term results  and focus less on immediate feedback.
Diversity and Inclusion: Appreciate and value an inclusive  work environment where different perspectives are valued,  respected and ideas are shared. Diversity & Inclusion: Respect diversity and inclusion but  focus less on stereotypes and biases,  that may covertly exist  and operate in the workplace .
Environmental Sustainability: Both Gen X & Y  value environmental and corporate responsibility , and  are interested in working for companies with values that align with their own. Environmental Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility: Recognize the importance but are not immersed in it.

Understanding the potential challenges due to differences in values, communication and workplace expectations of the different generations interacting in the workplace, can help  shipping companies take actions to ensure crew welfare by establishing a common ground for collaboration .

Strategies to promoting a positive work environment:

  • Support an inclusive and collaborative leadership model
  • -Establish clear guidelines regarding decision making, work expectations and career development
  • -Encourage and support open communication: dialogue, sharing of ideas and conflict resolution
  • -Create a learning environment that encourages learning and development; training programs, mentorships
  • -Create a digital friendly environment
  • -Offer competitive compensation and benefits
  • Prioritize employee wellbeing like access to mental health resources and promoting health work life balance
  • -Establish policies and practices that foster a culture of respect and diversity
  • -Provide cultural sensitivity trainings; encourage cross generational and cross cultural collaborations
  • -Promote equal opportunities for career growth and development
  • -Implement initiatives that demonstrate commitment to environmental sustainability

Benefits of Bridging Generational and cultural gaps

  • Improved communication
  • Improved teamwork
  • Increased employee engagement
  • Increased performance
  • Improved work culture
  • Decreased risks to crew welfare

Unequivocally,  the job of the seafarer is subject to a  number of  occupational hazards .  The maritime industry is  committed to taking actions to  control  and mitigate risks  to crew welfare, but we must continuously  be aware and alerted to  covert risk factors that can compromise crew welfare. Multigenerational and multicultural gaps may constitute hidden risk factors to that we need to properly address when  fostering a positive work culture for all crew members.

Above article is a transcript from Mrs. Penelope Robotis’ presentation during the 2023 Crew Welfare Week

View her  presentation herebelow

The views presented are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.

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