Anyone Can Man The Helm When The Seas Are Calm

If you’re an observer of effective HRM (human resource management) and IT, if you’re passionate about what happens at the intersection of these subject matter domains, then even on vacation you can’t help but notice innovation or simply good practices in either or both.

Ron and I are cruising with Regent Seven Seas on board Mariner from Miami to Lima, Peru. This is our first such trip that has involved several days at sea, running in open water. And some of these days have been pretty heavy weather, with 5-6 meter seas, 50 knot winds, and enough movement of the ship to send many seamen to their bunks — not us of course, as we’re veteran sailors on our own boats.

But through it all, despite their ranks being thinned considerably by seasickness and worse, the staff — in restaurants, bars, poolside, housekeeping, everywhere — maintained their own high standards of service.

Working at a high level when it’s hard to do

Some programs were rescheduled, e.g. a guest singer on board had turned a little green during the worst of the ship’s rockin’ and rollin’, and we might have waited a few moments longer during meal service, but only a dedicated observer of effective HRM would have noticed that those staff unaffected by or able to overcome the ship’s considerable movement were covering for those who had taken to their bunks.

Could your business operate to a very high standard for a couple of days with half your workforce down with the flu, homebound after a major weather event, or otherwise unavailable? Could your team achieve a very high level of customer service while coping with their own discomfort? More importantly, would they care enough to do it?

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Is your “crew” engaged enough and professional enough to insist that the show must go on despite the vagaries of wind and tide? Well, this crew did, and I credit their leadership, corporate HRM practices (Regent, as I’ve written before ), preparation/training, and especially their selection criteria.

There’s an old sailor’s expression that “anyone can man the helm when the seas are calm.” I would add “it takes great HRM to enable a crew to operate well when the seas are angry.”

This was originally published on Naomi Bloom’s technology blog, In Full Bloom.

Naomi Bloom is the leading independent voice, business/platform strategy consultant and thought leader in the HR technology/HRO industry. She has acted as a change agent and HRM delivery systems strategist/coach for global corporate and Federal agency clients, an advisor on business strategy and product/service design to several generations of HRM software vendors and HR outsourcing providers, and a provider of competitive insight and due diligence for the investment community. You can read Naomi's blog In Full Bloom, and follow her on Twitter at