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Transforming maritime workforce


Attracting the right talent for the maritime workforce may prove difficult if leadership is not ready to adopt new mindsets

The recent Singapore Maritime Week 2021 concluded with a forum about effective workforce transformation. The forum panel comprised Nakul Malhotra from Wilhelmsen Ship Service, Melissa Kee from Kuok Singapore and Thomas Knudsen from Toll Group.

Leverage technology and people
Panel moderator, Kee remarked that technology will certainly be adopted in the way business is done. A growing momentum for a sustainable future affirms her belief that the maritime industry is poised for a deep transformation. Acknowledging disruptions present opportunities to both pivot and innovate to stay ahead, Kee noted the companies’ ability to thrive in an ever-changing environment is a big competitive edge in the industry.

On the subject requiring immediate focus at the management level to facilitate the workforce transformation, Malhotra remarked, “Leadership is fundamentally changing. The industry is accustomed to a hierarchical leadership style. With the transitions taking place, it is important that leaders have to accept they cannot have the answers to everything. The ability to open up and create a safe space to encourage both internal and external collaboration, admit one is unsure and suggest trying other options will encourage the new generation’s enthusiasm to work with a new set of perimeters compared to the conventional practices.”

He concluded, “Leadership fundamentally now is about inspiration and creativity, creating safe spaces to allow people to try, fail, learn and deliver unimaginably fantastic solutions.” Agreeing with Malhotra was Knudsen, who commented, “Professionals have learnt the trade and expertise which was traditionally valued. I think that will change as we move forward because we neither have the answers nor understand the technology. It is hard to acknowledge that you are the ignorant one after spending so much time learning to be the expert. On the other hand, we are the ones who understand the business. It is our role to bridge both. Be curious about the problems we are trying to solve. Knowing the procedures of shipping is insufficient, but leveraging technology and people who understand it to integrate is more advantageous than seeing it as a threat.”

Overcoming cultural differences
Infusing foreign skillsets or talent is something an organisation has to embrace. Illustrating the cultural element of leadership, Malhotra concluded: “Leadership is about orchestration, culture is therefore embracing the consequences of the orchestration. Apart from connecting with people you have not connected with, adopt a learning mindset. Recognising what you do not know, and connecting with what you do know. Sharing what I know, and learning what I do not know (in my view) is fundamentally is the cultural element leadership might want to bring wider into the industry.”


Singapore Maritime Forum

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