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Title: The management of human resources on cruise ships : the realities of the roles and relations of the HR function
Author: Schlingemann, Thomas
ISNI:       0000 0004 5994 0080
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of human resource management (HRM) within cruise ship organizations. The cruise ship industry is one of the fastest developing sectors within the tourism industry. Therefore, it should come as little surprise that the demand for seafaring human resources has also grown. Assuming that effective management of crew members is key to the effective operation of cruise ships, the specifics and challenges for HRM in this particular organisational context are identified and analysed as well as the realities of the roles and relations of the shipboard HR function examined. The present study is original in its theoretical approach, as it brings two approaches together which obviously are not linked. Ulrich’s model talks about roles and the study used aspects of this framework in terms of the position of HRM. Goffman’s concept of total institutions was also consulted in order to frame internal business-specific conditions and social relations. The combination of both approaches allows for the examination of HR roles and professional relations in a much more detailed and contextualised manner. The cruise industry is acknowledged as being under-researched, and this is all the more true for research on HRM in this specific sector. Therefore, the nature of the research in this study is empirical and framed within an explorative approach. The analysis is based on a single case study within one cruise ship owner company, in which 23 semi-structured interviews were performed; there is also the use of ethnographic field notes recorded during a three-month assignment on one of the company’s cruise ships. The thesis contributes to the existing literature in three ways. Firstly, the research analyses shoreside HR and how it is coping with various business-specific challenges, i.e. high growth rates, a high demand for new cruise ship employees, high turnover rates of crew members and a distinctive context of ethnic and national diversity. The analysis reveals that the HRM approach of the cruise shipowner company could be characterised as generally reactive and short-term in focus, a pure strategic orientation is absent. Secondly, the thesis examines the content of shipboard HR work. The study reveals that the main focus of the shipboard HR function is on tactical HR work, especially training and development, employee relations, and advisory role in relation to shipboard leaders. The shipboard HR role includes HR activities that are not usually provided by HR business partners, such as the facilitation of training. This and the intense liaison between the shipboard HR function and its shoreside HR partners make shipboard HR work somewhat unique. Whereas a huge amount of transactional HR work does not necessarily add value to the business, strategic HR work is practically non-existent on cruise ships. Finally, the thesis examines the realities of HR roles and relations on board cruise ships. The analysis demonstrated that HRM on board cruise ships can currently be summarised as reactive and short-term in focus, and the strategic partner role is practically non-existent. It is more a series of functions with different stakeholders contributing to it in a variety of ways and with overlap in terms of task executions. This shared nature of HR adds complexity to the HRM approach. Furthermore, strong influential links from shoreside HR were identified, which undermines the ability of the shipboard HR function to become a stronger partner of the business. Nevertheless, the analysis revealed the potential in this specific sector for enhancements and for the further development of HRM on cruise ships.
Supervisor: Hodgson, Damian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.B.A.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Human Resource Management ; Cruise Ship