Mowing the lawn on a luxury cruise ship

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There isn’t much call for a lawnkeeper on the open seas. Or for that matter someone who can dive from 60 feet at a moving target and hit the pool instead of what’s around it. Or tune up a skydiving simulator. Or rig an all-new stage show.

There’s more need for aerialists and actors and singers and hoofers, but the best have to be sought out, interviewed, wooed and signed to a job at sea.

Royal Caribbean’s brands employ thousands of people from around the globe, and many – perhaps most – of them are “typically not talent that you will find off the shelf,” says Capt. Hernan Zini, vice president of talent management for the cruiseline.

Wooing talent, once located, isn’t usually the biggest challenge. “We have a very international employee mix, which makes the environment very rich,” Zini explains. “That’s an important part of who we are and how we can attract the talent, being able to tell the story of the company. All the history of innovation – we are rarely following in somebody’s steps.”

That lawnkeeper’s job, for example. In 2008, Celebrity Cruises unveiled a new concept on five ships: the Lawn Club, giving guests the rare seaborne opportunity to pass the time, play some games, even picnic on live, green grass.

People were needed to tend the 2,400-square-yard lawn – a particular challenge in salt air – and the lawnkeeper’s job was born.

“When we have a new product, we build new capabilities,” Zini says. “So back with Voyager class when we started building the ice-skating rinks, the talent team suddenly had to become proficient in finding ice skaters.”

Zini estimates, and underscores, that 80 percent of RCL’s talent comes from internal promotions, the remainder from outside.

But those sources are no less important, so Royal Caribbean partners with nautical colleges around the world, among them schools in Croatia, Sweden, Canada, Argentina and the United Kingdom. For the first time, a female bridge officer was recently hired from a school in Ghana.

Other talent, including high divers, comedy stunt divers, ice dancers, acrobats, broadcast techs, musicians, riggers, costumers, lighting specialists and many others are sourced by the cruiseline’s entertainment team.

“They go around the world and do auditions,” Zini says. “We also have, of course, good word-of-mouth from people who have a great time and recommend it to friends.”

As onboard technology changes, so do job requirements. So traditional electricians advance to electronics technicians. New propulsion systems, new information software, the constant evolution to new this and new that, require more specialized sourcing if the jobs can’t all be filled from within.

And every new ship presents new sourcing challenges.

“At some point we start to have a clear sense of what is incremental and what is radical,” Zini says of innovations. “For whatever is radical, typically we have early notice so we can start the sourcing strategy.”

Whatever is radical – whatever it takes. The job, however new or unique, gets done.