Transatlantic has undergone major changes. The shipping company’s HR manager, Britta Stolt, says that she has stuck to the company’s generous personnel policy throughout the entire transformation. Now they seem to be on the way out of the crisis with the health of personnel largely intact.
Like so many other companies in the maritime sector, Transatlantic suffered badly when the financial crisis struck in 2008. The company was in an expansive phase with takeovers and new orders when the air suddenly went out of the market.
”To get out of this crisis we needed to step on the gas and the brakes at the same time,” says Britta. ”The commercial side needed to be reinforced at the same time as we had to make cutbacks elsewhere.”
Ships were flagged out and 25 officers were laid off, but the really large cuts were made ashore. Offices were closed down in several countries and in autumn 2011 the headquarters in Skärhamn were left and the company moved to Gothenburg. The HR department has shrunk and Britta Stolt has gone from full-time to 24 hours a week.
”Negotiating for my own job was a little strange, but it is about doing what is best for the company,” she says.
During those turbulent years, a number of managing directors left the company and several managerial levels were cut back. Britta Stolt, with 22 years in the company, has represented continuity, an historical anchor and a guardian of personnel.
”I have made sure that we have kept to our course and had a good personnel policy. We invest a lot in preventive health care, we listen to signals of distress and we offer occupational health care and psychological help if necessary,” she says and continues.
”My father, Folke Patriksson, founded B&N and that means, of course, that I am super-loyal to the shipping company. But it hurts when you hear someone talking badly about the company and I take it very personally. When we left Skärhamn there were many people who were disappointed and I received a few terrible e-mails,” she says.
She explains that it was easier to centralise operations in Gothenburg than in Skärhamn, unfortunately, and that the decision has proved to be both necessary and correct. This summer, Britta Stolt called personnel to a meeting at the office at Lilla Bommen with a positive message.
”Everybody wondered what it was about. They sighed, and said that they couldn’t stand any more changes. It was absolutely fantastic to be able to announce to them all that we had made a profit for the first time in many years, and I threw out champagne-flavoured Magnum ice-creams to everyone.”
On the personnel side of things, persistent work has paid dividends.
”Every other year we do health profiles by Previa. When we did the study last year, the results were well over expectations. In spite of everything we had gone through, we got really good marks and for the first time there was nobody in the office who smoked. The only downside was that many people had high stress levels, and that is something we must continue to work with.”
Shipboard personnel were also offered health profiles in conjunction with the renewal of their health certificates.
”But there were few who choose to do it, and we should probably be better at encouraging it. We also work constantly to improve communications between land and sea. We keep them informed the whole time, we have officer conferences and encourages everyone in the office to have information meetings when they are out on the ships,” says Britta Stolt.
The company also carries out regular employee surveys. Britta Stolt says that the results for personnel onshore in 2014 were good and that some ships also had good response rates. However, that was not the case for all ships, which she believes was due to problems with internet access. Regarding the future of the shipping company, she continues to be optimistic.
”Now we just need to get started and make more money, and I believe that it is going to happen.”