Crew Management

On the Job: How to Conduct a Performance Review

9 September 2020 By Kylie O'Brien
Performance reviews
iStock/Visual Generation

Kylie O’Brien has worked on some of the world’s most magnificent vessels with amazing people for more than 13 years. A graduate of The Australian College of Applied Psychology, she is the author of Crew Wanted, The Stewardess Bible, The Chief Stewardess Bible, The Inside Job, and has been a monthly contributor to Dockwalk magazine for more than five years.

Department heads need to evaluate their team regularly. Kylie O'Brien weighs in on what these reviews should include.

Work performance reviews are essential to all organizations. As such, the chief stewardess has the responsibility to make sure that all crew under her management are working to their highest level. The review should be an instrument that offers clear insight into the crewmember’s work performance, offering a formal process of professional, constructive feedback.

As department head, you need to evaluate the interior team on a regular basis. The review should include both positive and negative elements — positivity motivates employees to perform better while less positive reviews give the individual a chance to improve. Work performance reviews are incredibly important because they provide the chief stew with relevant information about the individuals who make up the interior team (e.g. their professional goals and personal aspirations). Done right, they’ll help you formulate a solid action plan on how to improve overall team performance.


The reviews should be conducted in a natural alignment with the yacht’s seasonal program, i.e. at the end of every season (that is, twice a year), or if the yacht is private, then conduct the reviews quarterly.

Personalize It

Formulate a review that works for your management style and the yacht’s operating procedure. For example, if your yacht is a formal yacht, then perhaps it is better to write to review, have the crewmember read it, and consider the response, before conducting the in-person review and informing the captain of the results. Alternatively, you may be working on a smaller yacht with a small team, and therefore it may be better to conduct a less-formal verbal interview, record the outcome afterward, and have the individual sign off on the results.

The point here is to prepare the work performance review that works best for your operating procedures so that you as the manager can implement any changes that are needed.

What to Include

Some of the common things to take into consideration during these evaluations are teamwork capability, how efficient they are at problem-solving, communication, quality of work, ability to meet deadlines, and the ability to accomplish delegated goals.

Job factors are also relevant to performance reviews but don’t forget that it’s important that crew at all levels are treated with this same regard by their superiors. (Happy employees perform better when on duty.) The crew with a positive attitude are more likely to show appreciation for their work, have a great relationship with both colleagues and superiors, and be motivated for career development.

Be Prepared

Be thoroughly prepared for each performance review. Set clear objectives regarding the review, use different sources of information, and double-check the facts. Create an environment of trust and comfort for your crew. Avoid gossip while reinforcing work habits and initiatives.

Openness is Key

The work performance reviews should address all issues. You must be open and honest — there is no need to sugarcoat problems. For example, if a stew is always late, repeatedly makes fundamental errors, or their cabin is continually untidy or dirty, then he or she needs to be advised about improving their performance.

Focus on Productivity and Results

What was the outcome of the work? Were the guests happy? Was the charter a success? Did the crew receive a good tip or appreciation from management and the owner? Focusing on this will help monitor whether the results were achieved or not.

What to Avoid

While work reviews should identify both weaknesses and strengths, avoid the following:

  • Emphasizing the crewmember’s personality
  • Being excessively too negative throughout the review
  • Threats regarding discipline
  • Giving vague feedback without tangible evidence
  • Uncontrolled criticism of the junior’s lack of experience

Create a Plan

Finally, create an efficient action plan that includes one-on-one training. Do a follow-up in the next couple of months to check any kind of progress or issues that may have appeared during that time. Make sure you document all work performance reviews and give the crewmember a copy.

Overall, the chief stewardess should give regular, open, and honest feedback during a performance review. Sharing knowledge and providing crew training is how the team becomes an efficient guest service unit that surpasses all guest expectations.

The work performance review will also keep the crew on their toes. The intention is to inspire and motivate your team to learn new skills and apply them throughout the year so that they become more confident in their work and their job becomes more fulfilling. Plus, it forces everyone to take responsibility for their professional deficiencies.

This article originally ran in the September 2020 issue of Dockwalk.


More from Dockwalk