Staff embarking on a career of selling cruises at Fred Olsen tend to be in it for the long haul — 82 of them have worked at the company for between five and 10 years and 28 for more than 15. First established as an international shipping business by three Norwegian Olsen brothers in 1848, today's firm is still owned by the Olsen family — now into the fifth generation — but the UK arm is run as its own enterprise while retaining the family company feel. And while the organisation is probably best known for its genteel Nordic cruises it encompasses four operating businesses: cruises, independent travel agents, a freight-forwarding business and natural power consultants to manage renewable energy projects. So while its roots are firmly in the golden era of sea travel this is an organisation not afraid to try something new; a combination which creates a working environment that staff are positively proud of (78%), and one that they feel is good for their own personal growth (74%) — most get a chance to travel with their jobs.
Agency sales manager Jeremy Hatton thinks Fred Olsen offers the best of both worlds, vitality and security. "It's not a job that makes you clock-watch. It's quite a dynamic industry, travel. Cruising is quite an aspirational purchase, so it's a nice industry to be in. It's a relaxed atmosphere although it's businesslike. It's a company that I'd like to think I could move up the ladder in and possibly retire from," he says.
Hatton is not alone in being engaged in his work but at the same time not engulfed by stress; employees believe they can make a valuable contribution to the success of the organisation (78%), and feel they can make a difference within it (76%). They believe in the company's values and principles and have not suffered much stress in the past year (both a 79% positive score), nor does their health suffer because of work (81%).
Internal promotions are real opportunities, as entertainments co-ordinator Barbara Guthrie discovered. "I used to be PA to the directors but I couldn't develop any further in that job. This job came up, and my MD ended up helping me," she explains. Training is provided and employees say they find it helpful (75%). While staff give a low 52% positive score for happiness with pay, the perks help. Former members of the closed final-salary pension scheme now receive a company contribution of 5%-15%, depending on their age, into a stakeholder scheme. There are discounts on Fred Olsen cruises and holiday allowance accrues from a basic 20 days by one day per year worked, up to 30 days a year. Staff can buy Timex watches at a third of the price (they are owned by Fred Olsen), and the summer ball is a highlight of the social calendar.
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