Attracting Bold Talent to an Adventurous Workplace

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

“Adventure” isn’t just something Royal Caribbean Group offers its customers. It’s also a love shared by its employees, as well as the key to the brand’s exceptional success at engaging new and diverse talent.

How do you find the perfect employee when you’re a company as intrepid as an international cruise line? Royal Caribbean Group’s Talent Marketing Manager, Thea Neal, has done it through practices like investing in team morale, practicing inclusion, taking a holistic view of the employee experience, and careful listening.

The Challenge of Talent Marketing as a Cruise Line

Building out an authentic employee value proposition for a single organization is difficult enough. It can be even harder when that organization houses six different brands, as is the case with Royal Caribbean Group. Employer brand leaders may encounter hesitancy, as Neal did, from more senior leaders who are wary of defining an EVP that may not feel relevant to all branches and levels.

Attracting tech talent to Miami is another challenge for Royal Caribbean Group, as it is for many companies headquartered outside of major US tech hubs. This challenge is compounded by the already high demand for programmer and developer talent across industries.

Then, Neal faces the challenge of filling roles that demand exceptional levels of commitment. “I’m trying to convince people to basically marry us,” she says. “I’m telling someone that they should leave their family for three or four months at a time, get on a ship, and work a lot.” Neal and her team are looking for new members of the Royal Caribbean family, rather than staff with high turnover.

Invest in Morale

To attract and retain the best talent, Royal Caribbean Group makes serious investments in its culture and employees’ well-being. Even during a pandemic, the company has found ways to preserve and adapt its office traditions, like happy hours (now virtual) and Halloween (a staff favorite).

The company has also placed renewed emphasis on wellness and work/life balance. Royal Caribbean Group offers mental health resources to employees, and CEO Richard Fain has been announcing surprise Fridays off in his personal videos to the team. These efforts are all part of the company’s commitment to tending to the employee experience beyond the recruitment process.

Practice Inclusion

Prioritizing diversity and inclusion has helped Royal Caribbean Group attract employees from a range of backgrounds and identities. This has been a special focus of Neal’s team, which recruits talent from around the globe. Cultural context is always top-of-mind for Neal when formulating her employer brand strategy: “The employer brand that I put out in America needs to resonate just as well as the employer brand I put out in the Philippines or Indonesia,” she says.

Neal’s team also taps employee resource groups, which tend to include the company’s most engaged employees, to maximize the impact of their D&I efforts. It’s worked: Royal Caribbean Group was named one of America’s Best Employers for Diversity by Forbes in 2019.

Consider the Whole Employee Journey

Neal’s team frames the employee experience as a journey—in fact, the “Journey with us” tagline appears across Royal Caribbean Group’s careers site, social media accounts, and internal communications. This framing reflects the emphasis they place on supporting people throughout their time with the company, from candidate to alum, and not just on the recruitment process or the “sell.”

This concern for the whole employee journey also shows up in places like Royal Caribbean Group’s Glassdoor reviews. Even employees who were let go due to COVID-related cuts spoke to their positive experiences and respect for the company. “How you handle difficult situations can increase your Glassdoor score,” Neal learned.

Become a Better Listener

Neal urges other employer brand leaders to listen to fellow employees as closely as possible, especially when their feedback disrupts your assumptions. “A lot of times, as employer brand folks, we have these rosy glasses on. Sometimes you need that real perspective from an employee to create something better, listen, and evolve,” Neal says.

Recognizing employer brand’s capacity to improve has been critical for Neal during this year of drastic upheaval and rapid change. “Don’t be so married to an EVP or employer brand that you can’t evolve,” she advises fellow employer brand leaders.

A quarterly survey shouldn’t be your only time and only channel for careful listening. Solicit employee feedback often—“They know your employer brand better than you do,” Neal reminds us.

This approach to talent marketing has helped Royal Caribbean find perfect-fit candidates that join the family and stay for years (and voyages). These candidates-turned-colleagues share Neal’s love of seeing the world and helping others do the same. It’s a passion that unites the team, regardless of role; as Neal puts it, “Who doesn’t want to sell amazing memories and experiences?”

To follow Thea Neal’s work in employer brand, connect with her on LinkedIn. For data-driven insights into your company that you can act on, get in touch. We can help you develop strategies for making real change.


Our newsletter is exclusively curated by our CEO, Jörgen Sundberg, for leaders who make decisions about talent. Subscribe for updates on The Employer Branding Podcast, new articles, eBooks, research and events we’re working on.


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