The long tail and longtails

There has been much talk recently of the “long tail”. Long tail HR, long tail statistics, long tail strategies. But what does the long tail have to do with payroll and seafarer taboos?

Long Tail HR

Long tail HR relates to the spread of employees across many countries. Global companies often have a large number of employees in their home country. As these companies expand into new locations the headcount in these new countries is likely to initially be small thus creating the “long tail”. This can lead to difficulties for the employer; how do they manage the complexities of local compliance and regulations for employees in so many countries and how do they maintain economies of scale?

The International Chamber of Shipping estimates that the worldwide population of seafarers serving on internationally trading merchant ships is around 1.6m. Seafarers cover virtually every nationality across the world. That’s a lot of countries and potentially a very long tail. Long tail applied to the shipping industry may look something like this:

Long Tail HR
Seafarer Taboos

Solving long tail HR is one thing but there is another type of longtail, the origins of which date back to the 19th century and sea-taboos which continue to this day.

It is said that the superstition came from fishing vessels where it was bad luck to use the word rat out of fear of a poor catch or attracting bad weather and the word longtail was used instead. This tradition has now been adopted on land in the Isle of Man. If you dare to utter the word r-a-t then you must touch wood. As many vessels today are no longer built from wood, it became acceptable to touch steel when out at sea.

Some say that the origins date back even further to the 1600s when the Duke of Athol stepped from a vessel to the landing jetty and inadvertently trod on a rat which bit his foot.

Whatever the origins, it’s clear that longtails and the long tail are here to stay.