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Industry Report - September 2015

Juggling the HR Hat for the Non-HR Professional

by Shaun McKeogh ICAE

My 10-year-old son, Nathan, received a set of juggling clubs for his birthday. I thought to myself, “Hey, this looks easy!” On reviewing the accompanying book of instructions, my eyes began to roll to the back of my head and I could feel a rather large headache forming.

The process of learning to juggle reminded me very much of all those managers who are also learning to juggle—juggling the human resources (HR) hat. Most of our independent attractions, such as family entertainment centers (FECs), smaller amusement parks, water parks, and cultural institutions, may not have the luxury of a dedicated and qualified HR team. Their HR reality often means someone, such as the general manager, has to juggle the HR hat as well as many other responsibilities. If that sounds like you, read on and see what we can learn from Nathan’s juggling instructions.

Before You Juggle—Check Your Stance

Getting ready to juggle the HR hat is as important as your stance when juggling. In HR, your stance includes being informed about the legalities regarding employment local and federal laws. In the United States, for example, matters relating to human resources law may include being careful not to discriminate when employing people. The questions you ask could be contributing factors, so it pays to be briefed on the types of questions you may need to be very careful about asking in the recruitment process.

Your HR stance should also be well informed and planned in relation to:

  • Employee benefits
  • Rewards and recognition
  • Effective recruitment and staffing
  • Employee engagement
  • Training
  • Organizational efficiency
  • Building employee and management accountability

Learning to Juggle

“Learning to juggle takes time, effort, practice, and commitment.”

The instruction book is spot on. Just like juggling, becoming confident and effective in the delivery of human resources also requires time, effort, practice, and commitment. Carve out some time each day to focus on specific human resource planning and maintenance. Make sure you walk the floor with an HR mindset and interact with the employee team each day to be available and accessible. In doing so, stay on top of employee issues before they get out of hand.

First Stage: Lay a Good Foundation

Nathan’s little instruction book reminds us that catching is a critical factor for laying a good foundation for juggling effectively. Recruitment is as essential as catching. Ensure you have set up your attraction up for success by recruiting the right type of people for your business. As you juggle the HR hat, work toward establishing accurate job descriptions, identifying selection criteria, and using job advertisements that accurately reflect the great things about working for your business while engaging employees from the very beginning with your mission, vision, and values. Identify the core behavior you want in candidates. Plan the recruitment process around behavior-based activities and questions, helping candidates demonstrate examples of past performance. Brushing up on the effective evaluation of candidates helps your business succeed by putting the right people in the right places.

Second Stage: Practice Makes Perfect

Next, Nathan’s instruction book highlights that to juggle, we must focus on learning and practice. For those juggling the HR hat, this is where the importance of building a strong, engaging, and effective induction and training program comes in. No one ever said you had to also be the trainer. So, where possible, reach out to talented trainers either externally or internally to get the job done.

Third Stage: When Confused, Refocus and Organize

Hmmm, the more I read the instructions, the more confusing it’s getting. But that’s OK for those juggling the HR hat. No need to get confused by all the instructions; my tip for you would be to also focus on getting a performance management process organized. This should be planned out and essentially is all about setting expectations for the way in which people perform within your business. A good performance management process defines key accountabilities for each role and ensures there is training to support the employees to achieve those accountabilities. Most large attractions do a great job in this area by creating a coaching culture, where management coaches for performance and gives effective feedback.

The Final Instruction

Nathan’s instruction book certainly leaves those juggling the HR hat with some excellent advice: “A good throw sets you up for a good catch!” I would agree that the effort you put into creating a great workplace of engaged employees will reap rewards for your organization, both in retaining employees and attracting people who will be loyal and want to work for you. To create employee engagement, gather a subcommittee of managers and passionate employees who can assist with developing employee recognition, engagement, and employee events programs. You don’t have to do that all on your own; be smart and share the load. 

Shaun McKeogh ICAE is vice president and head of International Training Academy with Management Resources, providers of attractions specific operational consultancy and planning services, as well as training systems and procedures for the attractions industry. www.mgmtres.com

What You Might Wish Someone Had Told You Before You Started Juggling …

There is help out there. As you juggle the responsibilities of the HR hat realize that no one expects you to be an expert in everything.

When it comes to recruitment… utilize the expertise and resources of recruitment agencies and online recruitment platforms. IAAPA also has an industry-specific recruitment job board worth looking into: www.IAAPA.org/jobs.

When it comes to employee contracts, unions, and industrial relations matters… confide in other similar organizations and those also juggling the HR hat. Don’t forget about the importance of networking and seeking advice on what larger attractions do from the HR professionals themselves. Often they have already been there and done that, and are open to sharing. Networking opportunities exist at the IAAPA Expos and regional training events. Look out for the HR Symposium being planned for IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando. It’s a great program to network and advance your understanding about the role and issues specific to attractions human resource management. Attractions HR Roundtable, a LinkedIn group set up by the HR professionals involved in the attractions industry, is a great forum to network, ask questions, and share ideas.

When it comes to training… seek the support of training suppliers. IAAPA also has a range of training programs for attractions, including the IAAPA Institute For Attractions Managers, a great starting place for anyone juggling the HR Hat (www.IAAPA.org/IAM).