Hiring on The Fly After COVID-19
With opening days delayed and the traditional recruiting time frame shortened by COVID-19, hiring is on the industry’s collective mind—particularly in anticipation of greater demand for the the experiences attractions provide. “Theme parks need to have a contingency plan for rapidly hiring and training employees,” says John Gerner, managing director of Leisure Business Advisors LLC. “If the health situation allows a late opening, there would likely be pent-up demand for out-of-the-house leisure activities.” Here are a few tips for staffing up quickly in a post-pandemic workforce.
Start Planning ASAP
Prepare to hire staff on the fly now, so the time lag between the end of COVID-19 and the opening of their parks is as short as possible. “It is important during this downtime to create action plans for whatever scenarios may be your outcome,” says Sylvain Lauzon, president and COO of Calypso Valcartier Group (owners of water parks in Ontario/Quebec, Canada). “For example, you need to have a hiring plan for a delayed opening, plus a plan for not opening for the current season, but preparing for the next business cycle.”
Keep Talking to Potential Hires
Whether you use social media, your park website, e-mail, broadcast media, newspapers, or a mix of them all, it is vital for your park to communicate with potential and returning employees throughout the COVID-19 crisis. “This will ensure you have candidates ready to hire when you are ready and it will also help to inform your client base that things are proceeding even though it may not be a typical season at your park,” says Lauzon.
“I have spoken with some parks suggesting that their supervisory people create chain e-mails for staying in touch with potential employees that can be reached on a timely basis,” says Dennis Speigel, CEO/founder of International Theme Park Services. “In addition, online and telephone ‘hot lines’ should be set up immediately to allow for instant communication to preferred employees who are standing by to return.”
Pursue Past Employees
According to Sylvain Lauzon, it costs six times more to train a new employee than it does to rehire someone from last season. Former employees also know their jobs, which means they can get a facility up-and-running quickly.
“We need to reel in the workers from previous years,” Speigel says. “We also need to ask these experienced employees to assist us in recruiting their friends and family.”
Leverage the Video for Interviews
The internet is a great tool for hiring seasonal staff on the fly; be it through social media, the park’s job website, and now video conferencing.
“We have switched to interviewing via Skype to ensure social distancing,” says Lauzon. “What we have discovered is it is much more convenient to schedule and reschedule as required, and our applicants are more readily available to meet virtually. We have had particular success in early hires from our college and university applicants.”
Hold Open Interview Days
As soon as the COVID-19 lockdown is over, Calypso Valcartier Group will announce its planned openings on the company’s social media platforms and reopen its online application process. Suitable candidates will then be invited to the company’s water parks for “Open Interview Days.”
During these events, “we position our supervisors and directors in our ticket booths, and we invite candidates to visit the parks with their resumes and have an interview on the spot,” says Lauzon. “If we open 15 ticket booths for live interviews, we can hire up to 50 people per hour if the right candidates attend the event. We also prepare two booths for instant hiring where candidates selected for a job can complete their onboard information via tablet or hardcopy paper file.”
“This method of mass-hiring has worked well for us in the past,” he added. “The key is having the right people in place conducting the interviews. Using the department directors, we can get hiring decisions immediately upon interviews and that accelerates the process.”
Offer Financial Incentives
When the impact of COVID-19 eases off, there could be serious competition for talented staff. “Early signing bonuses could be used to entice returning workers to come back,” says Speigel. “Bonuses or other incentives could also help recruit workers.”
“Candidates could be offered a ‘sign-on, stay-on’ bonus to be paid at the end of the seasonal work term,” says Lauzon. “We also offer a ‘Refer-a-Friend’ bonus to our returning employees. The basic premise being if a good worker is referring someone, chances are that candidate will be a good worker too. The incentive is small to encourage multiple referrals and it is paid at the end of the season if both the current and the new worker remain in good standing until the end of the term.”