How to Keep Core Staff Happy
The small teams of core staff who keep amusement parks and attractions running year-round are central to their survival. This is why keeping teams happy and on the job is vital for the industry, especially throughout the pandemic when so many people are searching for new roles and opportunities.
Here are some useful ways to retain core staff members.
Review Pay Rates
When employees are in short supply, employers who offer higher pay get the pick of who’s available.
“It is valuable to understand the evolving talent landscape in your industry,” says Helen Crossen, founder and principal of Crosswyse Human Capital Advisory and Professional Coaching Firm. “Given the tightening labor market, many employers have had to increase base pay and incentive pay to ensure that compensation is not the reason employees are enticed away from them.”
Job benefits also play an important role in employee retention.
“We offer amazing benefits to our full-time team, as attracting and retaining talent has always been difficult for us,” says Leah Koch, director of communications and fourth-generation owner of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana. “For instance, we have incredible health care for all our full-time team, and we typically have a full-time staff outing after we finish our daily operations and switch to weekends. When we couldn’t do that in 2021, we offered an extra day of Thanksgiving break to compensate.”
Crossen says she believes that providing additional benefits to support employees through the pandemic is also valuable.
“This is why employers have provided subsidies to help them with childcare,” she says, “plus stipends to ensure that work-at-home employees have access to the right remote tools.”
Reward Career Development
The difference between a job and a career is that a career offers room for professional growth and corresponding pay raises—and thus a reason for core staff to stay where they are.
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari understands this distinction and its impact on employee retention.
“We recently introduced a ‘skills-based pay’ program for our maintenance team, where certain development goals and trainings can instantly boost pay by up to $4 an hour per employee,” says Koch. “For example, they can earn an additional $0.50 per hour for being trained and willing to operate rides if needed during the operating season, and they can earn additional [pay] for cross-training in other departments and for pursuing outside trainings and certifications, as well.”
Crossen advises others to use similar ideals.
“Continuing to ensure employees have career progression and opportunity is meaningful to them,” she says. “Transparency around career growth lets employees know they can grow with the company.”
Flexible Work Arrangements
The unpredictable waves of COVID-19 mean that core staff may find themselves having to work at home on a few days’ notice. As a result, flexible working arrangements for core staff (whenever possible) matter; not just for now, but in the future.
“People value flexibility at work,” Crossen says. “If they anticipate that this policy will not continue, they may begin to look for an organization that does provide flexibility.”
This truth has been embraced by Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. “We’re quite flexible about full-time employees working from home, as needed, when we are not open to the public,” Koch says.
Treat Employees Well
Core employees who are treated with respect and appreciation are more likely to stay with a company than those who aren’t. This is particularly true during COVID-19, when so many people are enduring long-term emotional stress with no end in sight.
“Thanking employees publicly for their contributions in different ways remains important,” Crossen says. “Some companies have sent gifts to employees and their families to thank them for all their hard work throughout the pandemic.”
At Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, treating all staff well is a part of the park’s 75-year legacy. “Every year we have a Christmas party and a Christmas breakfast where our human resources team works impossibly hard to secure around 150 incredible prizes to make sure our team of around 100 can all win something,” Koch says. “We cancelled our Christmas party in 2021 due to COVID, so we split the party budget into Amazon gift cards for the entire team.”
In early 2021, the team also added a few new perks for core staff appreciation.
“Mid-season, when things were looking excellent, we introduced an increased bonus policy where we would pay more than 100% bonuses if the company performed above 100% of its budgeted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization),” Koch explains. “We also refreshed our pay administration program to make sure our team's salaries are where they should be.”
Open Communications Matter
Beyond being paid well and appreciated, people want to be heard by their employers. “Encouraging employees to provide feedback—to share ideas openly about how to address things that are not working well and highlighting what is working well is valuable to a sense of engagement,” Crossen says. “Employees participating in helping to shape the culture of their organization and influencing how a company works increases the sense of feeling connected, and they are more likely to stay put.”