Solving the Seasonal Staffing Crunch
As amusement park and attractions operators prepare to open for the new season, they will need to hire employees in a variety of areas—sometimes on a compressed timeline. Funworld in the IAAPA News Hub shares some strategies for managing the seasonal staffing crunch.
Go Where the Prospects Are
In today’s competitive job market, employers have to go where their prospective employees are. In the case of New York’s Buffalo Zoo, “we send out a Help Wanted news release to local newspapers and radio/TV stations,” says Jacob Terranova, the zoo’s director of guest experience. Yet, to be successful, Terranova knows not to stop there. “But these days, social media and the web is where most of our prospective seasonal staff are, so we post it there as well.”
Capturing the attention of young workers on their mobile devices can be a smart way to find prospective employees.
“Social media is key nowadays: This tool is utilized by most candidates of working age,” says Kimberly Johnson, director of human resources at Soaky Mountain Waterpark in Sevierville, Tennessee. “We regularly post on social media and job posting sites such as Indeed and Snagajob.”
While there are several social media channels, knowing where to cast a net is also important.
“Effective social media sources are ever-changing,” cautions Denise Beckson, vice president of human resources and government affairs at Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks in Wildwood, New Jersey. “Youth are not on Facebook anymore. Instagram was the popular model for a while, but now we are seeing TikTok as an emerging tool.”
Whether it’s family members and friends of current staff members, or prospects cited by an attraction’s trusted partners, referrals are an effective way to find new employees fast.
“It’s all about referrals,” says David Gray, human resources director at Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington, Utah. “We are very dependent on our current and past employees telling their communities about working at Lagoon.”
At Soaky Mountain Waterpark, “we offer referral bonuses to our current employees to help assist us in our recruiting efforts,” Johnson says.
Job Fairs Help
In-person and virtual job fairs are another way of reaching potential employees. For Soaky Mountain Waterpark, “multiple job fairs are hosted throughout the year on property, and we also participate in any local job fairs,” says Johnson. “Our positions are promoted at local high schools and colleges.”
Extend Applications to Teenagers
Depending on state laws, attractions can hire teenagers to work seasonally in certain positions. For instance, at the Buffalo Zoo employees who are under 18 years old can’t operate the carousel or work in food service next to deep fryers. “But they can work cash registers, sell tickets, and assist guests,” Terranova says.
“Youth workers are an excellent addition to the team,” says Beckson, whose state of New Jersey allows 14-year-olds to be hired. “Often, it is their first job, and you help to shape their work experience, learnings, and overall growth. Oftentimes, those you employ at a young age return for many seasons and become your seasonal leadership at the park as they age and mature.”
The same is true for Soaky Mountain Waterpark. “Minors are able to perform their jobs and are able to meet and even exceed our expectations,” Johnson says. “They tend to have more of a limited/restricted schedule but are usually available nights and weekends, which is where we have our greatest need for staff.”
Use Your Connections
When staff are hard to find, connections can help. For example, the Buffalo Zoo has ongoing relationships with local colleges and universities that offer veterinary science programs. “A lot of those folks in those classes work for us, just to get a foot in the door working for a zoo,” says Terranova.
At Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks, “we work with the high schools in the region,” Beckson says. “For example, the next county over has a vocational school. We have a work program for their students, and they are bussed to work at the park five days a week.”
The Allure of Admission
To expand Lagoon Amusement Park’s pool of prospective employees, “we have become very creative for staffing during the preseason—when we are open weekends only before we go to daily operations—and schools are not out of session yet,” Gray says. To make this happen, “we have a ‘Weekend Warrior’ program where we recruit individuals wanting to work a designated amount of weekend preseason days. As an incentive benefit, these temporary team members earn passes for the upcoming season. This temporary staff fills many hard-to-fill positions.”
For those occasions when seasonal help can’t be found through social media promotion, job fairs, or referrals, “temp agencies are utilized to fill any last-minute vacant positions,” says Johnson.