Summer Staffing: 7 Unique Tactics
It’s no secret as the pandemic winds down, parks and attractions, as well as the larger hospitality industry, have found that hiring seasonal employees is a challenge. A response to this dilemma? Increase hourly wages and improve benefits. Many employers are sweetening a summer job by offering signing bonuses. But even those carrots may not be enough to lure seasonal job candidates. Here are seven examples different parks have found that can attract summer associates.
Tactic No. 1: Passes and Tickets as Perks
For companies that have found that former tried-and-true strategies, such as job fairs, aren’t generating enough candidates, it may be time to get creative and try some new approaches.
For example, Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, offers new and returning seasonal hires four season passes to the park that they can share with family and friends. According to Nick Paradise, director of corporate communications for Palace Entertainment, candidates had to apply and complete the hiring process within a specified window in order to qualify for the passes. The park is also giving seasonal staff blocks of tickets good for admission to Kennywood, as well as sister parks Idlewild and Sandcastle water park, as a retention incentive once they have worked for a certain number of hours.
Tactic No. 2: Use Technology that Targets
Paradise says the park advertised for the first time on Facebook this year and used the social media platform’s jobs feature. The postings were for ride operators and food and beverage staff, and the ads targeted users within a specified age range and geographical area.
Rather than broadcasting to a general audience, consider narrowcasting for hiring campaigns. “You want to go where your audience is,” says Chris Russell, founder and managing director of RecTech Media and a recruitment guru. To do that, he suggests creating a candidate persona by reaching out to current employees to help build a profile of the ideal candidate. Ask team members where they hang out online. What do they like to watch? What music or podcasts do they enjoy listening to?
Then find ways to target the candidate persona. For instance, an attractions business could consider streaming advertising on music and podcast apps such as Spotify, which allows advertisers to designate the artists or genres they want to reach with ads to users within certain zip codes. Similarly, video streaming apps such as Hulu allow advertisers to microtarget users.
Tactic No. 3: Create Brand Ambassadors
Russell also suggests developing an ambassador program with existing employees. “Your employees have their own social networks,” he explains. “The idea is to leverage and amplify that power.”
Make it as easy possible to share recruitment messaging by writing everything and sharing it with internal ambassadors so all they have to do is cut and paste the prepared blurbs into their social media feeds, Russell says. Then incentivize them with gifts, prizes, and other rewards to encourage them.
“Help us recruit,” he says, “and we will reward you for that on the back end.” Russell attests that employee referrals are the No. 1 way companies are hiring today.
That’s exactly the tact that Six Flags took with its national refer-a-friend program. “We created shareable messages for our team members to use on their social media,” says Bonnie Sherman Weber, the park group’s senior vice president of operations.
Both the friends that got hired and the employees that referred them got Gold Plus memberships for themselves and up to four family members. “It’s quite an offer, and it generated significant interest and got really great results,” Sherman Weber says.
Six Flags launched its first national social media campaign to recruit team members using the video-sharing social networking platform TikTok.
Tactic No. 4: Relax A Bit
Six Flags also relaxed some of its grooming standards, such as hair styles and length of hair. “It allows us to be more inclusive. It’s more of a gender-neutral policy,” explains Sherman Weber. “But it also opens up our base,” she adds, allowing the parks to appeal to a broader audience of potential candidates.
Tactic No. 5: Leverage Influencers
Another tactic is to take a page from the marketer’s playbook and leverage influencers to help promote job openings. Russell recommends seeking out people who love parks and attractions and have big followings on platforms such as Twitter or Instagram. Then ask them to become ambassadors for the brand.
One of the most intriguing ideas Russell suggests is buying a personalized video from a celebrity on Cameo. The site has tens of thousands of personalities available to create customized video messages. For example, if a candidate persona likes “The Office,” one of the actors from the show could be hired to shoot a video talking about how great it is working at a park or attraction. Or hire a comedian to make a joke about coming to work for the business. Then post the video on the company social media accounts. Cameo offers the opportunity to literally “talk to potential candidates in the voice of the characters they like to watch,” says Russell.
Tactic No. 6: Offer Internships and Scholarships
Canobie Lake Park in Salem, New Hampshire, has had some success with student interns from colleges and universities. According to Chris Nicoli, brand manager, the park does not have a formal internship program, but employees who are students are able to qualify for intern credits if available positions align with their career goals such as entertainment, security, or EMS. “We find that the ability to work outdoors with friends sets us apart from other businesses,” notes Nicoli.
Kennywood welcomes internships as well. Along with Sandcastle, the park also offers 10 scholarships each year as an employee incentive. “We acknowledge team members that go above and beyond in their work, in the classroom, and in the community,” says Paradise.
Tactic No. 7: Text, Don’t Email
Regardless of the method used to reach candidates, once a connection is established with them, be sure to follow up by texting, not email, suggests Russell. That’s the preferred method of communication, especially among younger people, he says. Send interview links, questionnaires, and other info via text. And be sure to remind them about interviews using text. “Otherwise, they may ghost you,” Russell warns.