Travel columnist on MSNBC discusses his SFA outing.

Getting hired on as a ride op, food service worker or bathroom attendant may be entry level work, but don't forget that parks also need leads and supervisors.

In fact, I'd say that that's where the problem *really* lies. Sure, blame the immature kids for your bad experiences, always the scapegoat. I blame those in leadership positions who allow said behavior and in some cases, are just as bad as the kids.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

I blame those in leadership positions who allow said behavior and in some cases, are just as bad as the kids.

I'm sure that's true as well.

I still stand by the old "You can't make people work" thing. The best leader isn't going to get results from a crew that doesn't care, but a crew that cares will still show some level of performance under a less than great leader. In fact, they might even make a bad leader look good.


Leading by example always helps. You certainly can't make people work, but you can hold them accountable. If these jobs really are a dime a dozen, why hold on to someone who won't even do the basics. Show me a lead or *supervisor* that doesn't know what the heck their employees are doing, and I'll show you one that's either turning a blind eye or joining in on the madness.
Lord Gonchar's avatar
Agreed on all counts except:


If these jobs really are a dime a dozen, why hold on to someone who won't even do the basics.

It goes back to what I was talking at Rob about - it's actually pretty hard to get fired from a job these days - and even then the process takes time with documentation and warnings. Anything less and you're gonna get sued.

On top of that, these jobs are a dime a dozen. Workers aren't. Good workers even less so. It's hard to fill these positions.

Sometimes you got to make due with what you have.


^Exactly, and CP (and other parks) are coming up on the time of year when it become a real pain in the arse. The marginal to bad employees KNOW that there is a shortage of available help so they push the boundaries even more so (call off sick, come in late, etc) and they figure they won't be severely punished as a result.

I fired kids who looked me in the eye and said, "you can't fire me...you need me." I looked at them and said I would prefer to do the work myself than to hang on to dead weight...and often times that is what I did.

That goes more to compensation. The life of a full time manager at a seasonal park ain't easy. It is even less easy going into the middle part of August and through the end of the season. Morale is low, staffing is low, attendance is still high and those things are at odds. So, the full time managers bust there butts to get through it...often times with very little praise from above.


Brian Noble said:
The good news is that if you are in your late teens/early 20s, and you do take your commitments seriously, you've got a huge huge huge advantage over your competition.

Man, you got that right. It's not like it's tough to get the basics down- showing up on time, not leaving early, taking your allotted breaks and nothing more, resisting the urge to pay more attention to your cell phone than the job you were hired to do. Like I said, simple stuff. If you're willing to work extra hours every now and then, treat people as they're more than an obligation and show some kind of motivation to do just a little more, you're going to go places in this world.

Not to pat myself on the back but when I was young, I worked with many people my age that were terrible at what they did. It's not like the work was hard, it was just that everyone pulled up to work in cars that their parents bought for them and it didn't matter if they got fired because Mommy and Daddy would still make sure they had money for gas and going out with friends on Friday and Saturday night. I opted to show a little maturity and dedication and while I had to suffer through making my own car payments, I feel that much better having done things on my own and learned to accept responsibility.

It's tough to get people to work that don't want to work, but when they all have their little golden parachutes, it's ten times more difficult. I was in a position where I had the authority to send people home, suspend them and fire them, but so many employees were lousy that I had two options. I could send everyone home and do all the work myself, or deal with something slighly below mediocrity and have three employees do the work of one to at least make my work load somewhat lighter. I imagine that countless people in a management position struggle with the same problem.

If only there were laws against spoiling your kids, then many problems would be solved! ;)

"Sometimes you got to make due with what you have".

I absolutely agree. But, unless your employees are much smarter and savvy than they look, you *never* want to give off the impression that you're stuck with them, even if you are.

Leading by example. There are ways to get rid of bad employees without ever laying the "F" word on them. *** Edited 7/31/2007 8:04:47 PM UTC by DWeaver***

That's true, although different employees have different limitations. Some will quit as soon as you suggest you're going to make their lives miserable while others are as durable as cockroaches and will deal with whatever you put them through, just getting more and more miserable. It is a good idea to keep your employees from knowing you need them despite their flaws. Making people feel expendable is sometimes a very good technique!

It's a shame that things have deteriorated to the point where you can't even fire people for the crappy work they do. Not to keep pulling from my retail memories but we had a female employee that loved to claim everything was racist, meaning that when she did something wrong (which she often did), management was afraid to deal with her. When I decided to take action (I find it difficult to sit on my hands and do nothing), management got on my case because they were worried they'd get in trouble because of my actions. No wonder bad employees often have all the power!

As I said earlier, I think the solution is to make do with what you have by spending money on better training and performance-based incentives. I don't see any other solution.

You might not be able to measure friendliness, but food service can count things like the number of people served in a given period of time. I don't know how you could quantify it, but a friendlier worker should be able to get more people to play more games, or even increase sales in a gift shop.

Gonch, I'll agree with you on your next to last paragraph (imagine that). Maybe that's attributed to these times where every kid gets a star or a trophy no matter what they accomplish, or even how little they try. So now they think they should still be rewarded for as little effort as possible. It's the attitude of entitlement-- everybody owes me, but I don't owe anybody a thing in return.

"...make do with what you have by spending money on better training and performance-based incentives."

Two things that the amusement industry, for the most part, is not historically known to do.

^ So maybe the solution is extremely obvious?

^^ I'll blame that on society's latest push to make kids all equal. What's this with there being no "winners" and "losers" in little league games? Perhaps society has gotten to the point where so many people are given "feel good about yourself" rewards that rewards have lost all meaning?

matt.'s avatar
I'm sorry I haven't been able to participate in this more, but I'll add a little anecdote -

Does the average kid this day suck, and suck hard as an employee? Yeah, probably. Almost certainly, and moreso today then in previous years.

But just to touch on something else that's been said, it takes two to tango and if we're going to blame all the dumbass 17 year olds for being horrible, we need to also blame the team leads, supervisors, and op managers who are clueless as to what to do about it. And it still goes all the way up to upper management.

True story:

I worked at a major corporate owned park from March to September a few years ago. I worked on average about 45 hours a week. I saw the GM of the park once.

Literally. Once.

It was at a picnic held for some employees getting recognized for special achievment. In the course of actual work I never saw the man, never even heard of him being around in the park whatsoever. I'm serious, never.

Fast forward to my visit to Holiday World this spring. I get off Voyage and my mother points down the midway and says "You just missed Pat." And there she was walking down the midway, broom and trash bin in hand.

And that was the kicker for me. I have visited Holiday World 6 times in my life, not counting enthusiast events. 3 times I have seen Pat Koch on the midways and twice I have seen Will.

I think that's pretty telling, even without the Holiday World comparison. Probably around 1000 hours worked and I saw the GM of my park with my own eyes once. *** Edited 7/31/2007 9:17:35 PM UTC by matt.***

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Rob:
It's a shame that things have deteriorated to the point where you can't even fire people for the crappy work they do. Not to keep pulling from my retail memories but we had a female employee that loved to claim everything was racist, meaning that when she did something wrong (which she often did), management was afraid to deal with her. When I decided to take action (I find it difficult to sit on my hands and do nothing), management got on my case because they were worried they'd get in trouble because of my actions. No wonder bad employees often have all the power!

Exactly!


RGB:
You might not be able to measure friendliness, but food service can count things like the number of people served in a given period of time.

Well. that's kinda what I'm saying. Productivity can be measured. Customer service (friendliness, helpfulness, giving a crap, etc) can't be quantified on an individual basis.

How do you prove someone's customer serivce performance is lacking?

And even if you try to use productivity to push people out the door, in the case of a something like ride crew or food staff, that's still iffy. What if employee #1 does check restraints very efficiently and with a smile, but the kid behind the control panel is slow or the other kid checking restraints on the other side works at half the speed? What if the person taking orders is courteous and efficient, but the kid deep frying things is slow as hell. It gets touchy and more difficult to track.


Rob:
Perhaps society has gotten to the point where so many people are given "feel good about yourself" rewards that rewards have lost all meaning?

Not even so much that they have no meaning, but rather that they're expected.

If little Billy hasn't had to work towards anything in life (all kids who tryout make the team and all the teams who play get a trophy) then how the hell can we expect that kid to understand that he has to prove himself to earn a raise or promotion or time off or other benefits once he hits the workforce?

And I do think location plays a part in all of this too. SF parks are in (or near) major cities. There's plenty of people needing a kid to fill space for a few bucks an hour. You gets kids who don't care if they're there or not. They'll just go somewhere else.

But the parks that truly seem to shine as far as employees go are more out of the way where the options are most likely fewer. They need the job more.

(and that doesn't even take into consideration the differences in attitude between the rural midwest and the urban east coast or things like that)


matt:
And that was the kicker for me. I have visited Holiday World 6 times in my life, not counting enthusiast events. 3 times I have seen Pat Koch on the midways and twice I have seen Will.

I think that's pretty telling, even without the Holiday World comparison. Probably around 1000 hours worked and I saw the GM of my park with my own eyes once.


Ehh, maybe. I'll even give that it can be a source of problems. But not as much as some think.

Given the other comments I made in this post, I wonder what would happen if you put HW's management team at SFA and said, "Have at it."

I suspect they'd be pulling their hair out within a few hours. :)

Not to take a single thing from the fine folks at HW, but I think the situation at that park is all the right ingredients just happen to be in play. (and that includes wonderful owners/management who truly care)

In all honesty, I've only been to HW once, but the lowest level employees were nothing special. They may have moved at a decent pace, but they were across the board no friendlier or less friendly than anywhere. Actually all of the 'wow' moments that I did experience were from higher ups.

And in comparison, I've seen (as well as most of us have) Dick Kinzel walking the midways grabbing trash...and CP has it's share of less than stellar (or pathetically average) employees too.

And even then I'd argue that technically, it's not the bigwigs job to come out, smile, meet guests and clean the park. That's what the employees are hired for.

Is it nice? Yes. Is it necessary? No.

Seems like a potential case of something I've been touching on. The suit is not the guy that has to prove himself or herself to employees, it's the other way around. Suspiciously close to that "Well, what's he do?" thing.

It shouldn't have to be all touchy feely. You were hired to perform a service in return for an agreed upon amount of compensation...so do it! It's not that hard.

*** Edited 7/31/2007 9:34:03 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***



What's this with there being no "winners" and "losers" in little league games?

My son plays Coach pitch 1st grade ball. The coaches and the half-dozen or so dads that help out are really great about teaching skills rather than being hyper-competitive. Score is kept---if only to keep track of the 7 run-per-inning mercy rule. (It turns out that it's hard for 1st graders to make outs.)

Want to know a secret? The kids all know the score, and who wins and loses---of their own games plus the other games in the league. Each and every one of them.


matt.'s avatar
You're missing my motivation, Gonch. I don't want the higher-ups visible not because I want them to "to come out, smile, meet guests and clean the park." I want them out there because they should be as in touch as possible with what's happening in their parks as possible, and making it clear to the employees around them what sort of standards they should be up to.

As far as I'm concerned that is never, ever, ever going to happen when you work at a park for an entire summer and never see the GM of the park once on the midway. I'm not saying it's impossible to run a park from your office but I definitely do not think it's really the way most effective managers work, in any industry.

It's not really for the benefit of the guests because they don't know what the GM would look like anyway, but I don't think there's any better way to communicate to your employees "I'm not interested in what you're doing" than being completely and utterly invisible. Sure, it's mostly show, but I think it's an important show to be visible to one of your team leads more than once a summer.

Also - let's not underestimate Holiday World, here. While I have no doubt running HW is much different from running SFA, HW has somehow maintained that "small park mystique" when at this point it's anything but. Doing 1 million+ entrances a year puts you in the league of quite a few major corporate parks, even when we don't think of HW in that kind of attendance bracket.

rollergator's avatar

Lord Gonchar said:Given the other comments I made in this post, I wonder what would happen if you put HW's management team at SFA and said, "Have at it."

I suspect they'd be pulling their hair out within a few hours.


I suspect within a few hours they'd be having a management meeting to figure out innovative ways to motivate their employees...and within a few days, some employees would be promoted, others would be pink-slipped... ;)

Who's the optimist again? :)

From my own experience, I look at a place like Knoebels. You might say that it's in a rural area and jobs are scarce, which would explain why employees there seem to value their jobs more.

Possibly, but I don't think it explains why so many workers come back year after year. If things were truly that bad, wouldn't you think many of the younger workers would just pick up and move elsewhere?

One thing I do remember seeing in the gift shop across from Phoenix was a bunch of flyers posted advertising different social activities for employees. Things like volleyball and theme parties. It might sound corny and maybe not at all cool for a place like suburban DC, but I think things like that create camaraderie and teamwork between employees. Maybe giving employees the feeling like they actually belong to something might improve a few attitudes.

If it came down to it, I'd MUCH rather an employee be fast than friendly. And there are tons of ways to measure capacity and efficiency. A smile is great, but if a kid is busting his butt to get me out of the way quickly and on to the next guest, I'm fine with that. I'm speaking mostly of ride ops here. It becomes a different story once you get into food service, guest relations ect. And those positions absolutely *can* be measured by a lead or supervisor, just as you can measure it in a department store.

But it requires that the leads and supervisors be "present" and examples instead of part of the problem.

matt.'s avatar
^Totally agreed. I could really care less if the ride ops have a total scowl on their face the whole day as long as they're doing their job.

Off the rides, though, the problem for me is that for some reason so many corporate parks haven't found a way to make their workers act like assets instead of drones. My visit to Dollywood blew me away just because nearly every person I encountered had something to talk about, wanted to ask me how my day was, told me about how much they liked working at Dollywood, if they'd ever met Dolly, asked where I was from, if my kids were having fun (lol), etc. I've had similar experiences at all the Busch parks, Disney parks, Cedar Point, Hershey, Holiday World, Knoebels, et al.

There just comes a point when you have to, to take your park to the next level, find a way to turn the people in your park into real life people. It's that sort of thing that breeds repeat business like no other.

The bottom line to all of these ideas is that they management team has to treat their employees with the same level of attention as they treat each year's new ride.

Employees are a resouce, just as the new ride is. In fact, employees are the single most important resource a company has. The new ride is great but the staff on the new ride can make or break you. Just as the staff of the restaurant, game, store, etc can.

My favorite, ALL TIME amusment park quote:

"You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world...but it requires people to make the dreams a reality." - Walt Disney

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