Bringing Back the Fun: Flexible Staffing Strategies for Reopening Destinations

Bringing Back the Fun: Flexible Staffing Strategies for Reopening Destinations

After closing for weeks or months due to COVID-19, amusement parks and resorts are starting to plan for reopening — and, well, it’s complicated. At least initially, these leisure destinations will be operating at limited capacity with strict protocols in place to screen employees and guests, and to enforce health and safety guidelines such as social distancing. Simply put, it won’t be business as usual. 

What can we expect to see as these properties open their gates? Temperature checks will likely be mandatory. Some attractions, shows, restaurants, and stores will probably remain closed. Cleaning regimens will be more frequent and thorough. But even with all these precautions, will visitors feel comfortable visiting their favorite destinations? No one knows for sure — which only makes scheduling and staffing an even bigger challenge. 

Without the ability to forecast demand based on historical data, how can you schedule and staff employees to provide a great guest experience?  What if some of your furloughed employees are hesitant to come back to work? What can you do to help employees feel engaged and empowered?  How can you best allocate the staff you have to make sure visitors feel safe, have fun, and want to return? In this blog post, I’ll share some flexible strategies that are helping theme parks and resorts reopen safely and efficiently, while laying the groundwork for effectively managing through whatever uncertainty may lie ahead.  

Assess your staffing needs for the new normal

As you plan for your phased re-opening, step back and consider what new roles you’ll need to fill. You may need attendants to check visitor temperatures at the gate. You may require additional medics to attend to guests exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. You’ll probably need more janitorial staff to disinfect surfaces—from railings and rides to turnstiles and tabletops — throughout the property. Once you’ve identified all the roles you’ll need to operate safely and efficiently, the next step is to figure out how to schedule and staff them.

Share labor for more flexible scheduling

With your property operating at reduced capacity, you may not be able to bring back all your furloughed employees at once. After months of losses due to shuttered operations, this just doesn’t make sound financial sense. What’s more, you may discover that some employees don’t feel comfortable returning to work right away. Other furloughed employees may have taken jobs at essential businesses during the lockdown. Given these challenges, you may want to consider sharing labor across your operations in ways you haven’t done before. 

As your limited operations allow, you can create schedules and fill shifts with employees working their pre-COVID-19 roles. If there are gaps, managers can “borrow” labor from other operational areas to fill open shifts. This can be done informally through manager-to-manager communication, or you can post open shifts and let qualified employees pick up the ones that work for them. 

Modern workforce management solutions such as UKG let employees view and sign up for open shifts on their mobile device — anytime, anywhere. Integrated skill and certification tracking lets you show employees only those open shifts for which they are qualified, helping minimize compliance risk. Managers can receive notifications when an employee tries to sign up for a shift that puts them into overtime hours or full-time status. Plus, UKG can handle shift differentials, so employees are compensated accurately for working in roles that pay different hourly rates. 

Prior to reopening, some destinations are conducting the employee cross-training   necessary to support labor sharing practices. If this shared-labor approach proves successful during phased reopening, many organizations intend to leverage it.

Consider a different approach to hiring and staffing

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forward-thinking resorts and attractions have been leveraging innovative approaches to hiring, scheduling, and staffing”,  stated Scott Knaul, EVP of Retail Solutions for Workforce Insight, a leading workforce management consulting firm and trusted UKG Services Partner.  “Traditionally, for example, a theme park would hire for a specific role, such as restaurant busser, ride attendant, or gift shop cashier. Increasingly, however, we’re seeing more destinations shifting to simply hiring entry-level employees, cross-training them, and using this central pool to staff roles throughout their operations.” 

In this scenario, a new theme park hire might be assigned a primary job as a busser for 18  hours per week, but she would be free to pick up open shifts for other entry-level roles — ticket sales, game attendant, concession staff, etc. — for another 12 hours per week. This type of functionality allows employees to sign up for the open shifts they want, at the times they want, which leads to higher retention and engagement. At the same time, it enables managers to optimize schedules for improved efficiency and guest satisfaction. 

Take the necessary precautions

If you choose to implement self-serve labor sharing practices, you’ll need to take steps to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 exposure among employees. In addition to enforcing health and safety protocols like mandatory masks and frequent hand washing, you can take advantage of UKG® technology that’s designed to help. For example, some of our customers are configuring their attestation messaging to ask relevant questions including “Have you been in contact with anyone who has shown COVID-19 symptoms?” and “Were you given a mask and gloves at the start of your shift?” UKG has also introduced an automated reporting capability for employee contact tracing that is available to customers at no additional charge.

With careful planning and smart workforce management strategies, destinations can open their gates and bring back the fun in ways that protect employees and guests while driving efficiency, cost control, and service excellence. Please feel free to reach out to UKG for help with the workforce-related aspects of your reopening plans. 

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About Workforce Insight:

Workforce Insight is a world leader in workforce optimization, delivering workforce management (WFM) and human capital management (HCM) advisory, analytics and technology services.   Scott Knaul, EVP of Retail Solutions, leads Workforce Insight’s Retail & Hospitality Practice focused on helping clients adapt labor strategies, operating models, processes and technology to align staff with the changing demands of their business while delivering a consistent customer experience.