Well, like most ski seasons, it has been one of highs and lows depending where you are in the country. Happily the Pacific West escaped the drought of the past four years, the Rockies staid strong but the Mid-West and East took it seriously on the chin. With the season winding down thought moves towards summer and next ski season. It is a time of year when a serious reflection of how your department, division or company performed over the past ski season should take place. I’d suggest that discussion happen in some form of a group conversation that allows for as much unfiltered input as possible.
The challenge offered here is, how can you make next year better? Added to that challenge – you can’t solve the challenge with capital, you can spend some money on programming, restructuring and training. Let’s see how you do.
My suggestion on how to respond to this challenge is to focus on your employees as the resource to make next year better.
Creating the right culture in a ski area is a bigger and broader discussion than appropriate for a few paragraphs in a monthly newsletter. Having said that, the challenge laid down above can still be discussed. I would make the simple statement of FOCUS ON YOUR EMPLOYEES AND THE REST WILL FALL INTO PLACE, CUSTOMER SERVICE AND BOTTOM LINE RESULTS. The requirement from you is thought, time to work with your staff, a commitment to stay focused, and communicate the message repeatedly.
There is no heavy commitment of funds just the three simple elements from you and your management team:
Imagine a ski resort where everyone is excited to be there, almost every day, eager to do their job. I can see the retorts already, “they are just here to ski” – “they are seasonal and don’t care about the company”. No one, especially me, will challenge that retort, but I do contend there is no reasonable reason that seasonal staff could not be excited about and enjoy their work.
This isn’t about changing the duties of the job, a lifty loads lifts, a snowmaker makes snow at night in the cold, lift technicians have to be in at 6:00 am to start lifts. It is how we interact with these staff members from the day they are hired till they leave. Honestly, my thinking on this subject is much better said by Patrick Lencioni in his book titled Truth about Employee Engagement. Buy it, read it, use it! It will cost you at most $25.00. IMHO, it should be mandatory reading for every lift operation manager and supervisory at minimum.
The wisdom I can impart here is that as a manager you think you are doing what you are supposed to, but the reality is unless you really work hard at it and push away the zillion distractions that come at you over the course of the season, you are not doing the things you should be doing as a manager, managing your people. Remember that doesn’t mean bossing them around and yelling at them or getting them to do menial task for you, that’s bullying.
I was once told many years ago, “It’s the bookends, the arrival and departure that guests remember”. So often ski areas, put the bookends in their least experienced and lowest paid staffs’ hands. Are we really trying to manage the customer journey? Do those staff members know their importance in the journey?
It is time to reflect, look to the next ski season committing to devote time, thought and focus on having all staff excited to come to work and enjoy their job. There will be rewards and the return on investment is huge.
I’ll end by asking, if we as an industry made working at the front line jobs at our ski areas really great work environments and staff really enjoyed their jobs, would we as an industry see better retention in customers and with beginners?