Hire Passionate People…and cut the deadweight!

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Passionate people love what they do. They are typically motivated by the desire to be part of something bigger than themselves and because they feel that way, they often bring with them a higher level of positivity, energy, and determination to their job. In previous issues of Monday Morning with Marty, I’ve shared how as an Attractions Supervisor at Luxor Las Vegas, I was able to infuse new life into our motion simulator ride—In Search of the Obelisk—by staffing the attraction with people who not only wanted to have a job but were extremely passionate about their role. Over the course of one summer, we turned our corny little attraction into a world-class experience that easily rivaled anything you might find in a major theme park…and we did it primarily by focusing on our people. Specifically, we focused on recruiting enthusiastic people who believed in what they were doing.

We cut the deadweight by establishing well-defined performance standards and communicating to everyone on the team that no one was indispensable. We made it very clear that if any existing team members did not meet the new standard, they would be either relocated or let go.  We also communicated our goal was to create an elevated guest experience while also making this a fun place for our team to work.  To accomplish this, we developed new standards for performance and energy levels for each position at In Search of the Obelisk.  To reinforce the desired behaviors and demonstrate the expected behavior, I would often jump into position and perform the appropriate role. I would tell my team that they needed to be as crazy and in-character as me. I wanted team members who embraced the energy, enthusiasm, and the “willing suspension of disbelief” needed to create a world-class experience.
Finding passionate people to come and work for you isn’t always easy but there are some ways that you can attract higher quality applicants. Here are some great strategies that will assist you in finding a higher concentration of passionate people:

Build A Great Brand. Reputation matters. It’s easy to point to The Walt Disney Company as a great theme park brand or Apple as a great technology brand. The truth is that there are thousands of local and national businesses who have built a name for themselves as a great place to work. How do your potential candidates view your brand?

Recruit Where They Spend Their Time. When I was looking for energy and enthusiasm for In Search of the Obelisk, I recruited at the local performing arts school. We got permission to hang flyers around the school to advertise for a fun summer job. We made it clear that we were looking for passionate (and dramatic) people—and we found them.

Recruit from Your Guest Base. One of my closest colleagues at Universal Orlando was a frequent guest of the parks first.  She and her family had been visiting from Kentucky for years and enjoyed many happy memories. After her husband passed away suddenly, she moved her family to Florida.  Ultimately, she applied with Universal Orlando because of the deep connection she felt with the brand.

Ask the right questions during the interview process. To hire the best, you’ve got to ask the right questions. Here is an example of one screening question I have asked along with the right and wrong answers I’ve heard:

Why do you want to work here?
Right Answer: Because I love these parks. We visit all the time and now that Harry Potter is here—I’m a huge fan by the way—I just couldn’t think of anywhere else to work. These parks are special to me.
Wrong Answer: Because it’s on my bus route and it will be a convenient place for me.
For more great hiring questions, check out last year’s January post of Monday Morning with Marty—Top Twelve Interview Questions for Hiring the Best.

Weed Out Lower Performers. At the same time that you are establishing a higher standard with your team, you should be sending a very clear message to your entire team that “times are a-changing”.  You should make no bones about the fact that everyone on the team is now going to be held to a higher standard and that their performance will be measured regularly.  You should give everyone an opportunity to improve and provide them with the proper training and coaching to support their development—but some people quite simply may not have what it takes.  Offer to move them to another venue or, if that’s not possible, ask for their resignation.  When all else fails, be sure that you have a good record of your conversations with them and cut the deadweight—send them walking.

And on that note, have a great week!