Understanding, hiring for, and cultivating a culture could be the key to growing your park or FEC business.

Nearly every operator in every park or FEC finds themselves considering how to find, develop or keep their competitive edge. When asked, “what makes the difference between you and your competitors?” many managers, especially those in the family entertainment center industry, will automatically answer, “it’s our people that make the difference.”

But if every company truly believed that, and managed accordingly, would we be working in an era where, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workplace Report, only 31% of employees (US and Canada) are engaged in their jobs? Further, the American workplace data compiled in the Gallup report showed that, of nearly 200,000 American workers, only 21% strongly agreed that their individual performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. This means there is a disconnect between saying we believe that our team members are our competitive advantage and managing them in a way that proves it.

So how do you boost engagement, motivation and inspire team members to do outstanding work for your park or FEC? I would argue that building a creative culture could be a bold step towards separating the good from the great. Here’s how:

1. Believe the hype.

First, it’s important for every leader in your park or FEC to understand and buy into what creativity can do for your business. We know that the right amount of creativity in marketing can mean higher brand awareness and more opportunity for sales. But we often focus simply on working harder, faster or longer as the only ways to achieve actual growth. That can lead to team member burnout, disengagement and turnover – all of which cost your business money. So, if more work isn’t the answer, what is?

A Foster Study found that companies that cultivate creativity are “3.5 times more likely to achieve growth of 10% or more over their peers.” And nearly 70% of companies with high creativity rankings in the same study have also been recognized as a “best place to work.” This means that team members are highly engaged in their work, and they’re getting real results.

Those are just some of the startling numbers I uncovered researching the effects of creativity across varied industries. In the amusement and entertainment industry alone, it stands to reason then, that fostering creativity could equate to even higher results.

Think about it. Creative party hosts engage better and have more fun with party attendees and parents – which likely means future party bookings and more word-of-mouth advertising. Creative front-line staff act quickly to solve problems for guests, resulting in fewer negative reviews and an increased focus on being proactive in the future. And creative managers have what it takes to build “dream teams” and hire, coach and manage team members to uncover their own unique talents and use them for the good of your guests and business. If your business realized just one of these benefits as a result of an increased focus on creativity, how might it impact your bottom line? Once you’ve bought in, here’s how to begin to shift focus:

2. Hire creative people.

There are people with fixed mindsets and those with growth mindsets. Those who possess a fixed mindset are less likely to seek new and different solutions to challenges and problems and are less open to learning, feedback and creative thinking. Growth-minded people, on the other hand, actively seek to learn from every situation, are generally more positive, and frankly are the ones you want working for you. Look for people right from the outset who are more growth-minded by using careful interview questions, such as: “how have/do you become better?” and “tell me about the last time you received coaching/feedback.” Assess candidates on sincerity, how they perceived their experiences and how they’ve used the knowledge or experience going forward.

Other activities that uncover candidates’ creativity which work well in group interviews include role play scenarios, asking participants to teach the group something they’re passionate about, and other fun team-building type activities that show how comfortable they are (or become) speaking in front of others, how they interact with each other and how quickly they think on their feet.

3. Develop a learning culture.

Learning and growth opportunities should happen every day on the job – not just in onboarding and not just for job-specific functions. Many of your team members are young and your park or FEC is where they begin to form into the employee and member of society that they’ll be in the future. The best leaders will help them on this journey, benefitting the team member, the business and (of course) your guests.

What we know about the newest generation of workers is that they are entrepreneurial and interested in preparing for their future — and that’s a good thing. Tapping into their intrinsic motivation through a wide variety of training topics and styles will help them become better performers for you (and society) and encourage them to want to stay loyal to your business, reducing turnover. At this time in their lives an extra $0.50 or $1 per hour likely makes a big impact, so it’s a good idea to pay people more than the minimum wage if you’re able to. However, the good news with this age group is that money is not the only key motivator for them. Personal and professional development for their future is also high on their list.

A well-rounded development program includes skills training in both job related functions and soft skills. The World Economic Forum argues that by 2020, skills like critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence will be among the most highly-desired skills in the world-wide workplace. To stay on top of this, consider offering training and educational opportunities in areas such as:

  • Professional development: job-related skills, leadership, emotional intelligence, communication, navigating conflict, negotiation and service vision.
  • Personal development: finding your personal ‘why’/passion, cultivating mindfulness, stress management, interpersonal relationships and even skills like balancing a checkbook, filling out college applications or applying for scholarships. (Yes, I know these are not your children or your students but helping someone grow is never a waste of time.)

4.    Embrace the power of an innovation collective.

If two heads are better than one, we would all be served well if we put those heads together more often. Find opportunities for team members to share ideas and work towards a new goal. Bring teams together to brainstorm new product offerings, party activities or solutions to challenges. Brainstorming sessions boost excitement and tap into individual creativity in surprising ways. For example, last week I was chatting with a dear friend about professional development of teens and how they don’t get enough of that in high school. In literally a matter of minutes, we had a space, a target audience and the makings of a workshop track outlined. This is the power of inspired minds working together.

There are many ways to tap into this with teams at your park or FEC. Perhaps you invite them to create training videos to help teammates with some aspect of the job or you host a Choose Your Own Project Competition similar to Google’s 20% “Side Project” Initiative. At CenterEdge, we recently held a “Hackathon” where teams were invited to submit ideas for projects that would benefit clients, coworkers or the company. Projects were selected by vote and teams were assembled for a fixed time to work on and present the results. Winning groups won accolades and prizes and several of the projects will be followed through to completion.

But that’s not all, when surveyed, participants in the CenterEdge Hackathon shared an increased sense of accomplishment, creativity and a higher amount of empathy for teammates. One participant said, “I was impressed by the amount of talent shown by all of the teams. We often find ourselves working with the same groups of people over and over, so it is great to have the opportunity to see what great things people throughout the organization are capable of. I definitely feel more confident in those around me and feel like with the groups of people we have in the organization there are very few challenges we cannot overcome.” Again, this is the power of inspired minds working together.

5. Reap the rewards.

Bottom line – higher engagement helps you reap the financial and other business rewards with a team that’s motivated to do it. But that’s not all. When you invest in your team in meaningful ways, you change lives. You help others. You make a difference and hear about how your facility helped someone come out of his shell and begin to thrive in the workplace, like the team at Rockin’ Jump in Shrewsbury, MO. A team member who spent the last year working for the park was so changed by the experience that he had this to say to his fellow team members on his last day before leaving for college:

“[…] Home is a place of safety and love. Home is not restricted to any house or any four walls. Home will constantly change. I can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am to have been able to call this place my home over this last year. You all have a special place in my heart. I’ll miss you but I will be back! Thank you all for being here for me and showing me so much love. You guys always make me smile! With love, Curtis.”

Well now, isn’t that a reward worth striving for?

Now that you’ve fostered a creative culture at your park or FEC, it’s time to upgrade your POS software to a solution that works best for your team. Learn more about CenterEdge Advantage POS. 

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