The UK is home to some of the largest and most popular theme parks in the world, with thousands of people visiting each year. Unfortunately, the uncertainty of the pandemic and frequently adjusted social distancing restrictions caused interruptions and challenges for the leisure industry, including theme parks, which have been among the worst affected.
In March, the government decided to ease all remaining Coronavirus restrictions on the leisure industry, allowing theme parks to open their gates once more. It could not have happened at a more convenient time for the industry; with the weather warming up and the Easter Holidays upon us, thrill-seekers across the country would be eager for a bit of excitement. However, this meant yet another change in how teams operate, and to get this right, excellent internal communication is essential.
The Importance Of Internal Comms To Theme Parks
Despite the joy of being able to reopen fully after two years of lockdown and restrictions, this year will be a crucial one for the theme park industry.
Many park managers were preparing many months ago for the Easter Holidays and the influx of people who come with them in the hope of legal restrictions being lifted. Getting everything organised during these unprecedented times was a significant challenge for even the most experienced managers.
Theme park managers wanted to ensure they could offer the best possible experience for customers while also maintaining a safe environment for everyone. This included providing additional hygiene facilities like hand sanitiser stations, increased ventilation, and suggested social distancing markers to make the visitors feel as safe as possible.
One significant challenge that many faced was internal communication, whether interdepartmental or within teams. With staff spread across several departments and locations, from ride operators to hospitality, cleaners, and security, distributing information across these various departments can be tough. A task that is made even more difficult given that most of these are deskless roles.
This could have been the last thing on managers’ minds with everything going on, but it certainly shouldn’t have been. With so many customer-facing roles, those on the frontline need to be a fountain of knowledge to ensure the best customer experience. Unfortunately, more often than not, they are the last to know.
What can be done to tackle this challenge?
A more streamlined process for sharing information amongst teams where managers can be confident their staff have received, read, and understood the information shared with them will ensure parks are prepared for the return of the tide this summer.
Mobile-first technology, such as OurPeople, can break down the barrier between the different departments, keeping the employees informed, and providing them with more support than they had previously. A communication tool with the features needed to help teams find the most effective communication methods is a huge advantage.
Combatting Update Fatigue And Ensuring Effective Communication
Despite coronavirus being in remission worldwide, there are concerns that it could return, and the government have drawn up plans should it do so. This means protocols may continue to change for park staff over the next few months and years. Ensuring each employee has received and understood what is required of them to keep themselves and visitors safe is of utmost importance to managers and department leaders and is a part of ensuring effective communication.
Communicating these updates effectively and making sure everyone engages with them can be challenging. Many managers tend to use ‘send to all’, which, aside from being inefficient, often results in update fatigue resulting in employees missing or even ignoring the alerts as they deem the message to be irrelevant to their role and responsibilities.
Choosing a communication tool that specialises in targeted messaging is crucial to ensuring the necessary information reaches the appropriate people. This is especially important for theme park workers, who spend much of their time on the go, with little time available to look through forms and emails to find relevant information.
Delivering targeted messages to team members will help them manage their hectic workloads with effective communication. Having a centralised, mobile-first platform also allows managers to monitor who has engaged with the information without having to ask them directly through detailed analytics.
Personalized Training And Safety
Having a centralised database of accessible information is also invaluable regarding training and development, as it ensures team members can access the information they need whenever is best for them while managers can make sure staff are working with the latest knowledge, skills and processes.
Quick pop quizzes mean team members can tailor their training to their needs whilst also flagging any knowledge gaps they may have, which could potentially cause issues later down the line.
During these unpredictable times, personalised training enables all teams to perform simultaneously by ensuring that their capabilities and knowledge are accounted for. Having this all handled in a single communication tool allows staff to know exactly where to go when they need something, wherever they may be.
Supporting team members
In a customer-facing industry, where team members encounter hundreds of strangers daily, the psychological stress of potentially contracting the coronavirus, alongside any other unfortunate park casualties, can take a heavy toll on park staff.
While nothing can replace face-to-face contact for support, digital communication tools can provide immediate support to your team members. Managers can arrange short surveys to encourage teams to provide feedback directly on any problems or challenges they have. This functionality can also improve team culture, especially in an industry that is composed primarily of deskless workers.
For a successful re-opening, theme parks must address any outdated protocols for sharing details internally to ensure all team members are clear and have access to the necessary information when visitors arrive.
The Future Of Communication
As the world slowly returns to normal and theme parks finally reopen, the need to ensure that we don’t revert to old habits has never been more critical. The team needs to be kept informed and updated, but they also need to be engaged. So, what can be done to ensure a smoother and more streamlined communication process?
Many industries have been slow to adopt a communication platform for their internal comms structure, and instead, information has been distributed across multiple channels. This has caused confusion amongst teams and has proved to be a barrier to effective communication and keeping staff informed for a very long time. However, many are beginning to recognise the need to adapt.
Paulton Park, one of the most popular theme parks in the country and home to the beloved Peppa Pig World, realised they had a problem in 2017. Their internal communication methods involved email, notice boards, screens in staff rooms and their internal extranet. With more than 600 team members across eleven departments, this communication system was inadequate. Staff were missing valuable information, which was disrupting the day-to-day running of operations. What’s more, less than 10% of their staff had access to their own email account. They needed something more robust to ensure their internal communications were efficient.
The theme park company partnered with a smartphone-driven workforce management platform called OurPeople. What attracted Paulton Park to OurPeople was that it was more than a mere messaging app. With their platform, you can share files, such as rotas or policies, and message staff individually or send broadcasts to larger groups regarding issues such as internal vacancies, events, and surveys. You can also utilise group messaging for teams to be in constant contact with each other.
The partnership was fruitful, with staff at Paultons Park engaging with the app, using it as a diary and educational platform, enabling park staff to complete training programmes and view operating procedure manuals and action plans.
Paultons Park has been named the UK’s number one amusement park in TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards for five consecutive years and was recently voted the fourth best in Europe. While OurPeople can’t necessarily take credit for this, their app streamlined their internal communication process, allowing their team to focus on what truly matters – giving their customers a wonderful experience.
OurPeople are also members of BALPPA who represent the interests of the UK’s commercial leisure industry ranging from theme parks, piers, zoos, family entertainment centres and much more. OurPeople and BALPPA are both committed to creating the best environment for their employees and customers.
Open Parks, And Open Communication
As theme parks and leisure centres across the country are now fully reopened, they should resist the temptation to revert to business as usual.
Adopting team communication software can help increase accountability among the business and ensure a healthy line of communication between team members and different teams, ensuring a better experience for customers.
Learn more about OurPeople’s service for Parks and Attractions here.