Keeping the “Amusement” in Amusement Park
When you think back to your first job, you generally can only feel one of two ways: wrapped in a sense of fondness for your old work and coworkers who left a lasting impact on your heart, or cringe at the buildup of connective tissues that is the scar of the abrasive restaurant industry in your memories. After a quick poll around the BridgeWorks office, we heard everything from a balloonatic making balloon arches and bouquets for parties (yes, that is a real job) to a Dairy Queen associate striving to craft the perfect cone swirl. These first work experiences are where we begin to form definitions of work ethic, learn to navigate office politics, and contribute to company cultures.
Global amusement park company Six Flags approached us with an opportunity to groom its employees to join forces with the next generation, Generation Edge (Gen Z), and to connect with the multigenerational workplace already in place. This opportunity was particularly critical for Six Flags, considering it is essentially in the business of first jobs—it hires seasonal employees starting at age 15. Six Flags employees take their responsibility as first-job coaches seriously. Not only do they see these young employees as the future of their organization, they also look to support them in being successful far beyond their seasons at Six Flags. Many Six Flags teen employees come back season after season, all the way through college, gaining experience in all aspects of park business.
Generationally speaking, Six Flags presented us with a unique opportunity. While the majority of its workforce is made up of the generation after Millennials, Generation Edge (also known as Gen Z), it still includes Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials alike—a truly multigenerational team, susceptible to nearly every ClashPoint imaginable (ClashPoints are the workplace struggles generated by having two generational perspectives collide). Having so many young employees belonging to the relatively unknown and still-developing Gen Edge also poses a special demand worthy of customized training. With that, a new challenge also was making way in the world of customer service: Millennials managing Edgers and other Millennials. As a forward-thinking organization, Six Flags realized that with its set of challenges and unique concoction of generational personalities, it had an opportunity to train its seasonal Gen Edgers in the art of bridging generational divides—promoting generational understanding and cohesion at a young age. Six Flags also could rope all other generations of staff into learning about managing, communicating, and supporting colleagues of diverse generational backgrounds.
How We Did It
The BridgeWorks team worked with Six Flags to design a customized training program that targeted its 29,000-plus employees across 13 amusement parks. Together, we built a sustainable program with interactive content for all trainees’ experiences, generations, and roles in the organization.
Customize the Experience
Every industry, organization, department, and team has slightly different needs. Jumping into our work with Six Flags, we knew that taking the time to interview leaders, managers, and front-line employees across the generations and parks would help ensure our work and content truly connected with all park employees. Rather than sharing a generic canned speech and leaving it up to the teenagers to apply it to their work and personal lives, we tailored content to each park, helping create aha moments and sharing takeaways in person. In the end, we found that even learning Six Flags slang and telling unique yet relevant stories gave us the credibility to effectively train employees.
With an organization of Six Flags’ size, squeezing an entire park into one room seems to be an impossible task…but it doesn’t hurt to try. Beginning with an interactive presentation at each park that told the story of who the generations are today, how they entered the workplace, and their defining traits and values meant that a shared understanding and vernacular was established across the organization at the get-go. Along with generating awareness, this initial presentation broke down stereotypes and promoted collective thought through engaging activities and discussions. Having an outside expert visit employees and bolster generational mindfulness gave the topic credibility and the message consistency across parks. Guiding employees through generational history and influences helped them form a foundation to build off of for managing harmful ClashPoints amongst themselves. As it turns out, getting everyone into the same room works.
Generating awareness about who the generations are and how they can connect was a great starting place for the Six Flags team, but the next step was to make the content applicable and approachable to park employees. Using ClashPoints as a way of training and opening up healthy discussion ensured that the topics stayed alive in the organization. At Six Flags the ClashPoints we covered were:
Through a train-the-trainer model, we trained one or two trainers or HR professionals to bring the ClashPoint content to their respective parks. Each ClashPoint was designed as its own standalone training that was multi-modal and got participants moving.
The flexibility of this train-the-trainer program ensures the realities of being a trainer pressed for time and space could be comfortably met. Each ClashPoint could be covered in 40 minutes or as long as a half day.
BridgeWorks bridges generational gaps in the workplace and marketplace. Its generational savvy has been used to custom build solutions, including: keynote speeches and workshops, onboarding, training, mentorship programs, virtual education, e-learning development, innovation sessions, product placement, marketing campaigns, value-add services, and entertainment shows. For more information, visit: http://www.generations.com/