COVID-19 has completely altered the way the hospitality and attractions industries will operate for the foreseeable future. This pandemic has provided an opportunity for business leaders to reevaluate their business models and leverage more technology. Digital trends are not new, particularly when it comes to interacting with customers. But the most recent experience has made it clear that hospitality and attractions operators must extend digital enablement to their frontline staff. In these vertical market segments, frontline employees are the face and soul of their respective organizations, yet given the nature of the business, it’s not always easy to connect with and digitally engage them. From ensuring that critical information reaches employees in real time to motivating employees and empowering them, digitally enabling your workforce has become a necessity.
Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss digital enablement with Josh Jorgensen, General Manager of the Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort in Wenatchee, Wash. With 400 seasonal employees in the winter and 15 in the summer, the Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding destination was experiencing a 40 percent to 50 percent team turnover annually. With 20+ departments, it was not uncommon for shifts of people (those grooming the mountain, running the rental shop, instructing students, or working the graveyard shift) to never meet in the course of a ski season.
Challenged with keeping everyone connected in purpose and mission, invested in the culture, and understanding leadership’s intent behind business goals, Mission Ridge turned to Beekeeper in 2017. Today, all employees are connected and engaged digitally on the Beekeeper app — something the organization now calls “Mission Control.” Without this digital employee communication platform, Josh says Mission Ridge would not have weathered the Coronavirus or be in the strong position it is today to reopen in the coming season.
What made you digitally enable your employees with Beekeeper?
Jorgensen: “Our focus in 2017 was to find new ways to improve frontline employee communication. Based on survey comments, we found that staff communication was the area where we needed the most improvement. Workers did not feel in the know. They wanted to be more connected to what was going on in all departments. They wanted to know more about our guests. And, more importantly, they wanted to feel like part of the team. We tried some goofy things with email and through our payroll system, but it was fragmented and didn’t work. We were left with posting updates on employee bulletin boards, but that didn’t work well either. Beekeeper gave us the digital communication tools we needed to get everyone connected. It’s an awesome tool.”
Can you walk us through your resilience journey this past year and how the Beekeeper digital employee platform helped you cope with the new normal?
Jorgensen: “So many positives have arisen from the pandemic. If we look back 12 months ago, it was a difficult time. We had to pull the plug on employees’ jobs whom we care deeply about. Questions were mounting, and though Beekeeper, we were able to provide answers through chats, streams, and videos.
“In the ski industry, weather impacts everything around us. Therefore, we must always prepare for chaos. Every day I come into work with a blueprint for the day, but even before I arrive, I know things will not go as planned. Something in the environment that we cannot control will dictate the services we can provide. But we are resilient. And having tools like Beekeeper in place enables us to quickly pivot when changes need to happen, and it keeps everyone up to date.
“Beekeeper is dynamic. What we said yesterday, may not be relevant today. In this business, we may need to send 10 to 12 critical messages in an 8-hour period. Beekeeper gives us a way to quickly broadcast a strategic initiative or crisis response plan to employees who most likely have their phones already in their pockets. Better yet, from a metrics standpoint, I can see who the 70% of employees are who viewed the message and then follow up via other means with those that did not.”
What challenges do you expect in the recovery and how will you tackle those challenges via Beekeeper?
Jorgensen: “We believe that 2021 will bring more of the same; more challenges that are out of our control. Given the uncertainty, preparing for next season is hard, but we have the experience from this year and lessons learned that will help us to be more resourceful. Turnover is and always will be a challenge for those in the seasonal entertainment business. Thankfully, Beekeeper has proven to dramatically reduce this problem by keeping everyone connected. It keeps us connected to our 400 winter employees though the summer. In doing so, it enables us to retain more of our workforce. We found that by keeping our teams engaged and informed, they stay loyal and want to return.”
How does Beekeeper help when onboarding of new employees is required?
Jorgensen: “Beekeeper has become ‘Mission Control’ at Mission Ridge; it’s our central hub. It is ideal for orientation and departmental training. It is a digital resource that keeps everyone connected to our corporate culture and a platform on which to share our core values. We have a social channel within Beekeeper called the ‘KaWhamogram’ named after our Ka Wham Chutes. It’s a place for employees to engage with each other just for fun; not for business, but for bonding. It’s on this digital channel that we see some of the coolest stuff happen. People are sharing personal experiences, and it’s here that employees who would never have the chance to meet in person during the course of their shift can truly engage. It’s here that friendships blossom. I must say, Beekeeper is truly the glue that holds this place together. It keeps us strong, and we could not be more grateful.
“My advice to other seasonal attractions operators is ‘Stay Nimble and Stay Humble.’ The best way to adapt quickly and accept things that are out of your control is through a digital communicational platform. It’s because of Beekeeper that we are working together and moving in the same direction.
I hope my peers can find some positives out of COVID-19 as we did. Good things will come in the future as long as the right digital communication tools are in place.”
About the Author
Andrada Paraschiv is the vice president of Hospitality for Beekeeper, a mobile-first communication platform built for frontline employees that reaches every shift, location, and language through real-time messaging, targeted streams, and automated workflows.