Wednesday, June 13, 2012

One Dishwasher At A Time by Bill Berg

This post was originally a speech written by Bill Berg, the Founder and President of, for the Yellowstone Business Partnership annual conference held at Jackson Lake Lodge from May 21-23, 2012. 

In many ways, Bill's speech could be a manifesto for what is and does for its clients and job seekers.  We're proud to be in this business and we know that lives are changed through what we do.  Bill's words say it a whole lot better than that. 

And today, on the 40th year, yes 40th, anniversary of Bill's first day in Yellowstone National Park as a gas pumper for Yellowstone Park Service Stations (YPSS), it seems appropriate to share a post about what seasonal work did for him.

Yay B! Happy Anniversary!

Kari (aka Q)

I believe in the transformational power of seasonal jobs in great places.  

What is the value proposition for a seasonal employee in this region? Is it swapping time for money, time on for time off, building a resume, advancement, or taking a first step towards establishing residency?  A great place to party?  It can be all of those things, and more. No small part of the equation is that you offer the opportunity to live and work in a place where others pay dearly to vacation.  Sell your jobs - then make more of them by showing your passion and your ethic and sending them on their way with a valuable work experience, a look at some UnCommon Sense, an unparalleled life experience and a reference.  Help make their time with you count towards their next steps and yours.  

The US population was 160 million when I was born -- it’s 313 million now. Eighty two percent of the US population was urban in 2008 and that segment is growing. Un-messed with places like the Greater Yellowstone Area are increasingly unique. The intrinsic value is immeasurable.  The economic value is significant and should grow as development in the region makes this area stand out even more.  Lewis and Clark could not have imagined.

What’s the value proposition of a good hire for a seasonal employer?  Getting through the season? Grabbing the best of each seasonal crop for the next season? Grooming the best of the best for greater things for your organization, the region and beyond?

What’s the value proposition for the region and for the future? How about growing the regional talent pool, giving an urban person a taste of wild country and an Uncommon Sense way of doing business and living that they can take back to their lives and future employers elsewhere?

More than 4,000 seasonal employees are at work in Yellowstone at peak season.  Throw in Grand Teton and the ranches, resorts and shops across this landscape and there are a LOT of summer jobs for locals and seasonal immigrants.  

Which leads to my next belief -- I believe that seasonal employees are an annual visitor segment that is mission-critical to the long-term future of the region.

My wife worked for a concessioner in the mid 70's, moved on to a career with the Park Service and recently retired.  Her successor started with Xanterra a couple of decades later. This intake program is still at work. You don't have to look beyond this group to find more compelling stories of wet-behind-the-ears people who arrived in the region in their teens and twenties to make beds, wash dishes, pump gas and have gone on to build lives and careers here -- folks who have made significant contributions to their communities and the region. This place attracts a lot of passion and talent, sorts it out through the crucible of full-combat-mode seasonal jobs and promotes the able in successive seasons. The scarcity of year-round opportunities culls the herd even more as economic realities test the mettle and luck of those who want to stay as they work to find or create a niche that earns them a role. This process has been salting the region with talent for decades. Businesses, non profits and government agencies here are rich with passion and talent as a result. Those who provide entry level seasonal jobs are the incubators - - changing the world one dishwasher at a time.

Jan asked me to share ideas for building a seasonal workforce into a year ‘round program.  In a round-about way maybe I’ve described a way that’s been working for the region.  In a more direct way you can see Vail Resort's strategy at play here at Jackson Lake Lodge.  Vail owns ski resorts as well as summer resorts.  Some of their staff go back and forth, building a career path in the process. Xanterra is able to do this to an extent as well with their summer and winter properties.  Many summer employers will establish relationships with winter employers - park concessioners with ski resorts, for example - and refer employees back and forth.  In a less structured way this can help build a career path or, at least, keep people employed and in the region.  It's interesting to contemplate the potential for arranging benefits that pass back and forth and developing a more efficient regional talent pool.  

It's late May.  This hotel and many operations in the region are just opening their doors for another round. To see the future take a look at the fresh faces of the employees serving the meals, making the beds and working the front desk. Take a peek behind those closed doors in the basement, behind the restaurant, towards the employee dining room and the dorms.  The young woman I met in the parking lot with the radio and clipboard worked at the Rosario Resort, courtesy of Cool Works, then found her way here. The guy who checked me in just graduated from college and does he ever have a spark.  Come back and look for that spark in August. August smiles are our future.

That was a terrific meal. I wonder what the future holds for the hands that prepared it and served it and those who are washing our dishes right now? The future of your organization and our region may well be in those hands.

They’ve got next.

Friday, June 08, 2012

High Five Friday - June 8, 2012

Here are a couple of quotes from the week that made an impression on me and should make one on you.  Hint, hint.

"[N]ever demand the team do things that you cannot, have not, or would not do yourself."
--Sean McPheat, founder and managing director of MTD Sales Training, writing at
(via the SmartBrief on Sales)

And here's one from an article I liked from HireCentrix Karen.

"I have heard recruiters say – hey how do I get rid of the annoying candidate who keeps calling.. Well here is an answer – talk to them, take the time to explain to them what is going on, and ask them why they are so nervous, upset, scared..

Understand their fears, their concerns, and address them.. Remember the Personal side – the People, the Human Being that we are representing. Remember that that annoying candidate is a Human Being that deserves to be heard."

You can read the full article here - Please put the Human back in H.R. - HireCentrix Karen

Why is this stuff on my mind?

A few reasons.

I'm a former HR practitioner who always fell more on the employee advocacy side than the management side of the "reports to" chart.  I did my job for the company, but I took my role as a liaison for the employee very seriously.

I now work for a job board where the reputations of those companies who post with us is directly tied to ours.  We want to work with people who get it. We want to work with organizations that have environments we would trust sending our nieces to, our so called "niece test."  We want to know that when employers post their jobs with us, the employees will be treated fairly and will work in safe environments.  We have Terms of Use to make this point clear.

Thirdly, I get calls from job seekers or see forum posts on our social network about employers every day.  I hear good things and I hear bad things.  I would love to just hear good things.

Today the call was from a job seeker who wants to start another job immediately.

He has filled out your long application and is waiting to hear back.  How long will you make him wait?  

If you claim to need folks now, act on those applications, get in touch, and tell them if they are being considered, or not.

Remember the fact that you are always a recruiter and always a representative of your organization.  I recall some quote about people not remembering what you did or did not do for them, but they'll always remember how you made them feel.

And by all means, hold true to the contract / job that you are hiring for.  If you want to hire a "grunt worker," advertise for that.  If you want to hire a "host / hostess," advertise for that.  Bait and switch is ineffective and will create a negative image of your organization.

In this day and age of Google searches and Trip Advisor / Amazon reviews, organizations cannot afford to leave bad tastes in the mouths of their guests and employees.  They will come back to haunt you.  As much as feasible, make what is written about you on-line and said about you only the best of the best.  Be the place that everyone wants to work (and play!).  I assure you that treating your employees (and future employees and guests) with respect is a sure fire way to be successful in the long run.

Do Good Things!  I look forward to hearing some great stories about the amazing experiences your employees are having this summer.  Enjoy the day.

Friday, June 01, 2012

High Five Friday - June 1, 2012

Well, May disappeared.  In my last HFF post, I spoke of my impending move.  That happened twice.  I moved out of my apartment one weekend.  I then moved into a house with my boyfriend the next.  Two days after that, I flew off to Atlanta, Georgia for a week of fun** including a wedding in Highlands, North Carolina, hanging out with an ole college chum in Atlanta, seeing my cousin in Tennessee, my pseudo-in-laws in South Carolina, and the Cynical Girl in Raleigh.  I added the ** to fun because on the night of my arrival into Atlanta, all of my luggage except for my wallet, phone and the clothes on my back were stolen.  Needless to say, this altered the experience of my trip.

I am one of those pragmatic, optimistic, but occasionally cynical, people who is a fairly meticulous record keeper.  It must be all of those years in HR!  I woke up the next day scribbling down all the things I thought I had lost.  Truth be told, I actually kept remembering things for the next two weeks that I had in my bags.  The biggest and more painful things to lose were my Mac, my Canon 5D and my Canon S90, but I also lost some of my favorite clothes, shoes, my new favorite suitcase, and so on.  At that moment though, as I tried to determine my next move, I felt I had lost everything.  Seriously, losing all of your stuff at the beginning of a vacation can really alter one's mood.

However, after a day had passed, I remember one of the My CoolWorkers asked me how I felt about losing my camera, knowing that I LOVE taking photographs, and my response was "lighter."  It was true.  My camera (and lenses!) were heavy.  I now just had my phone to keep me in communication and document my world as I'm wont to do.  It was kind of freeing.

So the moral of this post is have insurance!

Okay, other morals.

Stuff is just stuff.  Stuff can be replaced.

People are always worth more than any item.

Attitude really can affect how one responds to any given situation.  I could have let this event ruin my trip, but instead I've got an amazing story, gratitude for my friends and family's support from "that sucks" comments to the giving of clothes for me to wear.

The mind's eye really is the best camera.

And, the best camera is the one that's with you (Chase Jarvis).  In this case, I made the best of it with my phone.

It's good to leave home once in a while and learn about the beauty in other places.  This also leads to learning how well you have it at home. :)

I'll close by saying that I'm so glad I got to take this trip and see a new part of the country.  I hope to return to the Blue Ridge Parkway someday and actually get to Great Smoky Mountains National Park - I was so close!  In reality though, like the sunscreen comment from that infamous fake graduation speech, trust me about having insurance.

Have a great weekend all!