Tight Labor Market

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A tight labor market is making it tough for Orlando area businesses to reach full staffing levels and the themeparks and local attractions are no exception. Over spring break season many employees found themselves scheduled for 60 hour weeks with extra shifts available. While I’m sure some of the employees don’t mind the overtime pay, this is not a long term solution (see the mess they’re having in Disneyland).

Last year Disney tried to solve its staffing woes with a combination of busing in workers from neighboring counties, recruiting in Puerto Rico, expanding the college program, and 500 trainees from Hong Kong Disneyland. It was barely enough. We’ll see what they come up with this year.

Seaworld and now Universal Orlando have taken a novel approach – raise wages. If you want to attract the best employees you have to pay for them ($7.25 to start now at Universal). Still with an unemployment rate hovering somewhere south of 3.0% in central Florida even that may not be enough — there are other service industry jobs that start in the $9.00 range.

In addition, the themeparks should look at offering free 24/7 on-demand daycare for all employees (instead of the overloaded system most have now). This would free up existing employees to work additional shifts. Offer free on-site health clinics and gyms for employees as healthy employees are more likely to show up for their shifts. Offer educational reimbursement for employees who attend college classes and move into the management training program. Increase the number of off-season gate admissions and bump up the merchandise/dining discount (those overtime wages have to be spent somewhere).

Finally, it might be a good idea to give management some park training and mandate a couple 4-hour shifts a week inside the parks. Not just guest control either. Give them attraction and store training so they can see how the front line employees actually do their jobs. It might be an enlightening experience.

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