GAME STAFF FAMILY
In last week’s episode of Idea Bar we presented my interview with usher Greg Pomian and you heard him use the word family a lot. We have been talking about Game Staff but in talking to Greg he says in addition to loving baseball what makes him so dedicated to his position through the hot days and frustrating fan moments is that he feels like he’s more than just an employee. He talks about his Fightins' family and what being a part of that means to him.
During the season, you and your entire staff spend more time at the stadium than you do at home. This really gives you a special opportunity to create a “Ballpark Family”. You are all there for the same reason, it’s fun to work in baseball. Treat everyone like family, get to know each other. Embrace the fact that working in sports is different than working in other industries.
NEED TO FIND GREAT PEOPLE?
I bet you already have great people and referrals are a wonderful way to find more. First, look at some of your favorite staff members (I know, you're not supposed to have favorites, but we all do.) Start with your favorites and ask if they have friends or family that might like to join your team. Greg’s entire family has worked at the stadium. His wife just celebrated her 10th season. We had quite a few families working together at FirstEnergy Stadium.
When you reach out to see who is returning for the following season that's an opportunity to ask many of your game staff for referrals and/or include the date of your job fair. Tell them to pass along the date and have their friends/ family include their name on the new employee application. I'll also admit that some of the best employees were our clients' children. Those teenagers wouldn’t dream of embarrassing their parents. They were punctual and excited to be offered such a cool job.
THE SMALL THINGS AREN'T SMALL
Saying thank you and giving a high fives makes people happy. Happy people work harder and spread the same happiness that they are feeling to others. It’s contagious. I used to love running our game staff meetings. I’d prepare them for the game with information and a pep talk. I'd often remind them that someone would be attending their first game and that is a chance to make a great impression and create a fan for life. That isn't a high pressure statement, it's more of a motivational fun fact. We’d end every pre-game meeting by clapping together to gear up for the game.
After the meeting, and throughout the game I'd walk around the ballpark and chat with our game staff. I'd get feedback on our game presentation, promotions and hear what fans had shared with them. We would also just "Shoot the Shit" when time allowed.
When I would check in with Greg Pomian, he would always say, “Forget Disney, this is the happiest place on Earth” …..and it was. Family members cheer each other on and pick each other up.
When I return to the ballpark for a game it's like a reunion. I'm catching up on their lives and they are amazed at how my kids have grown since the last time they saw me. It's funny because some of our older ushers still say they feel like they watched me grow up at the ballpark from being a 15 year old game staffer myself to the AGM with 3 of my own kids.
GAME NOTES AND STAFF ORIENTATION
Delivering information to your staff is important for 2 reasons. First, there are more game staff than front office. They will be better able to serve your fans and sponsors and can embrace the atmosphere if they are in the know. Give them the confidence to answer questions and solve problems as well as the invitation to be included in the theme and entertainment.
It is also important to embrace the “Cool Club” mentality because you're all in it together. It feels good to be on the inside. It feels good to hear about upcoming promotions and rehab assignments before others and get the backstories on ballpark decisions. When you are a part of something bigger, the tough moments like bad weather aren’t as bad because you know you have your Ballpark family there for you.
Before the season it all starts with a well prepared and engaging game staff orientation. When our staff walked up to the ballpark music was playing and they were greeted with smiles, hugs and high fives. Our Videoboard was showing highlights and fun from the previous season as well as any commercials for the upcoming season. During the orientation we gave tours to new and returning employees explaining the various group and seating areas, pricing, policies, etc. Of course we also took them behind the scenes through the club house and batting tunnel. We introduced our full time staff All-Star Style so that everyone knew who we were and what we did for the team. We added additional information to make fun of each other and make them feel included in our inside jokes. Scott and I would then go through changes. These would be things like; time clocks being added; increased netting for foul ball protection; new areas that now include food and/or waitress service. We would also point out new promotions we were excited about, concession items and even play a few of our new between inning contests using them as the contestants. We encouraged them to become a part of the fun and communicate with us if they ever have questions, issues or ideas. We talked about the stadium being our home during the Spring and Summer and used the word "Family". We recognized employees that would go into our Honor Roll that year and celebrated by having all Members stand and be recognized. We ended by thanking them for all that they do and the passion that they bring with them to the ballpark. We then broke into groups and each supervisor met to discuss specifics like game meeting times, scheduling and then distribute uniforms. Then we all enjoyed lunch together.
Don't forget to send them home with everything they need to be prepared and also help you sell; their department's phone list, your employee handbook, pocket schedules....yes, more than one if they are willing to take a box to wherever their full time job is, a group brochure (perhaps with a letter offering them a discount if they book a group), season package information, and kids club information. All of this will help them know more about the team and remember they talk to a lot of people at the ballpark but also in their personal lives.
During the season we held pregame meetings before every game. Please note we held them at varying times and locations so we didn't miss employees. We distributed long notes including; the group list with leader names and seat locations, projected attendance that game as well as the total for the season so far. We also told them where we were as compared to the previous year and got them excited about trying to beat that number. We included sponsor information, the promotion(s) with specifics, Happy Hour specials, Pre/Post game band information. We went through when some of the favorite between inning contests would be in the game script and gave information on what was coming up that homestead and the next. If I felt like my head was going to explode from talking so fast then I was doing a good job keeping them informed and again they had their printed Game Notes to reference later. Here's an important detail to remember- Stats. On the back of our game notes I included some of the same information that we gave to the media in the press box. It's a baseball game right? ...so tell them about your team and the opponent.
PERKS OF THE JOBS
What are the perks? Do you offer flexible scheduling, free tickets for their families, a discount on merchandise? Do you throw a picnic for your employees where they get to enjoy free food and take batting practice on the field? Do you send a Christmas card or celebrate birthdays in some way? What do you do to let your Ballpark Family know you care about them? Truthfully, I encourage you to try all of those things.
Earlier and in the interview with Greg I mentioned Reading's "Employee Honor Roll". This was our way to celebrate our employees that had been with the team for 10 or more years. When they are inducted in they receive a plaque as part of a pregame ceremony and enjoy the game along with their family in the picnic area with all-you-can-eat buffet. Additionally there's a wall near where they clock in that lists everyone who is in the Employee Honor Roll. It truly is a Cool Club with over 150 members in it.
When I think about words I'd associate with family, words come to mind like; loyalty, united, strength. How can you build your Game Staff culture with those words in mind?