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Author Topic: Staff Shortage
Brandon Willis
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 216
From: Richmond, VA, USA
Registered: Apr 2004

 - posted 02-13-2006 09:14 PM      Profile for Brandon Willis   Email Brandon Willis   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have not posted for a while but I need everyone's advice on an issue. My theatre is currently in the middle of the worst staff shortage we have had in the 4 years that I have been working there. We have had zero luck with retaining employees in the past 6 months. For the most part, the employees we've hired in the past few months have been completely unreliable and are gone just as soon as they were hired. Our staffing is so low that we have a couple of employees who have worked at least one double shift a week for the past month.

Most of this has to do with the time committment of working in a theatre. We are always up front with informing applicants of our operating hours. However, once they start, they invariably try to change their availabilities. We have just instituted a much more stringent policy with regard to availabilities. New hires who change their availability immediately upon starting work are considered to have provided false information on their employment applications and are terminated. The reasoning behind this is that the availability they listed on their application is not their actual availability. Veteran employees who change their availabilities to something that does not conform to our operating hours are simply left off the schedule.

These policies sound great on paper, but our current staffing situation makes it next to impossible to put them into practice. 99 percent of the time, we desperately need these employees so we have to schedule them anyway.

So that's just a little background on the situation. Other than that, the main problem is that the people who are applying for jobs at the theatre these days just aren't of the same caliber they were as recently as a year ago. There are also fewer of them. With other, higher paying jobs available nearby, where you won't have to clean up vomit in the bathroom and work past midnight scrubbing out a popcorn popper, decent applicants are few and far between. Not even free movies seems to be enough of a draw anymore.

My question to everyone is: What can we do to recruit more reliable, hard working employees? What has worked for others? What hasn't? How can we attract more applicants to the theatre? I'm open to any and all suggestions.

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Monte L Fullmer
Film God

Posts: 8367
From: Nampa, Idaho, USA
Registered: Nov 2004

 - posted 02-13-2006 10:05 PM      Profile for Monte L Fullmer   Email Monte L Fullmer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
What's the atmosphere of the theatre like - hard headed, "chain" management team, horrible working conditions, wage levels lesser than the surrounding entry level businesses,

Is the place run down, looks dirty and tired, bad neighborhood with crime problems - overall atmosphere of the locale itself?

What kind of incentives are there for the employees to keep them on? Is it just a game to play with a stupid "earning points" for "kiddie prizes", or is there monetary values for merit and gain?

Any "teamwork" programs where all the employees can have the opportunity to feel that they are a part of the company, or are they just treated as if they're like "a tool" to be used?

Big problem is that theatre work is mainly an evening and weekend occupation that worms into their social lives and it takes quite a bunch of special people who will either accept this as part of their job career history, or it's just play and gas money..and most of the time it's that latter that causes the problems to the owners.

..some ideas for you. - Good luck on finding the solutions for a successful operation. -Monte

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David Stambaugh
Film God

Posts: 4021
From: Eugene, Oregon
Registered: Jan 2002

 - posted 02-13-2006 10:53 PM      Profile for David Stambaugh   Author's Homepage   Email David Stambaugh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Sounds kinda like... I don't know... Anarchy? [uhoh]

I have no words of wisdom to offer, but your predicament does make me wonder about the work environment at your theater. As far as new-hires who aren't available for the hours they said they were, I'd probably fire them too. You're running a business.

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Mike Williams
Master Film Handler

Posts: 255
From: Knoxville, TN
Registered: Feb 2002

 - posted 02-13-2006 11:37 PM      Profile for Mike Williams   Email Mike Williams   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This has worked in the past...

You could contact the local high school(s) and ask some of the guidance counselors if they could pass the word along to high school students that may be looking for a part time job.
Not all high school students turn out to be bad employees. Some of them can be pretty reliable when you find the right ones.

At the very least, you might be able to put up or pass out a Now Hiring flyer. Emphasize the positives: Free Movies, Flexible Hours, chance of advancement, etc.

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Barry Floyd
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1079
From: Lebanon, Tennessee, USA
Registered: Mar 2000

 - posted 02-14-2006 12:20 AM      Profile for Barry Floyd   Author's Homepage   Email Barry Floyd   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Our solution to the very same problem was to pay a little more money and hire OLDER people.

Our boxoffice lady, in her mid-40's has been at the theatre every night since the night we opened. Our parking attendants have been all over the age of 30. We tried high school kids in the kitchen, but opted to replace them with older adults all in their 30's-40's. We still have high school girls up front on the concessions sales line, but find for the most part they occasionally need some babysitting. I don't discriminate by age when hiring, but I do try to hire the most qualified applicant who I think will, in my opinion, give me the most loyal service, and be dependable and honest. Lie to me once and you no longer work for me.

What kills me is the applicants who list all of their pre-planned activities like band camp, church camp, cheerleading camp, needing off every Friday night for football games, and they'd like Saturday off to be with their boyfriends, and then they ask me WHY they can't have more hours?

I think the days of teenagers who wanted and respected a job are long gone. It seems to me the teenagers today don't NEED a job, and if they get one could care less if they actually showed up to work their shift. I find the older adults want the job, not because of the "free movie offer", but because they have a financial goal to achieve, whether it's earning a little money for the family budget, earning a little extra on the side for "vacation money", etc. Most, if not all of our older employees have a full time job as well. One of our ladies works at the theatre at nights during the summer and earns enough to help put her daughter through private school.

I honestly wish there was a legal way to make an employee finacially responsible for the damages they cause in lost sales because they didn't show up for work when scheduled. Not only does it result in a financial loss for me, but also makes a PR nightmare with long lines in the concession stand, long waits for food from the kitchen, etc.

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David Kilderry
Master Film Handler

Posts: 355
From: Melbourne Australia
Registered: Sep 1999

 - posted 02-14-2006 06:06 AM      Profile for David Kilderry   Author's Homepage   Email David Kilderry   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Sounds like a nightmare Brandon. Try a different way of recruiting next time and perhaps a different type of person.

Barry, our situation at our drive-in is similar to you; whilst we do have younger employees, our age of staff ranges up to 60. We had a young staff member call and cancel a shift at 7.00pm on Saturday, we could not replace her that late and you guessed it, long lines for food. She is just 15 and certainly needs babysitting when she is on.

We mostly have a very solid crew and employ over 30 people. Some of our best staff are 16 and 17, it is important finding and retaining the right staff. Every time you train a new employee it costs time and money. Once you have them you need to keep training them and improving them.


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Bill Enos
Film God

Posts: 2081
From: Richmond, Virginia, USA
Registered: Apr 2000

 - posted 02-14-2006 07:14 AM      Profile for Bill Enos   Email Bill Enos   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Brandon's theatre is fairly recent place, pleasant, not run down, not a dump, low crime, lots of parking.

Where I work is in town, parking is hell on the weekends, fairly low crime, lots of street people. Our staff is 15, one turnover in the last year. The work atmosphere is very laid back and congenial. All recent hires have come on recommendation of present staff. That works well because they already know whether the new person is any good.

The most interesting item that eliminates many prospective employees is that they want to work in a theatre but won't work nights or weekends! All our workers are over 21. The high schoolers want to play, and just seem too stupid to come out of the rain

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12767
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 02-14-2006 12:57 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
We have 6 teenagers working here and we don't have any problems with any of them, they're all good kids. We are willing to work around their various school schedules, so that helps us keep them. We also have a list of former employees who have gone away to college -- if we ever need extra help we can usually find one of them who's home for the weekend.

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Monte L Fullmer
Film God

Posts: 8367
From: Nampa, Idaho, USA
Registered: Nov 2004

 - posted 02-14-2006 01:23 PM      Profile for Monte L Fullmer   Email Monte L Fullmer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I can see it with Mike's operation - for he simply has got what it's called, and that is the "tact" to keep his employees,to keep in contact,

He runs his business where the employees are his family and he's the "father."

That is usually the key for success, is to find the "tact" for a good operation, and then use it to the advantage. Unfortunately, it doesn't come easy to some, especially if they don't know what "tact" is.

I could almost say this: if you don't have the "tact", you're in the wrong business, especially dealing with a lot of employees, if you're trying to get that business to go forward. close am I...?


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Demetris Thoupis
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1240
From: Aradippou, Larnaca, Cyprus
Registered: Apr 2001

 - posted 02-14-2006 01:39 PM      Profile for Demetris Thoupis   Email Demetris Thoupis   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
One thing I've lived by and stands. That is for employees to realise it too.
When working in the entertainment business, you cannot be entertained. Fortunately or unfortunately that is the truth. You do not get the privileges other people get because you are offering them that privilege so how the heck can you get it! Give me a gorgeous woman and a V5 next to her, I'll have dumped the woman for the V5!!!

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Monte L Fullmer
Film God

Posts: 8367
From: Nampa, Idaho, USA
Registered: Nov 2004

 - posted 02-14-2006 03:44 PM      Profile for Monte L Fullmer   Email Monte L Fullmer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Demetris Thoupis
I'll have dumped the woman for the V5...

.....really.....(?!?!) [uhoh]

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Rick Raskin
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1100
From: Manassas Virginia
Registered: Jan 2003

 - posted 02-14-2006 05:40 PM      Profile for Rick Raskin   Email Rick Raskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'll have dumped the woman for the V5!!!
Sounds like you need a vacation. [sex]

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Brad Allen
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 688
From: Evansville, IN, USA
Registered: May 2000

 - posted 02-14-2006 11:04 PM      Profile for Brad Allen   Email Brad Allen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Brandon, I agree about hiring from recommendations for current staff. Any time I have ran help wanted ads, every deadbeat alive crawls from the woodwork. But asking current employees almost always works out.
And it is tougher these days. Most kids don't need the job, they are handed everything by mom and dad.

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Bill Carter
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 162
From: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Registered: Sep 1999

 - posted 02-15-2006 10:13 AM      Profile for Bill Carter   Email Bill Carter   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Although I've generally been very lucky in hanging on to some great folks, this kind of shortage does seem to run in cycles. We've been very thin on decent applicants who can work the necessary schedules lately as well.

I think it has a lot to do with your local economy, and the availability of "mid-level" kinds of corporate and manufacturing jobs. I mean stuff that isn't necessarily a "career position", but a notch or so above flipping burgers.

One example, whenever there is a spike in the availability of clerical temp work here, which pays $10+ an hour, I see far fewer prime applicants in my place. On the other hand, 3-4 years ago when Minnesota's job market was in terrible shape, I literally had guys with Masters degrees applying for $7 an hour counter jobs because they'd lost their middle management corporate gig.

I think you're just feeling short-term fluctuations in the local job market.

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Jack Ondracek
Film God

Posts: 2348
From: Port Orchard, WA, USA
Registered: Oct 2002

 - posted 02-15-2006 10:44 AM      Profile for Jack Ondracek   Author's Homepage   Email Jack Ondracek   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Barry Floyd
It seems to me the teenagers today don't NEED a job, and if they get one could care less if they actually showed up to work their shift.
Barry's nailed it... we see this frequently as well.

Many of the kids who come out here are either told by their parents to get a job for the experience, or required to do so to pay for electives, such as cell phone overages, etc. It's much less often that we have applicants that come out here because they WANT or NEED to work.

As is the case with most theatres I've been around, we have a core group of employees that, for one reason or another, LIKE working here. We concentrate on those people, and they serve as an example for the new ones that come in.

However, as Barry says, the ethic isn't there any more (for the most part). On the other hand, my daughter and I enjoy the occasions when we need to fill in at the counter or in the kitchen... and I think it's good for the staff to note that their bosses can pretty much step into anyone's shoes, should the situation require.

A friend of mine, who also has a drive-in, hires food service workers from the local school district. They're paid more than most theatres would shell out for concession workers, but he NEVER has to go behind the counter, and they already know how to run a food line. It does cure the problem of worrying about whether his staff will even show up... but they do come with a higher price tag, and their main job at the school pretty much sets his closing date each year.

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