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Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Flexible Team

One of the toughest challenges in our industry is staffing a year round operation with a short, very busy tourist season. There are seasonal challenges. It's necessary to grow the staff before the peak days for training purposes. Often the best staff from the peak season are asked to help either part-time or full-time in the decline. Unfortunately, it is sometimes necessary to cut battle tested help during the low months.

I have seen some excellent strategies in play at seasonal operations. The common denominator is a strong core staff onboard year round. Most of the top operators have a flex-staff available whenever they are needed. These part-time people are typically well compensated and fill in gaps at big parties or special events. A number of savvy operators take advantage of college internships when hiring for the peak season.

During this month, I have received quite a few emails from those who wish to remain anonymous. I want to encourage all readers to participate in this dialogue. Specifically, tell us what works and does not work in your seasonal staffing strategy.

We had to staff the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary to handle food service and housekeeping for the media and the Nordic athletes at Canmore. The two weeks took place during the school year and little help was available from local students. Housing of out-of-town help was cost prohibitive. Our contract specified top notch food service at each venue.

To give every detail of our strategy would take too long for this blog. We rented trailers used in the arctic to house personnel and borrowed old school buses from local districts to bus our help. The workers were recruited from all over Canada. Most of the staff would have been chefs at their normal workplace. These pros were happy to help out Canada in it's bid to host a memorable two weeks for the athletes.

The Nordic athletes like lots of carbohydrates. You can't offer too many grains and starches. Macaroni and cheese is a favorite. They really do not load up on sweets. The diet is very nutritious and I would imagine marathon runners would be at home in a Nordic camp.

Our chefs adapted rapidly to the demands and produced high quality meals which satisfied the athletes. Our team received accolades for the wonderful quality and attention to patron wishes. In the end, it was tough to see all the talented people leave our company and return to their positions around the country. Seasonal operators do this each and every year.

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