“At ITPS…Fun is a SERIOUS Business! 

DEVELOPING A SUCCESSFUL TRAINING PROGRAM
by:  Shawn M. Haas

Today it is becoming even more challenging to find and retain qualified employees for your family entertainment center. There is more competition out there than ever, not only from competitors, but from businesses such as shopping centers and fast food restaurants. Having a structured training program in this competitive marketplace is more important than ever.

Leisure facilities have always known that well-trained employees make for a smoother operation. What does it take to develop an effective training program? Just getting up in front of your staff and lecturing or showing them how to make change or how to cook french fries is not enough. A good training program goes much deeper. A training program needs to have planning and documentation to support what is being taught. Much like a teacher in a school, a lesson plan needs to be created. This plan is usually becomes the textbook for class instruction. For an entertainment center, training should be based on the facility’s operating manuals that have been developed during the pre-opening planning phase of the project.

Manuals have to be written for the facility that specifically detail the operating procedures, safety, guest service, and operating issues which a facility has to work. It is from these manuals that a lesson plan can be developed and the training program be started. The facility has to determine the most important aspects of the manuals and utilize those areas in the training program.

The typical training program focuses on three areas: orientation, operation, and on-the-job task training. It is critical that all employees follow the training program no matter their experience level. It is equally important that all senior management go through the training so they know exactly how the employees are trained and the facility’s policies.

Let’s take a look first at orientation training. Orientation should focus on four main topics: Company Mission, Safety, Guest Service and Teamwork.

It is important to explain to your staff why the facility was opened, what its goals are, and where the project is headed. The mission sets the tone for how the facility will operate. If the employees do not know what the mission is, they will probably not have the proper focus for their job.

Next is safety. First and foremost above everything else in an entertainment facility is keeping all areas safe. Safety can never be stressed enough when it comes to operating your facility. Employees need to be aware that the facility has a strong safety focus so that they are always following safety procedures. Employees must be trained to report any unsafe conditions in the facility no matter how trivial the condition may seem to them. Small unsafe conditions can and will usually turn into something much larger that could cause serious liability problems for the facility.

Our guests are an equally important aspect of our business, which leads us to the second most import aspect of our training, guest service. When we treat people as guests, we provide them more respect. We actually see them as people and not dollar signs as we do when we refer to them as customers. Employees need to understand the importance of our attitude towards guest policy and take the positive initiative when dealing with them. Without “guests,” the facility will not be in business long. Employees must learn to take the initiative when dealing with guests, so that they become repeat guests.

It is important that employees work together as a team. Everyone in the facility has the same goal, the same mission as was stated earlier. No one in the facility is better or more important than anyone else. Yes some employees may be better with guests, but may have trouble in the snack bar, each employee is talented in his or her own way. It’s how they work together that makes the facility run smoothly and be appreciated by the guests.

Next is orientation. Orientation should also include a walk-through of the facility so that the employees can physically see where they will be working. This helps put things into a perspective, especially in a newly constructed facility. In a new facility, orientation usually will take place prior to the facility being completed. The employees won’t have a good idea of what the facility is going to be until they see it and walk it. Even showing the facility during construction will benefit the staff. Without a good understanding of the physical layout of the facility, the employees will not be able to service the guests effectively on the first day. Make sure they are familiar with every aspect of the design.


Additional items that should be covered in Orientation include filling out any necessary paperwork, securing uniforms, distributing the employee handbook, discussing employee benefits, and, very important, a period for through discussion of all issues with which employees will be working.

The next phase of training is operation. This is most important issue for your staff. How they will perform their job. What they need to know when they get to their operating position. There are many facets of the entertainment center and each is unique in its operation, and each equally important. Make sure every employee is up to date on what is required of them in their working role at the facility.

Important features that operation training needs to include are: opening and closing procedures for each area. Checklists should be created to ensure that the employee knows what needs to be done to prepare to open. This may include cleaning, safety checking, food preparation, and stocking displays. The same is true of closing procedures. An employee needs to close the facility in a proper manner.

Operation training should also include various guest involvement situations that may occur during the actual operation. Role playing is a good way to teach and train employees. Situations such as:

what to do in the event of a lost child,
how to handle a short-change artist,
dealing with an upset or irate guest.

It would be next to impossible to train employees in every situation that can occur since every situation is different. Providing typical role playing situations will give the employees an excellent idea of how a problem should be addressed. As we all know, if it can happen, it will, no matter how strange or funny it seems. In presenting guest situations, it is important to get feedback from the training class on how the situation was handled, whether it is good or bad. This will definitely help them to understand why situations are handled by following set procedures.

Because each area of the facility operates uniquely, employees will need to be trained in multiple areas. This means that an employee should not only be trained how to work the play structure, but also trained to work the cash register or the snack bar. Cross-training gives the manager the flexibility to move staff around and be comfortable knowing that the employee understands what they are supposed to do when they are moved to a different location.

Now that we have given our employees manuals and training we can open the doors and let the guests in while the managers sit in the office counting the profits, right? That is a major misconception. There is one final step in the training process: On-the-Job Training. Managers must work closely with the new staff to ensure that employees fully understand their job. And are following policies and procedures constantly. This is the period when the employees are most unsure of themselves. They need someone there should they have a situation they do not feel they can handle. This will also boost employee morale. Employees appreciate it when their managers are working with them on the front lines.

A well planned structured training program is critical to the success of every entertainment center. No matter how wonderful the facility, or how much marketing is done, the employees make a lasting impression on your guests. A guest can love the facility, but if they are treated poorly, or the employee doesn’t know what they are doing, the guest may never return. Be certain that the guest will spread the word quickly of their experience, good or bad.

Training should not stop after the initial training program is conducted. Monthly or bimonthly refresher training sessions will benefit all who work at the facility. These sessions could focus on the guests comments or new ways to work more efficiently. Get feedback from the employees on how the facility is operating. They know the best since they are on the front lines seeing and hearing everything. Many manuals and training programs have been positively changed due to employee input from meetings of this type.

Remember that a well-trained staff is the backbone to the success of the overall operation.  

Feasibility Analysis - Design / Masterplanning - Pre-Opening Operations Planning - Management

International Theme Park Services, Inc.
International Theme Park Services, Inc.

Contact ITPS

2195 Victory Parkway
Cincinnati, Ohio 45206
United States of America
Phone: 513-381-6131

http://www.interthemepark.com
itps@interthemepark.com