Case Study: Recruiting Seasonal Workers at Zipzone

Recruiting seasonal workers can be time consuming and challenging. Josh Sears, co-owner of the Zipzone in Peachland has developed a way to save time and maintain a 50% retention rate year after year.

Josh Sears, Zipzone, Peachland, BC

Sears recruits mostly university students to be zip line guides. They don’t have to be tourism students. Sears gets a wide variety of applicants including kinesiology students and even a rocket scientist in training.

He attracts applicants by advertising on a local news website, at UBC Okanagan, Okanagan College, and go2HR. “We do a group intake interview,” he explained, “I can interview 30 – 40 people in one day by having group interviews of 10 or more in each group.” Sears creates a dynamic where everyone at the interview knows they are competing with everyone else in the group. Then he asks them to self-organize into two groups.

The group is given 15 minutes to create a skit they can act out. “At the 10-minute mark I tell them they have two minutes left and then I mix it up and take some people out of each group and exchange them to the other group. We do this because they need to know how to shift on the fly. It helps me see how well they adapt to the real world operation of the business.”

After the skit is complete he moves on to step two of the interview. “I put out the gear and have them gear each other up. The gear is a disaster when they set up but I don’t care. I’m watching how they interact; how they introduce themselves and talk to the people they are gearing up. Everyone here works in pairs, so the group interviews show me how people work together on a moment’s notice.”

Once everyone is geared up Sears asks them two questions: “Why do you want to work at Zipzone and why should I hire you.”

At the end of the interview he walks with them to the zip line and asks them, if after all they’ve been through, do they still want to work here. If they say yes, they are one step closer to being hired. “I want people to ask me for the job,” he said. “It’s part of the weeding out process.”

Seventy-five percent of the people who go through this interview process thank Sears and tell him it’s the coolest thing they’ve ever done.

“Everyone we hire does skill tests, practical and written. Then there is an integration process where they are paired with a senior staff member who takes the lead and shows them how to do things beyond what they’ve learned. I am constantly watching and coaching them because I want them to succeed.”

This constant training and mentoring has proven invaluable to Sears and Zipzone. Their staff is happy and gains confidence throughout the training and mentoring process. “We push our staff to do things they’ve never done before and to become leaders. It is an intangible skill set they take with them to their next job.”

The result: in a seasonal tourism industry, Zipzone has a 50 per cent retention rate. “We make sure our staff are always engaged and working in a collaborative manner. We produce gregarious and confident people who have technical skills and who leave with other skills that give them the ability to be our future leaders.”

The bottom line, according to Sears, is simple. “Hire people with a positive attitude over someone who aces the interview. We do this and we have one of the best retention rates out there for a seasonal business.”