Case Study: Ziptrek Ecotours: Retention of Talent Critical to Business Success

Ziptrek Ecotours was the recipient of the 2012 Employees First Award.

Located in the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Ziptrek Ecotours employs 150 staff in the peak summer season. They have just celebrated their 10th anniversary in business in summer 2012.

“At Ziptrek Ecotours, we are in the business of creating authentic customer experiences and our core operating model is built around connecting with our guests,” says Liza Walli, former Director, Human Resources of Ziptrek Ecotours. “Our employees are the guest experience ‘difference makers’ so retention and the ongoing engagement of top talent are critical to the success of our business.”

Ziptrek is committed to establishing a strong corporate culture among team members, from front-line to management. Here are a few examples:

  • New hires gain immediate access to employee intranet to find information such as policies & procedures, employee handbook, training documents, forms, events calendar and live forums to chat with other employees. Small orientation groups are formed to ensure individual questions and concerns of each new employee are addressed.
  • Partnership with a local ski resort allows winter seasonal employees to transfer to Ziptrek in the summer with very little adjustments required.
  • Salaried employees receive an annual budget to support their professional development; front-line employees can participate in a mentorship program and be coached by senior staff.
  • An innovative system enables employees to receive up-to-the-minute tour statuses via intranet or text messages and they have the flexibility to arrange shift changes online with their peers.
  • A 360 review process gives management team an opportunity to receive feedback from their peers, reports and managers.
  • Numerous staff recognition initiatives include a monthly award for front-line staff that is peer-nominated and management-selected; celebrations for length of service of staff; Employee & Leader of the Year awards; Employee of the Week recognition during the peak season; and an annual birthday party to celebrate each year of Ziptrek’s success.
  • An employee assistance fund is available to support staff in times of need, from counseling to emergency grocery shop or prescription coverage. Ziptrek has also donated more than $15,000 over the last three years to Whistler Community Services, a local non-for-profit that have provided additional support for staff.

As a result, Ziptrek was able to maintain a peak season turnover rate of less than 10%. According to its 2012 Employee Engagement Survey, 93% of employees said they are proud to tell people they work for Ziptrek Ecotours and would recommend the company to others as an employer.

“Successful recruitment and retention of employees ultimately drives tourism businesses’ bottom line,” says Arlene Keis, CEO of go2HR. “Ziptrek’s engaged and motivated workforce has led to the delivery of exceptional guest experience – we congratulate them on their success.”