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How Dollywood is Tackling the Labor Challenge in 2022

We all know labor shortages plagued consumers everywhere in 2021. While we can’t control global pandemics and the ripple effects, we can commit to proactive steps toward retention, recruitment and care of our Dollywood family. Word is getting out because we’re proud to be named to a couple of great lists: Forbes Best Workplaces in America 2022 and Top Workplaces USA 2022!

I want to share what I know about steps we’ve taken to ensure there are more smiling hosts to greet and serve your family when you visit with us in 2022.

How It’s Going

Flipping the calendar didn’t work like the wave of a wand. If you check Indeed.com today (Feb. 25, 2022), there are nearly 6,000 jobs available in Sevier County where Dollywood is located. If you widen that search to jobs in a 50-mile radius, there are more than 31,000 jobs posted. However, the candidate pool isn’t as large.

What I can tell you is that we are excited that 94% of our hosts from last season are returning in 2022! And, we have held several off-season hiring events that have been very successful. We’re ahead of our target for positions accepted! We expect to be back to pre-pandemic levels by the beginning of April.

Beyond retention, we know we need to attract new hosts to the Dollywood family, so our teams have really put their heads together to come up with the best opportunities for job seekers in this region. I’ll list the notable efforts below.

Competitive Wages and Premium Pay Periods

Dollywood is always seeking to improve. Over the past few years, Dollywood has bumped up pay, awarded bonuses to all hosts and offered premium pay periods for especially-busy times. We know the bottom line matters, so Dollywood has been assertive in wage strategy.

Grow U

You may have heard that we just introduced a new program that offers our hosts the opportunity to earn a degree 100% debt-free or choose a program that is partially covered. From day one, we now offer all Dollywood Company hosts these options. Imagine tuition PLUS the cost of books and fees paid for you! This applies to all hosts—part-time, full-time, etc. We hope/expect this should really help us hire motivated men and women across all of our properties. Learn about the details of Grow U.

 

WeeCare

Many times, parents will make the decision to stay home, because the cost of childcare eats the whole paycheck! To answer this concern, Dollywood partnered with WeeCare affiliates. In this program, Dollywood subsidizes part of the childcare bill and even offers a concierge service to help families find daycares in this network!

 Flexibility

Students and parents are two groups of people who are the perfect example of folks who need flexibility. Well, when you have a theme park, water park and 24-hour lodging properties (resort and cabins), we are looking for people to work all kinds of shifts! From seasonal help to overnight shifts and once a week to Monday-Friday office jobs, there is probably a place for you at Dollywood.

Benefits

While putting food on the table is the priority, most employees want benefits that help their family in the long run, too. Dollywood offers health, dental and vision insurance as well as 401(k) and profit sharing. It’s also important to note paid time off (holiday, vacation, sick and flex pay), life insurance and short-term disability is available.

Free Lunch

Dollywood hosts used to get a hot lunch every shift for $2.50. Starting this year, Dollywood is waiving the fee altogether! Hosts at every property now have the opportunity to eat a free meal during their shift. (For me, I usually pack a lunch. This will help me save on my grocery bill!)

Free Uniforms

On the day you come for orientation, you also visit our Wardrobe Department. There, the team will measure you and before the end of the day you will be given all the attire pieces you need for your work location. And as things wear out, you snag a hole, lose or gain weight, you just go to Wardrobe where they take care of what you need. I’ve been here for seven years, and I’m still impressed.

Leadership Development

Dollywood cares about hosts’ personal and career growth. From advancement within the company to classes and networking that’s encouraged during work hours, if you want to sharpen your skills and climb, there are ample opportunities. I know I have benefitted from my leaders’ interest in me beyond getting my tasks done.

Wholistic Approach

Working at Dollywood means that I have access to an onsite healthcare center. I can use it as a walk-in clinic or as my primary care. From basic office visits, to flu shots, prescriptions and lab work, it’s a very convenient perk. Additionally, there is a health strategies nurse who schedules appointments with hosts who are seeking help reaching health goals.

Not only does Dollywood take care of my physical health needs, but my company even makes a chaplain available! As big as Dollywood is, Chaplain Joey Buck visited us at the hospital when my son arrived five weeks early and spent some time in the NICU. And, when I lost my mom unexpectedly, he reached out to offer prayer and to tell me about grief support. I’m grateful for a company that pays an employee to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I needed that, and I’m sure countless other Dollywood hosts have similar stories.

Fun Perks

I would be remiss if I neglected to tell you that Dollywood hosts receive free admission to Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country. (I get in for free and so do my husband and children.) Outside of immediate families, Dollywood hosts get free tickets to share with friends and family. Hosts receive a discount on merchandise and food at our parks as well as a discount on lodging. And, while Dollywood is just about as fun as it gets, hosts even receive free admission to other area/regional attractions through our exchange program with other businesses.

Community Outreach

To pull more locals into our Dollywood family, we are intentional with community outreach. We partner with schools in Hamblen, Jefferson and Cocke Counties and in Seymour to bus students and school staff to work with us during the summer. We know that can be a long drive from some of these communities (and gas money!), so we take that on for them. For teachers and school staff members, we even offer incentives to help them purchase classroom supplies when they sign on to work with us.

Workcampers

For those who love to travel and live in their RVs, we have a great workcamper program. Dollywood is always a sought-after workcamper placement. We pay 50% of workcampers’ campsite fees!

New Housing

Because the well can run dry when it comes to local employees, we are building housing that will enable us to bring in folks from outside East Tennessee. The first phase is intended for domestic and international students. It should be ready this spring!

We’ve been looking for workforce solutions for some time now. Dollywood was selected to participate in the Department of Labor’s H-2B program which allows employers to temporarily hire non-immigrants to perform labor or services in the United States. We traveled to Jamaica and hired 200 hosts to join us in 2022! This highly-regulated program ensures that American workers are protected and not displaced while giving Jamaican workers opportunities they may not otherwise have in their home country. We are excited to host the workers through Dec. 30. They will be among the residents at this new on-campus property! These hosts will be eligible for all the same benefits other hosts receive.

Hopefully, this list gives you insight to the heartbeat of our company. We have big plans for the future, and we understand that means we need to offer attractive compensation (and then some). From where I sit, Dollywood is a great place to work, and we’re working diligently to bring in more friendly faces!

By | 2022-11-14T16:35:36+00:00 February 26th, 2022|Community|0 Comments

About the Author:

Amber Davis is in the thick of navigating life as a working mom. She regularly balances meetings and tantrums —from her children, not coworkers. Growing up in Knoxville, Amber visited Dollywood and Sevier County often and now loves to share the same experiences with her own young family. Read More!
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