Article: How Adlabs Imagica managed its talent challenges


How Adlabs Imagica managed its talent challenges

In an interaction with Pooja Shetty Deora, who oversees the strategy, marketing and brand development at Adlabs Entertainment Limited, Pooja talks about building a brand par excellence with local talent, the challenges she faced and the solutions she provided to tackle them. Read on.
How Adlabs Imagica managed its talent challenges

Imagica was conceptualized not only taking inspiration from one theme park but multiple theme parks around the globe. Pooja is the elder daughter of Manmohan Shetty, Chairman - Adlabs Entertainment. Pooja Shetty has many accolades under her belt for Imagica, the park, under her guidance has won OTM Award for Excellence for Most Promising New Destination Award, India’s Most Trusted Brands 2015 in the Theme Park category, India’s Most Attractive Brands in the Entertainment Category amongst others. Pooja is also supervising the Film production business for Adlabs Entertainment Limited. Under her guidance, the company has produced and released acclaimed films such as Tere Bin Laden (Hindi – 2010) and Rita (Marathi – 2012).  Pooja has a Bachelor’s degree in Science in Management from Purdue University. She is married to Politician Milind Deora. 

Every time the Shettys went on an international trip, a visit to an international theme park was always on their itinerary which lacked in India. It was Pooja’s father Manmohan Shetty’s vision to give India a world class destination for a good quality entertainment experience at an affordable price. Imagica, which took about 4 years to conceptualize and launch, is the first and only theme park of an international scale and standard in the sub-continent envisioned by Adlabs. The Theme Park was incorporated with a vision to setup India’s largest location based family entertainment destination, which was followed by Water Park, Snow Park and Novotel Imagica. 

Given the fact that Imagica is situated outskirts i.e. in the Mumbai-Pune expressway, what were the talent challenges you had to face in developing this 110-acre theme park?

The biggest challenge was getting manpower that will be able to service the guests at international levels. It has been strategic decision to employ local people, as they tend to have a higher stake and loyalty for the organisation. Most of the local residents were under-equipped with the skills required by the service industry due to their limited exposure to employment. 

How did you mitigate these talent challenges? 

Training… Training… and Lots of Training. We spent huge amounts of time putting our employees through rigorous training. A benefit in employing locals was their core values of hospitality and safety. Our objective at the end of the day is for a guest to have an unforgettable experience - magical memories for life.

With this in mind, a long term progressive learning program- ‘Wizards’, in the field of Imagica Service Standards, was introduced in December 2015 which focused on Presentation, Creating magic and Creating rare moments of guest delight. 

To instil the importance of smiling, greeting and active body posture, department wise assessments are conducted to assess their performance on these parameters and appreciation extended to the best performers, to keep them motivated to do better. Innovative approach to service and hospitality is recognised by inviting them to share their ‘stories of wizardry’ - innovation and response from the guests. The average age in the front line employees being 22 years, peer group appreciation works wonders. 

It’s heartening to see the guest facing teams excited and energised to cater to happy experiences. A few sample reviews which highlight the “Wizardry” of our employees:

  • "Without the motivation of the Imagica staff, I would have never sat on Nitro. It was the best and most adventurous experience of my life. A big thank you to the team."
  • "It was a great experience to see children friendly staff, which was my biggest concern while travelling with my toddlers. There was enough for them to do through the day."
  • "I had an awesome time, learning the Imagica steps with their dancers, super cool!"

Considering that you employ more than 1700 employees, what are the employee benefits and incentives you provide since a considerable percentage also comes from the low-income group.

In addition to basic government and leave policies, we also give special benefits to our employees, since we understand a lot of them belong to low-income groups and face family issues.

  • Special Policies
  • Birthday Passes for employee’s families
  • Employees Medical Check-ups
  • Theme park / Water park/ Snow park / Hotel - Special Discounts for Adlabs employees
  • Support in time of need:
  • Loans for Housing, Illness, Education
  • Additional Corporate Buffer for mediclaim expenses
  • Raise donations from employees when there is a family crisis 
  • Selling articles/ furniture at hugely subsidised rates

We also do a lot of engagement activities for the employees, as part of our welfare program. Employees are kept engaged through different tournaments such as Carrom, Volley ball, Singing and Chess competitions as well as celebrating festivities such as Diwali, Navratri, Christmas and Kite flying. We strive to make Imagica a place where employees can have fun as much as our guests. 

What are the training engagements which help in enhancing the employee performance?

At Imagica, we have a twofold approach to our training engagements. Primarily the trainings are directed towards awareness of the quality of our services, though what makes training special at Adlabs is that we also emphasis on programs that enhance professional as well as life skills of our employees enabling them to grow in their knowledge and competences in their respective discipline.

Statutory & Certification based Training: Adlabs Entertainment Ltd, hold certification and quality standard training for all its employees as well as department specific. Some Examples are :

  • IMS (ISO) Certification Awareness for all 
  • Fire Safety Preparedness for all 
  • FSSAI & HACCP for F&B Staff
  • Life Guard Support  for Life Guard @Water Park
  • Product Training
  • Information of the Services and facilities at Park 
  • Information on the pricing and Events at Park 
  • Information on seasonal offers 
  • Behavioural Training: All the front End staff interacting with Guest 
  • Guest Engagement 
  • Eye for Detail 
  • Hospitality 
  • Grooming 
  • Leadership (Role Clarity, Innovation, Role Task Management )
  • Skill training: Specific skill either for development of the staff or as per the requirement of the business 
  • Sales (Upselling / Cross Selling / pitching for sale)
  • Communication (In house, communication is difficult situation etc)
  • English Training (Basic and Advance Course)
  • Technical In-house 
  • Ride Engineering, Plumbing, Electrical , electronics – Engineers 
  • Operator training – Ride and Attractions 
  • Training of various POS and operation software, Panel use etc. – Cashiers 
  • Sales Display – Retail 
  • Technical vendor support. 
  • Vendor introduced products and its operation 

Tell us more on the Wizards Program and Step-Up Program on training.

We want our employees to be well informed and trained, so as to succeed in their careers, whether in our organization or any other. Wizards is one such program that is introduced for ‘Service Excellence”, which addresses learning and business needs of all those employees who are guest facing, to create magic at Imagica. It also orients the staff on the hospitality norms and etiquettes while engaging with the guests. Each of the new employees has to go through the previous module to then appear for the latest version of Wizards.

Another program is Step up for First-time Managers and Mid-level Managers. It focuses on primary and secondary managerial skills, role shift and the Planning coordination skills associated with it.

Imagica is fun place for all. Yet, you cannot rule out the mishaps due to technical faults or for any other reason. What are the precautions you take or your employees are trained to take every day in order to make sure people are having a good time?

Imagica’s Security Department follows a proactive security setup and has many divisions and aspects to assure the quality of safety. Our Security teams of professional personnel have a clear objective - To assist the guests, wherever, whenever and in the best possible way.  

Some of the divisions of the security department are:

On the floor network: Pre-empt and control a situation before it arises – crowd control, fights, lost child, fire breakage etc. 

Lost & Found: To help the guests find any misplaced items.

Internal Fire Department: For an immediate response should the need arise.

HASMAT: A professionally trained HASMAT team to respond to any accidental spills or accidents that may occur within the park.

Medical response team: To assist the guests for a first response to any medical assist.

Command Centre: A very extensive CCTV 24X7 security camera system with personnel monitoring all areas of the park, including the parking lot and external perimeters.

Physical check at entrance: Materials, staff and guests are all frisked and screened before entering the park to prevent the entry of dangerous items 

Safety instructions for every ride: There are specific instructions displayed outside every ride for guests to read and understand the implications. We also have our staff explaining the instructions before every round to ensure minimum negligence.

Day & night patrolling

Coordinated response: All staff members of different departments (operations, F&B, retail etc.) are well trained to keep an eye out and inform of any insecure situations

Regular training of staff: In addition to technology, great focus on training new entrants as well as refreshers periodically

Are you actively looking at expanding the footprint of Imagica, taking it to other regions? 

We are focusing on many opportunities and would like to further develop the area within the three current parks. To do this, currently we are looking to add a “Family Entertainment Center” very soon.

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Topics: Leadership, Talent Management

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