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Universal Studios HR is Everywhere

January 1, 1997
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Related Topics: The HR Profession, Featured Article
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For more than 30 years, Universal Studios Hollywood has been giving guided tours on its 415-acre back lot. As many as 35,000 people tour a day. Besides the back-lot tour, attractions include shows, amusement park-style rides, and numerous shops and restaurants.

How did you end up with this particular job in this industry?
I came into this industry by chance, due to fortuitous networking. I was happily pursuing my career with PepsiCo when an associate informed me of an opportunity at Universal Studios Hollywood. Intrigued, I followed up and was overtaken by the opportunity before me to create a world-class human resources function within an industry that crossed amusement, entertainment and tourism boundaries.

What is your background?
I worked for five years for PepsiCo's Pizza Hut restaurants. Before this, I was almost completely a labor-relations professional and joined the "HR" side of the business when I became the employment manager at a large retail chain.

What are the biggest challenges of your industry?
Meeting the demands of an increasingly sophisticated and diverse consumer, as well as distinguishing the attraction from others.

What challenges do you feel are universal for HR?
To build the team, management and line so as to have the talent and capability to meet and surpass marketplace challenges. To select, develop and retain the talent who can woo the customer in a profitable fashion.

How is HR viewed at your organization?
Just a couple of years ago, the HR department here was called "Personnel and Labor Relations." As the title indicates, the function was viewed as reactive and slow to meet the organization's changing needs. Today, HR is seen as a guiding light in the company's forward movement. It sits at the table and is involved in all essential business strategic thinking; it has become, within a couple of years, the absolute strategic business partner.

What about your job and/or your organization makes you most proud?
I am proud of the management team we have built at Universal Studios Hollywood; its members are passionate about the business and its guests. This is a team that will have the capacity to drive our industry into the millennium. I am equally proud of the commitment and guest service ethic of our front-line employees; they love their guests and it shows.

What is "special" about HR at Universal?
To operate the park's busiest summer ever (1996), 3,500 line employees were hired within 60 days at an 8:1 interview/hire ratio. Considering the complexities of hiring top employees in a competitive urban area, I challenge any organization to top this! Finally, with strong employee-incentive programs working for us, the employees not only stayed through hot days with more than 45,000 guests in the park but asked to stay on in the fall.

Workforce, January 1997, Vol. 76, No. 1, p. 86.

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