In 2003, as The Henry Ford “America’s Greatest Historical Attraction” was completing a $20 million renovation of its facilities, it also decided to renovate its people systems. The reason was simple: it knew its employees were primarily responsible for creating a successful visitor experience and making the exhibits and historical re-creations “come alive.” It also knew that hundreds of employees had to be hired within a very short period of time once it re-opened following the facilities renovation.
Polaris worked with The Henry Ford to identify the people skills required to provide an outstanding visitor experience. This process focused on a broad range of customer-contact jobs in the culinary, security, visitor services, retail, and historical presentation areas. Application, testing, and interview procedures were developed. Both tests and interviews focused on the core characteristics shown in Figure 1. Statistical validation of the testing procedures verified that scores on the tests related directly to success on the job.
Additionally, a simulation was developed for the Historical Presenter title. In the simulation, a candidate prepared and presented an engaging, yet historically accurate, story. The simulation was used as a final screen for candidates who passed both the testing and interview screening stages.
While efficiency and effectiveness were important, the development of the new methods also focused on ensuring that all candidates were treated professionally and fairly, and would continue to visit Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum.
The excitement associated with its re-opening helped The Henry Ford to have over 4800 applicants for its open positions. Despite this, candidates were processed efficiently and in a candidate-friendly manner–even in large-scale job fair situations. As Director of Workforce Development, Jim Van Bochove said, “Amazingly, virtually every candidate who was rejected appeared to leave on good terms.”
Follow-up evaluations also showed that virtually every training session was filled with positive, involved participants, and supervisors said the group of new hires was one of the best they had ever seen. Statistical evaluations of the new hire group confirmed the results found during the validation study. (For examples see Figures 2-4.)
The summer and fall of 2003 saw record attendance at The Henry Ford. Thanks to its renovated infrastructure and its people systems, the organization has been able to make good on its promise to be “America’s Greatest History Attraction.”