Employment Characteristics and Retention Predictors Among Hourly Employees in Large US Theme Parks and Attractions


turnover, human resources, theme parks, employement characteristics, hourly employees


Purpose– The aim of this paper is to evaluate and analyze hourly line-level employees' characteristics and their perceptions of their employment experience in large US theme parks and attractions, as well as to explore predictors for their retention.

Design/methodology/approach– The research instrument adopted a theoretical framework based on previous retention studies of hourly employees in various industries. Following a qualitative phase with theme park employees, the survey was tailored to the uniqueness of the industry. Since major theme park companies are protective of their employee database, a “snowball” sampling technique was adopted using a variety of Social Networking Sites (SNS). A total of 307 usable responses were attained.

Findings– The results indicated that of the 27 employment characteristics studied, the most important were perceived to be advancement opportunities, humane approach to employees, and a fun and challenging job. Importance-Performance analysis revealed that the largest gaps were recorded in the areas of pay, advancement opportunities, and a humane approach to employees. The results also confirmed that hourly employees' retention was predicted by employees' level of satisfaction, better experience with pay, and better experience with employee development training classes. However, hourly employee retention was also predicted by the employees' negative experience with flexible working hours and performance reviews.

Research limitations/implications Data collection through Social Networking Sites (SNS) may not necessarily be as reliable a source for data collection as other methodologies, though some contemporary research justifies its reliability. Utilizing the “snowball” technique and the absence of random sampling may have slanted the responses. Although demographic data on the typical theme park employee is unavailable, the data was skewed towards younger employees who may not necessarily represent other age groups. Due to the US theme park industry's leading presence in Central Florida, the sample primarily represented hourly employees working for the Central Florida theme park industry.

Practical implications– As the labor pool continues to decline, employers must adopt new creative strategies to keep their employees and attract new ones at the same time. This may be attained by developing and revising mission statements, values, and corporate visions that may be applicable to hourly employees: the largest labor segment in the theme park and attraction industry.

Originality/value– While recent hospitality turnover research focused on its antecedents, this study explores the predictors of why employees stay. Previous retention studies have focused on hotels or restaurants and not on the unique group of theme park hourly employees that work in different settings and employment conditions. Knowing why people stay can help reduce turnover and thus lower the cost of staffing.

Publication Date


Original Citation

Milman, A. & Dickson, D. R. (2014). Employment characteristics and retention predictors among hourly employees in large U.S. theme parks and attractions. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 26(3). 447-469.

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Source Title

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management






Rosen College of Hospitality Management


Rosen College of Hospitality Management

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