“Last week, I spent the entire week interviewing 70 people for 14 summer jobs,” Brian Merrill tells the hall in San Diego. “I’m struggling now to make my choices because I had a lot of good choices.”
Merrill’s companies, Western River Expeditions and Moab Adventure Center, have not really seen a hiring crisis like much of tourism and the United States. He puts this down to having a company culture that enhances their reputation as an employer.
“One question is, do your applicants know your story? Do they know who you are?” Merrill asked.
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“If they know how you treat your employees, they know that it’s important. I’m not talking about paying them boatloads of money, or your benefits program. That stuff’s important, but people weren’t talking about that.
“They were talking about how they recognize that we value our employees — our employees feel important working for us and they know that they’re part of a team.”
When Merrill took over hiring for the operation with his wife, Dena, they made a commitment to bring in more women. At the time 20% of the guides were women.
Two of the three river guides who inspired Merrill the most had been women, so he asked himself why. The answer was that they were smarter on the river than most men.
With more women leading expeditions, there have been unexpected benefits. 60% of job applications now come from women, and he receives letters from parents.
“Their young daughters came on our trip,” he says. “And saw these powerful women who were just bosses out there. All in the river and doing this job that’s so hard and doing it with grace and amazing ability.
“It has become a business benefit that I hadn’t even expected.”
Brian Merrill will be interviewed at Arival 360 Online on Thursday, February 24, 2022
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