These are heady days for the folks over at State Farm Arena.
The Atlanta Hawks, coming off two straight playoff appearances, boast arguably the league’s premier backcourt in Trae Young and newly acquired Dejounte Murray, while this fall’s concert lineup includes such splashy names as Keith Urban, Post Malone and Lizzo. Looking ahead, as autumn bleeds into winter, the facility will host the college basketball extravaganza ‘Holiday Hoopsgiving’ in the week preceding Christmas.
With the building expected to host sold-out crowds on a regular basis in the coming months, the Hawks, in conjunction with State Farm Arena, held their inaugural ‘Interview Day’ on Sept. 10, where nearly 300 candidates interviewed for part-time roles in various departments including arena conversion, food and beverage, guest experience, housekeeping, security, Hawks retail, ticket box office, flight crew and uniform management. Ultimately, 279 candidates were provisionally hired, remaining subject to a formal background check before being officially hired.
Undoubtedly, this year’s event was unique. For the first time, the franchise opted to not hold its annual recruiting event at an off-site venue (they’ve had hiring events under the shark tank at the Georgia Aquarium and in front of the Ferris wheel at Centennial Park) but rather at State Farm Arena, a state-of-the-art venue that recently underwent a $200 million renovation project.
“We work every day at a world-class arena. We want them [candidates] to see first-hand what it is like to be here before they start working,” said Camye Mackey, EVP and chief people, diversity and inclusion officer for the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena.
Just like the building that hosted Interview Day, the event itself was quite innovative in its approach toward providing jobseekers, some of whom hope to segue into a full-time sports job one day; LaTonya DeBruce, the team’s current manager of recruiting and workforce development, started out on a part-time basis.
The event featured an engaging, interactive recruiting experience, one that relied heavily on audiovisual techniques to showcase the organization’s inclusive, progressive-minded internal culture steeped in southern hospitality. After meeting with hiring managers, those candidates who successfully proceeded through the screening and interview processes and were eventually offered employment enjoyed a post-event celebration attended by Harry the Hawk and the ATL Hawks Dancers.
“It was really a full-circle day where they got a chance to go through all the core steps of the hiring and interviewing process,” added Mackey. “But I think the surprise and delight at the end came once they were told that provisionally they were hired. There was a big celebration for them. And it was just a fun time for all of us,” he stated.
Close to 300 interviewees attended the event and was a testament to the Hawks deftly navigating the world of social media to spread awareness of the employment opportunities, ones that promise to offer a certain degree of flexibility in addition to access to discounted healthcare services, five paid major holidays, and paid training and development, among other perks.
“From a marketing standpoint, one thing that we really try to do is be intentional with our efforts,” explained Mackey. “And intentionally, we leveraged social media. As far as some of the other marketing elements, we went into communities that may or may not traditionally come out to apply for jobs with us. We have an amazing marketing team and brand communications [team] that were able to go out. We were very pleased with the marketing efforts for this particular event.”
When asked to provide his assessment of how the event unfolded, Brett Stefansson, Hawks’ EVP and general manager of State Farm Arena, echoed a similar sentiment.
“I think it went fantastic,” said Stefansson. “We want people that really fit into our organization from a culture perspective. We have so many events as our event load continues to grow, the need for more and more both part-time and full-time staff continues to be a driver for us. This was a huge shot in the arm as we look to start this upcoming season. If we’re able to get those folks on board, it helps continue to drive toward our goal of being a world-class arena.”
We want people that really fit into our organization from a culture perspective. We have so many events as our event load continues to grow, the need for more and more both part-time and full-time staff continues to be a driver for us.
Aside from the recent infrastructural enhancements, the Hawks’ home is truly a world-class arena when engaged employees feel empowered to provide fans with an optimal in-game experience — whether that be going out of the way to walk fans 50 yards down the concourse to find their seats or taking the initiative to grab a new bucket of popcorn for the patron who just dropped theirs on the floor.
“Creating a great night out for our fans has always been a priority for us,” added Stefansson. “In doing that, we really focus on three key things: operational excellence, fan experience, and employee experience. This is really emphasizing the employee experience part. If you’re able to create what we think is an incredible, unique hiring event, it’s really an initial indoctrination into the culture of State Farm Arena and the Atlanta Hawks. And what that does for that potential new hire is it creates this ‘wow’ moment. ‘Wow! Was that a hiring event or was that a party? What was that?”
Stefansson concluded, “It leaves this impression on them, that they just go home and tell their friends. But the reality behind what that does, is that allows them to directly relate that experience and transition into being an employee with us, and then deliver that same experience to our fans. They know and understand how that made them feel, and now their goal is to translate that into making our fans feel the exact same way. I think there’s this really cool perpetual cycle of great employee experience that translates into great fan experience.”