Anna Du Pré meets Jane Hubbard, Director of HR at Chester Zoo to find out more about running one of the UK’s largest tourist attractions.
As the one of the UK's largest tourist attractions, there must be a huge workforce. Can you tell us a little bit about this? How many people you employ and the range of jobs fulfilled?
Yes, we are the UK’s most visited tourist attraction outside London, so it takes a large dedicated team to run a visitor attraction on that scale. That is not to mention that we also have 21,000 animals to care for, 5 national plant collections to conserve and more than 80 wildlife conservation projects to run in 30 countries around the world. We employ up to 1,000 people in the peak summer months, including a wonderful army of seasonal staff helping us create a world class visitor experience. In winter our team drops to around 500.
This is made up of animal keepers, vets, educators, botanists, field programme conservationists and scientists who are delivering our charitable mission of preventing extinction, as well as a huge team enabling us to achieve this mission from fundraisers to IT experts, administrative specialists, security staff, food and beverage and retail teams, and many more. On top of all this, we have more than 200 active visitor engagement volunteers who give up their time to be part of something important and help us achieve our mission.
What do you look for in job candidates?
We are lucky to receive more than 18,000 job applications every year. We live by our values to be mission motivated, passionate people, working together to be the best, so that’s what we look for in anyone who wants to join our team.
How do you keep such a large workforce motivated and committed to the values and ethos of the zoo?
Every one of us here is a conservationist. Whether you are serving coffee to visitors, caring for our animals or running our field programmes in Africa, you are helping to make a huge difference to wildlife conservation. So we work hard to ensure everyone here is aware of the impact they we are having on the world.
Do you do team away days and if so where do you go? Any that stand out for you as being particularly special?
We really believe that it’s important to give all our team, no matter what the job role, a chance to experience the full range of our work beyond the boundary of the zoo here in Chester. That’s why every year we send a team of staff out to one of our 80 wildlife conservation field projects. Everyone has the opportunity to put their names into a draw, and the names drawn out of the hat will join our team of conservation and science specialists in the field.
This year, our team are going to Madagascar, where we have been working to protect threatened habitats for wildlife such as lemurs and golden mantella frogs. Madagascar is our planet’s most diverse island, so it is vital that we protect the homes of such a wonderful abundance of species. And whether you are part of our maintenance team or a marketing specialist, everyone has skills to contribute. It’s not your typical ‘away day’, but it’s a big part of who we are!
Best thing about working for the zoo?
What’s not to like?! 125 acres of beautiful zoological gardens, with 21,000 animals isn’t a bad workplace. But the story of the zoo (Chester Zoo was founded as the UK’s first zoo without bars with animal welfare at its heat) and the ability to contribute towards preventing the extinction of threatened wildlife is something that drives us all every day.