Making a Great Place to Work

 Many casinos have found that a particularly effective means for reducing labor relations problems before they arise is to hire committed workers with positive attitudes. By developing a reputation as a great place to work, casinos will attract many potentially productive workers who take pride in their work, intheir casinos and in what they produce.

How does a casino develop such a reputation? By implementing a strategic human resources action plan. The first step is to set forth a hiring and selection strategy to attract people who fit into the corporate culture. The plan mustalso assign responsibilities, such as naming those who will be accountable for its implementation and those who will be its coordinators. It must list the necessary resources required to make the plan successful, and it must also establish deadlines for reaching specific goals.

Overall, the plan must be able to address workers’ issues, which means implementing a strategy for not only listening to what workers have to say, but also demonstrating that the company hears them and responds in ways that demonstrate concern. When their issues are addressed, workers not only feel appreciated, but they become integral members of winning teams. They know that they are team players. They also understand that they are stake-holders in their company; they have a vested interest not only in the outcome of their ownefforts, but also in the overall results that will be achieved by the company.

Maintain a healthy dialogue

We have put in place a variety of programs that have resulted in employees knowing that they work for great companies, and all of the programs have acritical component based on two-way communications between management andworkers. It begins with management asking questions, listening to the words and deeds that satisfy the needs of workers.

In a variety of venues, workers should get to express themselves to management. If management does not listen and respond positively, then problems will fester and all sorts of labor relations problems may arise.

To avoid such problems, we have designed programs at many companies so that regular meetings are held where workers first state their concerns to management, and then management asks for proposed solutions. If a solution issuitable for solving a problem, then it is implemented. If workers feel inhibited about speaking in front of large groups, they are invited to write out questions and deposit them in an “answer box.” Employees then receive private responses to their questions. Another kind of program that we have created is a“let’s hear it now” monthly meeting. These are informal sessions where information is shared, questions are asked and answers given.

Communication does not just mean talking and listening. Properties must communicate their concern and interest in the welfare of employees by creating situations that permit workers to control more of their lives. For example, incertain situations, workers may be provided with flexible work schedules; orthey may be permitted to telecommute; and in some cases, workers may be permitted to compress their work schedules, so they work longer days, but shorter weeks.

Making the workplace more healthful and reducing stress are also goals that areappreciated by workers and result in greater levels of productivity. For example, numerous companies now have onsite fitness programs, subsidize on-site fitness centers and provide yoga as well as aerobic exercise classes.

When possible, companies may also provide unpaid sabbaticals for those employees who have been with the company for a specified number of years. The amount oftime for an unpaid sabbatical can vary according to seniority.

Program possibilities  

Here is a menu of programs that can be combined and refined to satisfy the needs of particular workers and help create a reputation for a company as a great place to work.

-Recreation programs: Sponsor video game tournaments, movie nights, tripsto the theater, wine tasting trips, weekend skiing trips and attendance atsporting events.

-Financial incentives: Put a percentage of employees’ salaries into401(k) plans, offer free investment advice from professionals and provide interest-free loans for college.

-Equal opportunity: In a company with a large portion of female employees, there should be a proportionately large number of women who are promoted to managerial positions.

-Recipient gifts:  When a mother gives birth, she and/or her spouse may be the grateful recipients of a cash bonus, a savings bondin the name of the new born child and free at-home cleaning services for aspecified period of time.

-Mentor programs: Every new employee can have a mentor, and a variety ofnon-work activities should then be planned for mentors and mentees, such as baseball games, golf outings, lunches and dinners, etc. New employees who are mentored tend to have high rates of productivity, quickly learn new tasks and develop an appreciation of corporate goals.

-A warm welcome: New employees may get signing bonuses based upon their levels of competence and experience. Their spouses might receive bouquets of flowers,and, if they have children, each children receive an age-appropriate gift.

-Sales goals: If employees reach or exceed sales goals, each may receive a cashbonus, free membership in a health club, a night out with a spouse at a favorite restaurant, play or sporting event.

-Relax and enjoy life: Employees may receive monthly messages, regular yogaclasses, free manicures and makeovers. They may also be invited to participate in golf outings and company sponsored picnics, among various other recreational activities.

-Training: If companies provide workers with extra training the permits them toundertake increased responsibilities and ascend the corporate ladder, theworkers will feel increased loyalty and understand that they ate stake-holdersin their company. As management promotes from within, workers feel they have anincentive to strive and achieve success.

Enhancing reputations

An ongoing strategic human resources plan will ensure that a casino develops areputation as a great place to work. If such a reputation is not to crack andcrumble, it must be built upon a solid foundation of asking, listening, talkingand acting in response to employee needs and issues. Management cannot since rely ask, listen and respond if it is ignorant about those with whom it converses.Therefore, management should know each worker’s name, job description and familybackground, and be familiar with each worker’s performance record. Such basic knowledge implies a level of care and concern.

An employer’s genuine concern for employee welfare will go a long way toward establishing trust. Having successfully communicated concern for employees,manage-ment can open more direct channels of communication, knowing that itscredibility is secure.

Another part of the plan is the exit interview. When someone leaves a casino,management does not want its carefully crafted reputation impugned by an unhappyemployee. During an exit interview, management can learn a great deal about problems that an employee may have been hesitant to express while employed. One can garner valuable information about where a company must improve working conditions, where it needs to make changes in its corporate culture, and how toincrease its own levels of trust and credibility. Such insights will ultimatelyserve to enhance levels of productivity and efficiencies. It is also importantfor management to reiterate its commitment to employee welfare by explaining any misinterpretations that the departing employee may have.

The most self-destructive thing that a company can do to its repute-tion as agreat place to work is to develop an adversarial relationship with its workers.Such relationships are an implicit invitation to militant unions to organize workers and inspire them to commit slowdowns, walkouts and strikes.

The strategic human resources action plan is designed to break down adversarial relations and establish perceptions of management’s goodwill. If followed, it will ensure years of increased productivity and profitability-results that go directly to a casino’s bottom line.

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