Who Are Casinos Hiring?

The simple answer to the question in the headline for this article is “no one.”  At least that’s the case for some casinos the past year or so.  Because of the tough economic climate and their own financial situation, many casinos have avoided some layoffs by simply letting people leave and not replacing them. 

But please look beyond today’s economic situation and give serious thought to that question.  It could have very complex answers.  When  you do sign on new people, who do you hire?

As many of you know, I’m an expert in the area of casino service and the guest experience, so I fully admit that human resources is not my area of study.  But when it comes down to giving guests a great, exciting experience that compels them to tell their friends about it, well that experience is delivered by employees.  I know some of you call them team members or stars, but no matter how you spin it, they are the first line of contact with guests and a significant reason for why customers do or don’t come back.

To all the general managers that have given the speech about machines are machines and tables are tables, I thank you!  But the harsh reality is that no matter how big you build your casino or how amazing and challenging your golf course is, the place where the real action happens is the confluence of your employees and your guests.  That’s where employees work one on one with guests to provide service.

So take a moment and go back to my question:  who do you hire?

If you are like some people, you hire people who are like you because, after all, you like yourself.  As self-centered as it sounds, many of us like to be around people who are like ourselves.  If a person tells me they like to fly fish, they immediately go up several points in my book.

On a more serious note, I see today’s labor pool as a real hiring opportunity.  With many people out of work or looking for a better career fit, this is the time to get out there and buy talent while it’s on sale.  A couple of years ago, people were making demands before they were even hired.  Today, those same people are thrilled to simply have the opportunity to talk to anyone in a position to give them a job.  Not everyone has been smacked by today’s economic difficulties, but many have.  They are more appreciative and more willing to talk from a realistic point of view.

Some well known and highly developed casino markets are struggling.  This means you can find talented and experienced people.  I also suggest seriously looking outside the gaming talent pool.  For example, many well educated people in the area of finance are looking for jobs.  They may never have worked in a casino, but they are real chief financial officers who know the importance of accurate data in the decision-making process.  I use financial as an example because the available warm bodies in that industry are almost limitless.

But be careful!  You need to do more than just find good talent.  You need to find the right people for the right job.  You need a good fit and that good fit is not always obvious.  For example, just because a person has shown great service skills doesn’t mean they will be an amazing beverage server or, worse yet, a good guest service manager.  Having the skills to provide great service means just one thing – they are good at service.

So as I look at the question about who casinos hire, I’m drawn to the very critical role of selection.  It’s about choosing the people who have the right characteristics for the job you have open.  Sounds simple doesn’t it?   Here’s a person who has been a beverage server for 20 years and you need a beverage server.  It’s so easy!  Or is it?  Does this person have the right skills and personality traits to do the job the way you need it done in your casino?  Just because they have done a particular job doesn’t mean it was a good fit for them and their employer.  I do employee training on a regular basis, but I’m an introvert with low interpersonal sensitivity.  Not exactly the first choice for facilitators.

So what can you do?  If you are not using a third party to do pre-employment assessments of your possible new hires, you are shooting yourself in the foot at best.  The assessments take all the hope and guess work out of it.  I know some of you are thinking human resources doesn’t have money to spend on assessments.  Actually, they do if you look at the terrible cost of employee turnover.  According to research from Cornell University, it costs $5,000 to replace the average hospitality employee.  For the cost of making one bad guess and creating one wrong fit, you could pay for almost 200 assessments and possibly create multiple good fits.  Are pre-hire assessments guaranteed?   Of course not.  But they are much better than believing what comes out of the mouth of someone who is hungry for a job.

Simply put, you need to think about who you hire and if you are not using pre-employment assessments, you are making a bet that will not pay off over time.  If you don’t know how your pre-employment system works, please ask.  This is a very important step in building a long-term, championship-caliber team.

This article originally appeared in Native American Casino.

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.

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