Five Simple Solutions for the Managerially Challenged
by Martin R. Baird

Five Simple Solutions for the Managerially Challenged
By Martin R. Baird

For more than a decade, I’ve been telling casinos that top-notch guest service is a key element of success. More recently, I’ve been telling them that great service can lead to the creation of guest advocates and that guest advocacy can seal the deal for future growth. But none of that can happen if the casino’s internal operations are not up to par.
Now I am turning my attention to casino management. And I’m doing this for a good reason. Almost every casino we visit these days chants the same mantra: “Om, our managers and supervisors are weak. Om, we wish we had better talent down the ladder.”
It doesn't matter if the casino is new or old, large or small, tribal or corporate, the message is still the same. They want to know how to get their managers and supervisors to do what they’ve been hired to do – manage and supervise.
Here are a few thoughts I have on that subject.
Develop a scientifically proven screening and hiring process. If all you do now is drug and mirror tests, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you don’t know what a mirror test is, it means they’re hired if they can fog a mirror. This is also known as hiring someone if they have a pulse. Anyway, I know that you need people to fill vacancies. The problem with that approach is that you are just grinding people up and not improving your team.
Pre-hire assessments are scientifically proven and well worth the effort. For example, you can pick up on personal issues before the prospective hire signs on the dotted line. My company works with Ryan Ross at Hogan Assessments and the assessments he helps conduct create an amazing multidimensional picture of the candidate. This allows the employer to make decisions based on real information, not just a smile and the patented interview phrase of “I’m customer service focused.”
Practicing what we preach, we used Hogan Assessments to hire a person who was very successful with us. After the assessment, I talked with Ryan on the phone and he told me what would make her successful in our world. His assessment of her was absolutely on target. In addition to identifying issues, assessments are a great way to create a profile of the characteristics that make up your top performers in any specific department. After all, a great beverage server could be a much different person than your best cage worker.
Stop promoting from within. I know I’m asking you to break a cardinal rule that your casino is very proud of. But if you only look within your organization, you are promoting people who don't necessarily have the skills, ability and training required to be effective managers and supervisors. This weakens your casino. Promoting from within can improve morale, but only if the people are qualified. It isn’t good enough if you promote people simply because they show up for work or never get written up.
I know casinos often have underutilized talent on their staff, but that doesn't mean a good beverage server should be asked to manage a bar. What makes them a great server could be the kiss of death in a management role.
Improvement! Of course, I’m not recommending that you never, ever promote from within. You can do that but only if you improve the people you have so that they will be ready if and when the opportunity comes their way. Every employee from the CEO to dishwasher should have a career path and a professional development plan. This accomplishes a couple of things. First, it gives people targets to work toward. If I’m a dishwasher and I know I need to take cooking classes to move up to preprep cook, I can decide to make that commitment. The other part of improvement is it gives people the training and development they need to be successful. Tiger Woods is arguably the world’s best at what he does. But Tiger has a coach even though he is the best.
Many casino supervisors and managers are not the world’s best. They often don't even understand the basics of supervision, let alone management. You need to give them training so they can learn the skills they need to succeed. I’m not talking about the technical part of the job. This training is about thinking and being real supervisors and managers, not just someone who can quote the policies and procedures manual verbatim.
Manage the new managers and supervisors. For some reason at many casinos, as soon as a person is given or earns the title of manager or supervisor, they are put out to pasture. Their former boss now assumes that, as a manager, they no longer need to be managed. Nothing could be further from the truth.
New managers and supervisors need special care and attention. Support your newbies early and often. Now is the time to nurture them and help them grow. They are part of your critical front-line team, so don’t wait until they make a big mistake.
Listen to your employees. You need to know what’s going on with your managers and supervisors. The front-line team knows which managers are good. They know which ones just yell. They know which ones are often late because they are now a "manager." I'm not talking about employee "satisfaction" surveys. Those surveys lack validity when it comes to future success. You need to have your employees risk their reputation and share the truth about the people they work for.
The only way to solve the supervisor and manager issues that your casino faces is to take action, and I think these five tips will help. Acknowledging that you have a problem is important. Then you need to put the required actions behind you so you can make progress. The new supervisor or manager is not at fault. It's the system that needs major revisions if you want to have long-term success as competition increases.
This article first appeared in Native American Casino.

Date Posted: 19-Dec-2007

Martin R. Baird is author of “Advocate Index™: An Operational Tool” and chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a global customer service consulting firm for the gaming industry. Robinson & Associates helps casinos worldwide determine their Advocate Index, a number that indicates the extent to which properties have guests who are willing to be advocates, and then implements its Advocate Development System to help casinos create more guest advocates. The Advocate Development System uses the proven methodology of Advocate Index in combination with best business practices to chart a course for growth and profitability. More information about the Advocate Development System and Robinson and Associates is available at the company’s Web sites at www.advocatedevelopmentsystem.com and www.casinocustomerservice.com. A copy of “Advocate Index: An Operational Tool” may be obtained by calling 206-774-8856. Robinson & Associates may be reached by phone at 480-991-6420 or by e-mail at mbaird@casinocustomerservice.com. Based in Annapolis, Maryland, Robinson & Associates is a member of the Casino Management Association and an associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association.

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