Move from Employee Turnover Problem to Advocacy Solution
by Martin R. Baird

Move from Employee Turnover Problem to Advocacy Solution
By Martin R. Baird

There sure seems to be a lot of talk about employee turnover in gaming these days. I have a suggestion. Alleviate your turnover problems and improve your customer service by creating employee advocates. Read on and you will see what I mean.
As many of you may know, I speak at gaming conferences around the world and write for numerous gaming magazines. I also have a blog. Add all that up and I have a lot of contact with people in gaming. One of the top questions I hear goes something like this: “How do we reduce the amount of employee turnover at our casino? We pay well, have great benefits and still we have a revolving door at the Human Resources office.”
I’ll start with the easy answer. Pay and benefits are not the root cause of most turnover. For example, most people don’t stop working at a casino because of their salary, unless a new employer comes to the market that pays way more than they are making now. I’ve seen a new casino enter a market and try to “borrow” employees from existing properties. I say borrow because most of the people who jump ship for $1 more an hour return to the casino they left for many reasons, including feeling more comfortable with the old system. So stop focusing on pay and benefits.
And forget about zero employee turnover. Life happens. People move, finish college, even die. Human resources managers must be realistic about the fact that some people will leave for a variety of reasons. This is a fact of business. The key is knowing why they leave.
This leads me to an important point that I think is often overlooked in this discussion. I believe some turnover is good. In the old days, doctors touted the virtues of blood letting and leaches. They knew that for some diseases, leaches helped remove the “bad” blood so the body could heal. Employees are the lifeblood of any casino, but sometimes a few of them need to be removed for the health of the property. I’m always impressed when I meet with a client and they tell me with great smiles all about the number of people who have been with the property for 10, 20 and even 30 years. That can be a good thing, but these employees also may have some 30-year-old habits that would be a better fit at a toll booth than a casino cage.
Still, cutting employee turnover is an admirable goal. To me, one of the keys to reducing turnover happens way before staff members are ever hired. If HR is forced to just keep sending new people to the front lines, I guarantee many of them will not make it as long as they should. Much turnover could be reduced by doing pre-hire assessments that are scientifically proven. 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 Assessment Systems 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.”
We used Hogan Assessment to hire a person who was very successful with us and we want to hire more like her. After the assessment, we talked with Ryan on the phone and he told me what would make her successful in our world. His assessment of her was 100 percent on target. It was amazing. 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.
Now to this thing about employee advocates. Smart casinos learn from the people who already work at the property and that truly pleases employees. Existing employees have an amazing amount of information and ideas to share. Most of them really want the casino to succeed for a variety of reasons. One of the major challenges is getting that information in a way that makes it useful. I see the solution this way – ask, listen and create advocates.
For those of you knee deep in an employee satisfaction study, survey or assessment, I hate to say this, but you have wasted your time, energy and money. You should measure employee advocacy. I know my comments will generate e-mails from companies that do satisfaction surveys. They’ll say I’m simply wrong. But credible research has proven that “satisfaction” is fickle. An employee is “satisfied” when they are happy and that could be because they received a big toke. But 15 minutes later, they could be very dissatisfied because they didn’t get to go home early.
When you seek employee input, ask the question that requires them to risk their reputation. When you add risk to the equation, it makes people think and, thus, they are more likely to give a true answer. Also, don’t ask them a hundred questions because nobody will read all those answers. Ask them four questions and communicate the results to front-line people as well as managers and supervisors. In other words, report back. Employees want to know what their colleagues are thinking. That’s another reason not to ask 100 questions. Sharing all that information effectively is impossible.
Finally, create employee advocates through internal improvement. This happens in a variety of areas at many levels and it’s not a quick or easy thing to do. But if you want to move from a revolving door to a group of people that looks forward to coming to work and risking their reputation by telling others about your wonderful casino, that is what needs to be done.
Perhaps now is the time to shift from the problem of employee turnover to the solution of creating advocates.

This article first appeared in International Gaming and Wagering Business

Date Posted: 04-Jul-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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