With an increasing number of casinos emerging throughout Asia, the industry is becoming a popular career choice for ambitious individuals from across the region.
For example, a survey published by the University of Taiwan found that in the relatively high-earning city-state of Singapore, more than six in 10 respondents expressed a desire to work in the sector.
However, as casinos sprout up, operators are finding that staff retention, rather than recruitment, is becoming especially challenging.
Evolution HR managing partner Starr Xian explains that many casinos are battling to secure quality staff from the same talent pool.
“Operators must be creative in terms of recruitment strategies and competitive in terms of retention strategies,” she says.
Starr foresees staffing challenges not only in the casinos, but also across the surrounding integrated resorts in areas such as hotel, entertainment and retail operations.
“Overall it is going to be more challenging to recruit and retain people both at a professional level and at a rank-and-file level,” she adds.
“While operators have to focus on developing local staff, it is also essential to review and develop recruitment strategies to attract manpower from overseas to remain competitive in the region as now professionals have more options if they are looking to further their career in the gaming industry.”
One such retention strategy revolves around offering competitive salaries, of course.
Rhys Jones, managing director at Ha Tien Vegas Entertainment Resort in Cambodia, says that the expansion of the industry in Asia has pressurised some casinos to “focus on experienced staff and offer higher compensation packages”.
He explains that in Cambodia the increase in the number of casinos has pushed salary levels higher over the past 18 months, following a previous trend in Macau of low-level staff being offered an increase every time a new casino opens.
The evolving casino floor landscape – with new technologies, for example – will also force operators to adopt a greater focus on retaining individuals with IT and technical knowhow, Starr adds.
However, operators in casino hot spots have been keen to mitigate spiralling salary costs by adopting a creative approach to retaining staff.
Establishing a positive working environment for front-line and managerial staff is one aspect, but crucially operators have been keen to underline internal career development opportunities to aspirational employees.
“Our current strategy is to focus on staff morale, welfare and creating an enjoyable working environment for all levels of staff – specifically focusing on supervisory levels and above in all departments and providing an avenue for professional development,” Jones says.
“Also, by focusing on our local staff and moving them into higher positions it provides job security and a career progression that they might not receive in another casino.”
Peter Keijzer, the general manager of Corona Resort & Casino in Vietnam, says that “internal promotions” are central to establishing “winning teams”, because “staff can see that they can have a better future and you know exactly what the strengths and weaknesses are of that person”.
Knowing the qualities and potential flaws of your team allows employers to work on specific things that require improvement, allowing for the group to develop as a whole, he adds.
“Worker satisfaction needs much more development in general, because good quality staff numbers are not growing as fast as the amount of hospitality companies,” Keijzer says.
According to Angel Sueiro, chief operating officer at the under-development Emerald Resort Hotel and Casino in the Philippines, cultural factors are becoming increasingly important, particularly with millennials and their approach to professional life.
He describes flexible working hours, lifestyle benefits and the opportunity for career growth as “concrete actions” from operators, but also underlines the need to be “relevant” to the lives of staff.
“Besides having an attractive compensation plan, other initiatives need to be in place to guarantee the long-term loyalty and commitment to the company,” he says. “It is important to understand what the priorities are for the different internal demographic groups and then adjust and customise the message for each one.”
When the Emerald Resort fully opens, Sueiro does not expect significant staff turnover in the first two years, with a long-term target of about 6 percent per year being comparable with similar properties in the area. For casino managers, Sueiro says that he expects long-term commitment.
At Ha Tien Vegas Entertainment Resort in Cambodia, a focus on the development and promotion of local staff has led to the majority of the casino’s core positions being occupied by employees who have more than three years’ service at the company.
“Over the last four years we have seen few managers leave and most of the staff from pit manager and above have remained almost constant,” says Jones, who adds that job security is a major factor in retaining staff in management roles.
Turnover is much higher among support staff, such as cleaners, waiters and security, with around 300 people per year moving on – about 50 percent of the total staff roster.
However, the resort has made a concerted effort to provide varied lifestyle options for staff away from the casino environment.
At the heart of this is a corporate social responsibility programme that focuses on assisting local schools, villages and the environment. According to Jones, the CSR activities double as team-building exercises for staff, more than 80 percent of whom live on site and are provided with three meals per day.
“We provide leisure activities which include a gym, football fields, volleyball courts and CSR activities with the local area,” Jones says. “We also like to provide social events for the staff at major holidays and throughout the year to give everyone an opportunity to relax with their colleagues and also to be able to interact with management outside the work setting.”
It is increasingly clear that focusing on providing employees with a fruitful and fulfilling lifestyle, as well as the opportunity for future career development, can play a vital role in a casino’s long-term retention strategy.
Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.
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