With immigration high on the federal government's agenda and the Aboriginal population growing in Canada, these two potential employee groups will play a major role in future staffing initiatives. Both groups represent a large, untapped market in a fast moving industry with room for growth from entry level positions through to more senior levels.
Defining Talent Management for Gaming
Talent management refers to the strategic human resources strategies that gaming properties are taking to attract, retain, manage, and develop staff so that the businesses can succeed now and into the future. The goal of a solid talent management strategy is to ensure the right people are in the right jobs doing the right things to address the organization’s strategic goals. Brent J. Fleming, Vice President of Human Resources, Organizational Development, Paragon Gaming is one such professional who addresses talent management and the need for employees to fully understand the organization’s value system. He notes: “Paragon Gaming is focused on developing talent in-house to ensure our employees have the tools and resources they need to perform well, receive proper compensation, and transition to leadership roles. Internally developed leaders are valuable assets because over time they have developed the necessary core competencies and internalized company values.”
Canada has a number of different models of casino business management across the nation with casinos operating as public sector, private sector, and Aboriginal casino properties. More and more within these properties, talent management is becoming an approach, or series of approaches, rather than an exclusive program. As such, there are a broad variety of approaches that have been used at gaming properties nationwide to achieve similar goals. However, before these industry examples can be examined, it's important to assess some common denominators in the area of talent management outcomes. In a snapshot across the country, talent management programs aim to ensure growth occurs for:
- Senior management employees, to focus on leadership and innovation to ensure strength in business guidance and growth in the coming years.
- Mid-management to ensure the organization has the required management skills to meet current and future employee and business needs.
- Frontline employees, to allow them to meet changing business, technical, and customer needs.
Throughout all talent management initiatives, gaming organizations are also highlighting the need to be mindful of 'Essential Skill' challenges (i.e., reading, writing, and oral communication), generational differences, and cultural differences that require special consideration for inclusion both within our employee base and our customer base.
Strategies for Senior Management
Developing senior level management, those involved in determining the strategic direction of the organization, more commonly combines education from recognized institutions coupled with practical application of the newly acquired skills in a supported environment.
“The gaming industry has traditionally been one where learning has occurred on the job. With rapid expansion and competition the need to develop talent and leaders has never been greater,” says Jim McClenahan, Director, Management & Executive Programs, University of Nevada, Reno, (UNR) Extended Studies. “It is the role of universities, like the University of Nevada in Reno, to develop world-class programs to develop future leaders in the industry. We think talent management is an integral part of global gaming organizational strategy.”
In northern Manitoba, Aseneskak Casino has embarked upon an in-house development program delivered by UNR to achieve their goals of Aboriginal leadership in key strategic positions. Monthly courses allow time between classes for participants to consider how the new learning can be applied to the organization’s unique strategic environment. The program is addressing the need for strong Aboriginal leadership in gaming for the future.
Elsewhere, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) has devoted resources to developing a multi- level talent management approach. During this time of transition, the senior level program, titled Emerging Leaders, has proven to be quite successful. In it, participants spend a year in secondment situations in a variety of gaming management areas to better learn the broad scope of the business. They also develop 30, 60, and 90 day learning plans to support them as they use the corporately developed set of tools to help them think, act, and reflect on the developmental experience. The goal of the Emerging Leaders program is to develop the next generation of general managers for the corporation.
In Manitoba, Manitoba Lotteries utilizes a multi-layered approach to senior leadership development. Educational opportunities are supplemented with rotational assignments and special projects. Potential leaders may attend an MBA, leadership certificate, and/or UNR’s Executive Development Program to learn the theory behind the strategy. Additionally, during work placements over a two year period, participants observe and participate in the application of strategy in the unique gaming environment. This program develops a small talent management pool ready to take the lead in higher level positions.
In the west, British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) applies a three level approach to leadership development across the corporation. Their Business Leadership program, with an educational link to UBC’s Sauder School of Business, assists participants in gaining theoretical and practical skills that are translated into participant developed Action Learning Projects. The best of these innovative projects are adopted by the organization as organizational improvement projects.
The Gaming Leadership Certificate, offered in partnership with Athabasca University and the Canadian Gaming Centre of Excellence (CGCE), is one of the educational programs employed by a mix of gaming organizations across Canada. This certificate was designed with input from gaming industry experts across the country and is delivered through a blend of online media resources to meet the special needs of a 24/7/365 industry. Currently in its second year, the program combines recognized leadership development with a tailored gaming-specific approach to developing strategic skills in problem solving. Potential leaders from Manitoba Lotteries, OLG, Caesars Windsor, Great Canadian Gaming, and Casino Rama have enrolled in the program.
Starting in 2013, a new University of Nevada Reno initiative to offer select CGCE courses online for credit in the Gaming Management Certificate will also increase access to educational opportunities for those wishing to pursue management development.
Strategies for Middle Management
Development of middle management, those involved in the daily running of the business, focuses on supervisory skills and management skills in both gaming-specific areas of the business and, in larger organizations, the corporate areas of the business. This is a heavily invested area of talent management for many gaming organizations. As Sally Hart confirms: “Over the past 30 years, Great Canadian has developed the lion’s share of gaming managers from within using a ‘learn as you go’ focus. Today, we are focused on retaining and attracting ‘top talent’ and building a proactive approach that identifies and develops our managers and their leadership talent throughout our properties.”
At Aseneskak Casino, middle management development encompasses an on-the-job training and cross training approach. A supervisor can assume a management role and have an opportunity to ‘try on the role’ with support from their existing manager. Based on this experience, during the performance appraisal process the supervisor can then set goals and identify a development plan for the coming year. The supervisor will work with his or her manager to build skills and achieve the new goal of eventually competing for a management role.
OLG takes a structured approach to developing middle management skills. Through the use of their Supervisor Roadmap and Manager Roadmap, the organization provides a robust toolkit to help employees take control of their gaming career. There are a number of phases in the journey which include self-assessments, classroom training, online tutorials, support tools, and guidelines to discussing career goals with a manager. With OLG’s desire to develop employees, the key to the success of the Supervisor and Manager Roadmaps is building confidence, fostering a self-directed approach to employee growth, and providing organizational support along the way.
“Talent management is very important to organizational growth. We believe in developing employees from within,” states, Priscilla Fraser, Senior Manager Training and Development, OLG.
Meanwhile, Manitoba Lotteries uses its Dimensions in Leadership Program, a four level development approach based on corporate competencies. This program is offered to management and supervisory employees and provides them with the necessary leadership skills, a clear understanding of the organization’s strategic focus, and development in the day-to-day skills required in managing employees in a gaming operation. Each level of the program builds on existing management skill levels. The program is offered jointly by Manitoba Lotteries, the UNR, and the University of Winnipeg. It utilizes a strong Level 4 evaluation process that culminates in a Personal Development Project that allows participants to evaluate their competency growth and reflect on their learning.
BCLC’s path to middle management development, Leadership Essentials, promotes a blended learning approach combining classroom, e-learning, and coaching over an extended time.
“BCLC is committed to the ‘build versus buy’ approach,” says Mitch Romanchook, Manager Talent Development, BCLC. “We believe in building our internal talent, not just buying it.”
In addition, the Canadian Gaming Centre of Excellence is introducing a series of six Gaming Management Practicums in partnership with UNR that provides a structured and supervised approach to training and development for gaming management positions. The practicums combine department-specific technical knowledge, leadership competencies, human resource abilities, and essential skills required for casino department managers to meet the ever-changing needs of this vibrant industry. The Gaming Management Practicum provides hands-on experience to enhance participants’ developmental activities as they strive to achieve academic credit and management status in the casino industry. The work-based, eight-week Gaming Management Practicum helps connect participants with senior leaders in their organization to increase their levels of proficiency.
Strategies for Frontline Employees
Frontline employee development approaches include new employees as well as seasoned staff, and involves different paths in different gaming organizations. Frontline employees are the primary connection to our gaming customers. These employees need to be highly engaged in achieving customer service excellence and they provide the raw talent that gaming organizations will develop into more advanced skill sets over time. Carrie Manitopyes, Human Resources Manager, Grey Eagle Casino supports this view, noting, “Grey Eagle Casino actively recruits First Nation candidates for our front line jobs with the goal of promoting to middle management and senior level positions. Our long term goal is to have Tsuu T’ina Nation representation at all levels of the organization.” The organizations highlighted in this article have similar goals for development of frontline staff: Essential skill growth, customer service excellence, competence within their position, increased technical competence, and an ability to be cross- trained. Development activities include extensive on-boarding programs, strong performance management processes with employee planning and goal setting, frontline mentorship programs, and training. Two common threads through all frontline development initiatives are the fostering of a self- directed approach to learning and on-going coaching and support provided by caring supervisors and managers.
“We are helping supervisors and managers learn how to coach and mentor because that’s what supervisors and managers are doing – growing the next supervisor or manager,” says Delores Lavallee, Human Resources Manager, Aseneskak Casino.
Developing for the Future
“In today’s competitive market, the calibre of talent laying dormant within the company waiting for someone to recognize and develop them is now critical to achieving success as demand for highly skilled people outstrips supply,” adds Brent J. Fleming, Vice President of Human Resources, Organizational Development, Paragon Gaming.
Across the country many organizations have chosen to look inside when considering talent for the future. While the talent management approaches vary, the outcomes are similarly focused at all levels of the organization. How important is managing talent in your organization? What are your unique challenges? How will you ensure your talent management house advantage?
Chief Community Relations & Marketing Officer, illustrates how when employees with the ability, organizational commitment, and motivation are recognized and supported with educational opportunities, organizations benefit. Larry, who started as a security manager, has risen through the organization over the past decade from general manager to executive general manager through vice president to his current position. Manitoba Lotteries provided educational support in an MBA degree and opportunities to apply the learning through their rotational assignment program, to capitalize on Larry's talent.
Written by Judith Hayes (firstname.lastname@example.org), Director; and Dayna Hinkel (email@example.com) Business Development Officer, with Canadian Gaming Centre of Excellence, a subsidiary of Manitoba Lotteries - one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for 2012 and 2013. For info, visit: www.gamingcentreofexcellence.ca/gaming- leadership-certificate-program/.