EXPERT ADVICE

Don’t gamble with staff safety
Casinos are turning to technology to better protect employees
BY ROBB MONKMAN, REACT MOBILE

Certain things in life can be a gamble, but what about personal safety? Or, in the case of casinos, what about the safety of staff? Of course, the answer seems obvious. Admittedly, the well-being of staff should never be left to chance or treated with the same whimsical probability so often applied to a friendly game of blackjack, right?

And yet, for years, the safety of staff on casino grounds was anything but assured. Just as hotels have struggled with the prevalence of staff-related incidents including, but not limited to, injury, harassment and assault, bustling casinos have endured the development of similar, concerning trends.

Casinos, after all, invite an influx of guests from around the world, with studies from Casino.Org showing that 26 percent of the population gambles (1.6 billion people worldwide, to be precise). As patrons are caught up in games of chance and, subsequently, feel their inhibitions lower with the consumption of alcohol, incidents seem to happen at a higher frequency.

However, the priority was always centered on the guest and player experience: the lights, the games, the action, the service, and, likely as an unintentional byproduct, the staff experience took a backseat, even in times of crisis.

That is, until now. 

 

EXPLORING ESD SOLUTIONS

Recently, Pauma Band of Mission Indians, who operate a casino in San Diego County, reportedly came under fire for “unfair labor practices” when they blocked union organization. The organization was in affiliation with Unite Here’s work to raise awareness for hospitality staff safety. Prior to court proceedings, which later ruled in their favor, Unite Here argued that while respecting tribal sovereign rights is undeniably important, it should not come at the cost of employee protections in the workplace.

As new policies and legislation take effect across the U.S., casinos are not only enhancing security and surveillance measures to protect property, guests and staff but are also exploring the implementation of a designated staff safety solution. Earlier this year, the Illinois statewide SB75 anti-harassment legislation came into effect, helping to enforce this demand for updated safety technology further. According to the act, downstate hotel and casinos were required to provide employees working alone anywhere on property with portable notification/safety devices (panic buttons) that summon help to the worker’s location when the employee believes that an ongoing crime, sexual harassment, sexual assault or other emergency is occurring in their presence. 

Fortunately, with the provision of Bluetooth-enabled staff safety devices, employees are empowered to call for help in the case of an emergency, both on and off property, utilizing their smartphone or a small, standalone device. The distress call promptly transmits the precise location of the employee, sending real-time updates as they move throughout the property after sending the alert. As you might imagine, the adoption of this employee safety device (ESD) technology solution represents a pivotal step for casinos hoping to transform their staff safety practices well into the future.

 

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Some gaming properties have already taken this step.

“The use of ESD technology has had a very positive impact on how our team members view their personal safety and how grateful they are the company made it a priority to outfit them with these devices before they were even mandated by local jurisdictions,” said Joel Moore, vice president of hotel operations at Lincoln, Calif-based Thunder Valley Casino Resort. “Team members have used these devices not only when they felt threatened or intimidated by someone but also when they were ill and could not get to a phone to call for assistance.  Whether it was a guest room attendant or a shuttle bus driver, all of them feel better knowing that with this device at hand help is only moments away.”

The push for safer casinos isn’t confined to the U.S.—resorts in Canada are aptly following suit. The River Rock Casino and Resort in British Columbia is one of the first hotels in Canada to adopt the new technology, arming their staff with the React Mobile panic button platform. 

“While emergencies are extremely rare, there can never be an environment that is too safe for our team members and guests, so we are excited to integrate React Mobile into our already robust security programs,” said James Fry, assistant general manager for River Rock Casino Resort.

River Rock Casino employees are provided a React Mobile standalone LTE device that is easy to use and, more importantly, discreet and easily wearable. If an employee feels threatened or in need of assistance anywhere on the property, they can simply press a button on the device, which will signal for help through a smartphone app and share the employee’s location to security services. In addition to the React Mobile safety system, River Rock has a 24-hour highly-trained security team as well as a state-of-the-art surveillance system.

The writing is on the wall—the days of safeguarding only the guest experience are behind us, and no property within the hospitality sector is exempt from newly heightened standards of staff care. Whether a hotel, casino or tribal gaming facility, the staff experience and, more importantly their ongoing safety, must be prioritized in tandem with the guest experience and empowered by the provision of advanced employee safety technology to ensure a secure workplace for all.

Robb Monkman is the founder and CEO of React Mobile, a Seattle, Wash.-based provider of panic button solutions for hotels and casinos around the world. For more information, visit www.reactmobile.com.

 


 

EXPERT ADVICE

Integrated approach
From cleanliness to communication, digitalization is elevating service standards for a better hotel experience
BY ANDRADA PARASCHIV, BEEKEEPER

According to findings from the J.D. Power 2020 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index (NAGSI) Study released last month, meeting guest expectations for cleanliness and proactively communicating with guests prior to arrival continue to be critical drivers of guest satisfaction.

But before we can expect to have happy guests, we need to have happy employees who are willing to go back to work, learn all new operating procedures, do more with less and put themselves at risk. Yes, guest communication is important, but it must come on the heels of proactively communicating with employees prior to their return. 

Put yourself in your employees’ shoes for a moment. The hotel is reopening. No, it’s remaining closed. Wait, it’s reopening again—tentatively. Spikes in COVID-19 are shifting as the epicenter of the virus keeps moving. This economic roller coaster is wreaking havoc with employees’ emotions and their livelihoods, and it’s making them confused, stressed and maybe even a bit angry. 

 

DIGITAL DYNAMICS

The only way to keep your teams apprised of what is happening day-to-day—or hour-by-hour—and motivated to work amidst this new normal, is through digital communications. This is not the time to have human resources personnel or general managers calling workers in hopes of connecting (since company e-mail addresses for those who don’t sit behind a desk are nonexistent). Digital communication tools like Beekeeper are proving to be the most viable way for managers to communicate instantly, train their people and provide reference materials and standard operating procedure (SOP) guidelines that are easily accessible.

Today more than ever, workers need to learn how to wear many hats. While it may be challenging for a person to learn something new—especially if that person has been doing things a certain way for a very long time—digital training tools like webcasts and videos are making it extremely easy for workers to grasp new cleaning procedures quickly across all guest touch points. Housekeeping is the biggest undertaking. Most of the tasks that were once routine are now new and they are constantly evolving—too many changes too often can be overwhelming to even the most seasoned housekeeper. But skipping one step or failing to disinfect every surface no matter how small can result in illness or worse, re-closing of the hotel. As operators, it’s critical that workers don’t become immune to these “extra” precautions. 

So how do hoteliers make the new normal procedures of today easier and how do they hold workers accountable for compliance? The answer is simple: digital checklists.

Digital checklists make the lives of housekeepers, supervisors and managers easier on many levels. They free up time, offer visibility into the cleaning status of state-regulated common areas, provide an audit trail of tasks assigned/completed and deliver a quick return on owner investment. For example, Beekeeper recently partnered with LUA (formerly Whispr) to integrate their workflow tool into our employee communication platform.

Associates follow a checklist within a mobile app while managers utilize the web to customize and edit SOPs, revise disinfecting and sanitizing guidelines and assign/verify that tasks and other procedures are being adhered to. It’s impossible for staff to skip steps, as Task A on a digital checklist will need to be completed before Task B can begin. If workers forget how to perform a chore, step-by-step digital instructions can be accessed instantly via Beekeeper. 

By digitalizing today’s hotel workforce, operators can deliver the right SOP to the right worker at the right time to guarantee the right result while simultaneously freeing up time for supervisors who can then spend more time elevating the guest experience. For example, getting all rooms from dirty to clean to ready for check-in at a 300-room hotel takes approximately 25,000 workflows per month when managed by pen and paper. Let’s say a housekeeping supervisor using pen and paper works eight hours a day, five days a week. He or she will walk about five miles a day just checking to see if rooms are ready. At $15 per hour, the hotel is paying a $9,000 per supervisor for just walking around, checking if rooms are ready and linking updates to the property management system. That’s a lot of money to dish out just to get room status information, especially when a property will rely on multiple supervisors simultaneously. This is not an effective use of capital in today’s economy where cost savings are critical and every penny counts. 

Those same workflows can be affordably managed today via an easy-to-use integrated digital platform from Beekeeper/LUA that guarantees greater efficiency and helps improve worker performance using better information, data and artificial intelligence. 

 

ENGAGEMENT BOOST

Even in normal times, engagement is a difficult thing (Gallup reports only 30 percent of employees are engaged); today it is harder than ever. According to Society for Human Resource Management COVID-19 research, “two in three employers say that maintaining employee morale is a challenge” and this statistic is probably much worse for hospitality since it was hit harder by the pandemic. So, it is even more important today that hoteliers work hard to engage every single one of their employees. To do so, workers must understand why they need to follow the stringent SOPs; knowing that the work they are doing is important will make them more willing to contribute to the success of the company. 

The most critical component of engagement is getting employees to take pride in their work and in the company itself. Communication around company values, initiatives and accomplishments makes employees feel part of something important, something with a social conscience. It is also important to give employees a voice to raise concerns so you can address issues early. Tools like Beekeeper enable managers to have this transparent communication and also recognize their team in front of everyone, in a timely manner, so each person feels connected to their colleagues and the company. Engaged employees are more likely to stick around through recovery and give 100 percent of the effort that is required of them.

Don’t forget, effective communication goes both ways. Listening to your employees not only boosts engagement, but it is good for business. Many of the protocols developed for reopening were likely devised in the corporate office long before guests returned. As they come back, you need to validate that the new SOPs are providing safety while ensuring a memorable guest experience. It’s these workers who are interacting with guests, so hearing their suggestions is invaluable. Leveraging tools like Beekeeper encourages employees to bring ideas on how to improve across the board. 

Hoteliers were already taking cleanliness very seriously before COVID-19. Now it’s time to take cleanliness, guest safety and guest experience to the next level. To do that, operators will need to adopt digital technologies that will help employees engage with the hotel and each other, and ultimately perform their jobs to the best of their abilities. When we take care of our employees, they will take care of our guests.

Andrada Paraschiv is head of hospitality for Beekeeper, a mobile-first communication platform built for frontline employees that reaches every shift, location and language through real-time messaging, targeted streams and automated workflows. For more information, visit www.beekeeper.io.

 


 

CASE STUDY

Managing solution
Woodbine entertainment strengthens its employee experience with an improved workforce management suite
BY KRONOS INCORPORATED

With a mission to become a destination employer and further strengthen its position as an award-winning great place to work, Toronto-based Woodbine Entertainment has migrated from Kronos Workforce Central to Workforce Dimensions, the cloud-native, mobile-first, artificial intelligence-powered workforce management suite from Kronos Incorporated. 

The next-generation solution will help Woodbine modernize its information technology (IT) infrastructure and enhance its employee experience, which will help to attract and retain top talent as the organization focuses on future transformation initiatives for its multi-dimensional entertainment business. Workforce Dimensions will streamline operations for Woodbine across property services, security and hospitality divisions—encompassing racing, dining and entertainment.

As a progressive employer, Woodbine is committed to delivering a flexible and empowering work environment for employees, including servers, guest experience associates and security staff by providing:

  • Best-fit schedules for employees that help them achieve greater work-life balance while using advanced scheduling capabilities, which will will help managers generate impactful team schedules with the right employees assigned to the right positions at the right time; and
     
  • A mobile-first solution, which will empower employees to complete tasks important to them at any time, from any device. 

Next-generation automation capabilities within Workforce Dimensions—and real-time, proactive access to information such as employee attendance and time worked—will unburden managers from repetitive administrative tasks, such as data entry, enabling them to focus on higher-value activities, developing employees and engaging with guests.

The ability to apply the right business rules and pay differentials to manage a complex workforce, including a mix of union and non-union employees with several collective agreements in place, is paramount for Woodbine. Workforce Dimensions helps the organization adhere to complex pay and schedule rules, adopted business practices, and the Ontario Employment Standards Act, which protects workers’ rights and ensures employees are treated fairly.

“Woodbine Entertainment is committed to providing an engaging and empowering employee experience to help maintain and grow our award-winning workplace culture,” said Tania Caza, senior vice president, people experience for Woodbine Entertainment. “We are hyper-focused on ensuring all employees have the support and tools they need to succeed, and one of the ways we’re doing that is by investing in innovative technology such as Workforce Dimensions.”

Lowell, Mass.-based Kronos Incorporated is a global leader in delivering workforce management solutions in the cloud. For more information, visit www.kronos.com.