Developing a corporate gaming culture that places value on employees and offers plenty of incentives to motivate them is critical to staving off business-altering situations. Seasoned labor lawyer Stephen J. Cabot follows positive and negative corporate trends with regard to employee motivation, offering valuable tips and advice on how casino companies can erase the divide between management and employees.

Many corporate clients have told us that too many of their employees are not sufficiently well-motivated. Though such employees are often fired, their replacements frequently descend to the same level as those whom they replaced. “What’s happening?” they ask. “Are we always destined to have employees who are under-motivated, who are clock watchers, and complainers?”

If one wants to increase employee morale and corporate productivity, then one must dramatically alter one’s corporate culture. Corporate culture comprises the values, ethos, and behaviors of one’s company. It affects how business is conducted, one’s level of profitability, the time it takes to reach goals, and the responses of one’s customers among various other important elements. If one wants to have a well-run company that hums along smoothly, productively and employs dedicated and hard-working people, then one must design a corporate culture that nourishes such behaviors through a strategically-implemented plan. A farsighted corporate leader understands the importance of corporate culture and molds it to satisfy the company’s goals. Such leaders want to engage the interests, the dedication, the loyalty, and the team spirit of employees. If they fail to imbue their employees with the values of the corporate culture, the employees will, by default, develop their own corporate culture, one that might be a rudderless boat, adrift on the seas, vulnerable to every wave of discontent.

Here’s an example of a problem brought to us by one of our clients. The CEO had complained that a number of his employees were not highly motivated and were not reaching established benchmarks of productivity. In addition, they were a drag on their colleagues; by their complaints and overall negativity, they tended to sap the drive and ambition out of those with whom they worked. They never volunteered solutions, but always found fault with the way the company operated. Our client, of course, could and did fire such employees based upon their performance, but he was never really successful in replacing them with the kind of employees that would be ideal workers.

To determine what the CEO should do, we first conducted a survey of his workforce. Not surprisingly, it revealed a high level of discontent in about 32 percent of his workers. Many of them were perpetual fault finders, always looking for what was negative about the company and then complaining to their colleagues about what they discerned. They had formed an undeclared society of the discontented. They seemed to take pleasure in nothing going right. They regarded their jobs as nothing more than sleep-walking on a slow-moving treadmill going nowhere. And nothing the company could do, they felt, would mitigate their unhappiness. Their motivating force was cynicism that was manifested in periodic bouts of criticism. They even tended to take pleasure in the failure of others, and feel justified in their beliefs when the company failed to reach its goals.

By contrast, within that same company, as in many other companies that we had also surveyed, were groups of individuals who were highly motivated, who enjoyed their work and took pride in their accomplishments. They identified with the company and its goals, and they turned their backs on the cynics and naysayers in their midst. They tended to band together with others who felt as they did and often worked with a strong sense of team spirit. While the first group of disgruntled employees invariably blamed others for what went wrong, the second group proved self-reliant. If they made mistakes, they learned from those mistakes and improved their productivity. They were proud of their accomplishments.

Our client wanted us to help him clear out dead wood and put together a hiring and selection program that would result in his having highly-motivated, positively-minded employees who would significantly raise his level of productivity and so add to the company’s bottom line. In other words, he wanted us to help him change his corporate culture.

Once the dead wood had been cleared away, we initiated a program for hiring productive workers. We hired employees based upon certain key attitudes as well as aptitudes and skills that conform to the sought-after work environment.

In other words, prospective employees must have the type of positive attitude that will not only be reflected in their job performance, but will also be contagious to others within the workforce itself. Their aptitudes must also be appropriate for the jobs they will have to do. Aptitude and attitude must be complimentary, for one without the other will only accomplish half the goal. And in many cases, if an employee has an appropriate aptitude for a specific job, but has a negative attitude, the company will not be well served. When the right combination of aptitude and attitude has been found, then one should also make sure that such a worker has the necessary skills to perform at a high level of efficiency and productivity. In addition to those qualities, we wanted employees who would feel as if they were part of a corporate family, who would take pride in being stakeholders in helping a company to reach its goals.

We also learned what would keep employees motivated and what would diminish their motivation. As a result, we put in place a program that provided an array of extra-curricular sporting and entertainment activities, a program to provide noninterest loans for college educations, health club memberships, financial and investment advice from professional counselors, awards programs, and much more.

We also created a listening program for detecting the first possible signs of discontent. Once the cause of that discontent was discerned, we put into place a series of actions that eliminate the problem. Even before any discontent arose, we put in place a series of regularly scheduled meetings between management and employees, one-on-one talks, and an invitation to hear and implement employee suggestions. We also put in place a program where a designated employee, someone chosen by both management and employees, would be a liaison between both groups. That person would explain management’s points-of-view to workers, while providing management with realistic assessments of the needs of workers. Altogether, the listening/communications programs worked to sustain high levels of morale and motivation, while significantly diminishing workplace problems before becoming a drag on productivity.

To further maintain a productive and satisfied workforce, we put in place a program of mentoring workers. Mentors coach workers to excel. The coach-mentors should be thoughtful, helpful individuals who help workers to reach benchmarks of productivity. The coach-mentor is also there to make sure that there are no obstacles to a worker achieving success. If such obstacles exist, it’s the mentor’s job either to remove such obstacles or help chart a course around those obstacles. Mentors will help workers reach new levels of productivity, which will further engender a sense of pride in workers’ accomplishments.

After our client implemented all of the above, levels of productivity dramatically increased, and that went directly to the company’s bottom line. The corporate culture had been refashioned, and the workers thought the casino a great place to work.