Stimulating pride in employees can help engagement

Stimulating pride in employees can help engagement

March 20, 2018 3:00 AM


Somewhat overlooked in the recent spate of top executives being accused of sexually predatory activities, including, perhaps, the most significant and troubling one right here in Las Vegas, is the constantly evolving nature of the employer/employee relationship.

A recent examination of this subject, as reported by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) says businesses and organizations spend over $100 billion annually to improve employee engagement. However, only 13 percent of employees are engaged and disengaged employees cost U.S. companies $450 billion to $550 billion per year in lost productivity, according to Gallup, the major survey and polling company.

I suppose we all have our own definition of just what exactly is “employee engagement.” Simply put, for this reporter, it’s the ability to get the employee to care about their job and how it is performed. If you do not care about how you do your job, it’s impossible to do it well. A disengaged employee may be able to do a job satisfactorily, but in today’s exceedingly competitive world, for most employers, that’s just not good enough.

Employee engagement is crucial in the casino/resort world because the product most often being sold is enjoyment and pleasure rather than something of a material nature. Most of us have worked alongside someone who possessed some outright bitterness toward an employer. Such feelings prevent that person from doing the best job possible and too easily that animosity trickles into dealings with the customer.

Years ago, I worked with a talented television reporter who always did a good job that sometimes bordered on excellent, but he too outwardly expressed dissatisfaction with station management. He wouldn’t even attend the company Christmas party as a kind of protest over the way he felt toward management. He was clearly not an engaged employee. He did an effective job, but he might have done it better if he had more pride in the company.

The HBR examination theorizes the reason most employer engagement efforts fall short is because they’re designed to cultivate employees’ commitment in generic, general ways. They attempt to make people feel they’re working for a responsible company or the company’s leaders care about them. However, these kinds of programs fail most workers and have not been extremely successful.

HBR notes programs that establish a precise link between employees and customers are more effective when employees are affiliated and involved with the organization’s brand.

Many years ago, the Caesars brand, in a previous incarnation, epitomized this. Before the Mirage, the Venetian and the other newer mega-resorts, Caesars ruled the roost in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The employees all conveyed the idea that they worked for a special company and they and the company were at the top of the industry.

Ask any old-time Las Vegan. They’ll tell you, at that time, you could feel and you could see the so-called brand engagement at Caesars Palace. This is not to say Caesars cannot achieve greatness once more. And, to be fair, it should additionally be noted, as the gambling world’s luxury brand in those years, the company was much smaller and faced significantly less competition.

A clearly articulated brand identity is necessary to cultivate a positive, multidimensional connection between employees and that brand identity. The goal, as reported by HBR, is “to make sure employees know what the brand stands for and are committed to reinforcing it with their actions.”

Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International is currently involved in a massive program to engage their employees. The goal, for at least part of this initiative, is fostered by MGM’s desire to reposition itself from a casino company to a worldwide resort and entertainment company. MGM desires a new company identity as an entertainment and hospitality brand rather than a gambling company.

The company understands it is vital to make sure its 77,000 employees get the message because they’ll be the ones tasked with sending this rebranding message to the guests.

The company, through this massive effort, is seeking to convey to all its worldwide employees what this transformation is all about and how they can help establish a new culture at the company. Every employee is to be personally trained by his or her supervisor.

This is a commendable and most likely an expensive effort, indeed, and its one MGM leaders believe will improve the company and, of course, the bottom line.

Westin Hotels & Resorts, part of the Marriot brand, recently sought out employee ideas on how the company could help the communities in which they are located. They have spent about a million dollars so far to start a program that turns old hotel linens into children’s pajamas and then donated a large portion of the sleepwear to kids in need near their properties. The remaining pajamas will be sold in its own online store with 50 percent of proceeds going back into funding the project.

Brian Povinelli, senior vice president and global brand leader for Westin Hotels & Resorts, said the idea for the program came from a request conveyed to all employees for ideas about how the hotels could give back to their communities with corporate help. The company received more than 325 suggestions.

The Westin pajama initiative is an equally praiseworthy means of achieving an employee brand engagement that cultivates pride in the company you work for. When you think about it, pride is among the most important human emotions of all and every employer would do well to stimulate it in the workplace.