Sky City focusing on internal hires to overcome skills pressure

Source: Shortlist

Facing a shrinking external talent pool of hospitality and gaming staff, Auckland casino Sky City has dramatically boosted internal mobility by changing its processes and trying out some left-field but surprisingly successful ideas.

Sky City Auckland recruitment manager Amanda Tolley, who spoke at the recent RHUB NZ conference, told Shortlist the company centralised its recruitment shortly before she joined the business in 2009, and started analysing its hiring patterns in 2010.

“We had a look at some of the data and realised that, actually, there was no way it was going to be sustainable for us to progress with the volume of [external] recruitment we were doing.” Over the next three years, she says, Sky City increased its proportion of internal appointments from 24% in early 2010, to about 38% – exceeding its original target of 30%.

In the first two years of the program, job board spending was down by 30%, and it has dropped a further 50% in the past 12 months, she says.

Over the same period annual staff turnover has halved, from 40% in 2010 to less than 20% now. “In our business, because of the high number of casual and part-time staff, and the nature of hospitality being quite transient – that’s actually quite low compared to Australasian casino benchmarks,” Tolley says.

The program has also contributed to a year-on-year increase in employee engagement over the past few years, she adds.

Remove barriers and make applying easy
Tolley says Sky City made a raft of changes to support and encourage internal candidates to apply for roles. It removed a requirement for staff to get their managers’ permission before submitting internal job applications, and gave them a confidential process for approaching the recruitment team. It switched to a purely online application system, she says, but at the same time installed computer kiosks onsite so employees could access the system, and installed PCs in the staff café.

The company introduced a policy requiring that all roles be advertised internally first, for a minimum of 48 hours, Tolley says. “And we ensured there were business rules around that, and people couldn’t circumvent those.” Sky City ran a three-day careers fair especially for internal staff, she says, with different parts of the business coming in to showcase the opportunities in their department. The recruitment team started running staff workshops on how to interview, write a CV, and manage social media; it also trained managers on behavioural interviewing techniques, and what could and couldn’t be asked in interviews.

It started sharing marketing intelligence with managers, she adds, so they understood what the external skills market looked like, and where the casino’s talent pipelines were under pressure.

These efforts helped everybody see the value in making internal mobility a priority, and contributed to an overall better culture around recruitment, Tolley says.

Job boards 101

Tolley says the most critical change the company made was reintroducing a physical job board. “It was actually a suggestion from one of our managers – he said, ‘We used to do this, why don’t you try it?'”

The recruitment team thought the suggestion sounded a bit antiquated, but they had a policy of being open to different ideas, and giving things a go. “So we put a careers noticeboard in what we call our back-of-house area. Each week on a Monday, we would put up all the full-time, casual and part-time roles. Within a month, applications from internal candidates increased by more than 50%.”

Photos and contact details for the in-house recruiters were pinned to the board, to make them more accessible. And following on from the initial success, the team also used the job board to profile successful candidates and encourage referrals.

“So it’s now currently a board that’s completely around careers at Sky City.”

Staff videos tell the mobility story
Tolley says one of the spin-off effects of giving staff more opportunities for career progress is that the company can now tell “much better stories” about its careers.

“Recently we’ve run a program of videos featuring internal people. For instance we’ve got one guy who has been here 13 years; another guy talks about going from a waiter to a senior waiter to an assistant restaurant manager.”

The unscripted videos have just been launched on the company’s Facebook page, she says.

“Those sorts of stories, you can’t buy. So we have been able to capitalise on some of that work [to improve mobility].”