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].”

Recruiting outside “comfortable” channels gets results – four ideas that worked

Source: Shortlist

Recruiters need to get creative and think back to the days before job boards and LinkedIn, as there are plenty of other ways to find great candidates and make an impression on them, says ASB Bank head of talent acquisition Matt Pontin.

In an informal session at last week’s RHUB New Zealand conference, Pontin asked participants to share their experiences of successfully recruiting outside their “comfortable” channels. A recruitment marketing specialist told the group about an assignment in which he helped a large recruitment company seeking to build a pipeline of construction labour following the Christchurch earthquake.

“They came to us with an outstanding idea… They said, ‘All the people we need are around building sites in Auckland. So we’d like you to help us pimp out a ute and put a barbeque on the back – sausages are free during smoko, as long as they send us a text with their details.’ “It was just bait, in a sense, to build that initial database. Jobs weren’t on the radar at first, but it was the start of a relationship.”

Pontin said in a previous role as a recruitment manager for a major Auckland health board, he was tasked with sourcing anaesthetic technicians, who turned out to be very difficult to find. He invited all of the organisations’ anaesthetists and anaesthetic technicians to a brainstorming session, and someone suggested recriting from the army, as a large proportion of army officers were trained to administer drugs.

“I never would have thought of that! And we hired people from it,” Pontin said. Another recruiter said she was one of the presenters at a quarterly workshop for new migrants to New Zealand who were interested in careers in IT. Many in the audience were students, she said, “but a lot of them are also really, really experienced people, and they’re just new to New Zealand”.

She said her presentation covered elements of New Zealand workplace culture that might be unfamiliar, what local employers expect, and tips on interviews and CVs. “Most of them send me their CVs afterwards, and I’ve probably placed two or three really good people in quite senior roles from it. There are some real gems.

“You give something but you get something back – the first person I placed moved on from that role, and is now a development manager and a client of ours.”

A recruiter who previously worked in Australia said he knew of a clever sourcing tactic from National Australia Bank. As part of its high-profile ‘Break-Up’ campaign in 2011, it sponsored new t-shirts for employees of the window-cleaning company that serviced the Commonwealth Bank’s head office in Sydney.

“Banks are exceptionally competitive over there… so NAB had guys abseiling down the side of the building with big NAB hashtags on their t-shirts.”

How Important is “Culture” to Recruiters?

Hello everyone.  I’m  writing this guest post with exactly 2 weeks to go before #RHUBNZ kicks off at the Floating Pavilion in Auckland.  As someone who actively agitated, coerced and cajoled to have this cool event make the trip across the Tasman, I’m hugely proud of the way things are shaping up.  It’s going to be an event not to be missed for anyone passionate about recruitment in New Zealand.

I will be talking about the power of positive culture in recruitment teams and how it can be developed to attract, and retain, the best recruitment talent to your organisation.  Phillip has kindly slotted me into the 2pm slot so I will be doing my best to rouse the delegates from their post-lunch torpor while attempting to resurrect the agency flag after a morning dominated by the internal recruitment galacticos of New Zealand.

In preparation for my presentation we at Rice Consulting conducted a survey of the recruitment leaders, owners and managers across New Zealand.  From the 84 responses I have put together a whitepaper on what factors the firms with the best attraction of recruiters, and lowest turnover of recruiters, have that point towards their positive cultures, so that others can see what does, and doesn’t work.  I thought this might be a good platform to share a part of the whitepaper, and then there is a live poll on LinkedIn where you can go and have your say too:

The Attraction of Culture

In its Quarterly Global Workforce Benchmarking Report for Q1 2012, the Corporate Leadership Council revealed the Top 10 EVP Drivers of Attraction by Region.  The number one factor in a Global sense is Compensation, but that doesn’t feature until number five in the Australia & New Zealand Region:

Rank Global Australia & New Zealand
1 Compensation Work-Life Balance
2 Respect Respect
3 Stability Location
4 Work-Life Balance Stability
5 Location Compensation
6 Future Career Opportunity Ethics &   Integrity
7 Development Opportunity Future Career Opportunity
8 Recognition Recognition
9 Ethics &   Integrity Product /   Service Quality
10 Vacation People   Management


Whilst the importance of culture can be seen in a global sense with Respect, Recognition and Ethics & Integrity all featuring, it seems to be of even greater attraction to us in Australia and New Zealand.  Many factors come above Compensation, including Respect.  A greater importance is placed on Ethics & Integrity and then the culture driving factors of Product/Service Quality and People Management make an appearance in the top ten as well.


Why is Culture So Important?

Agency recruitment firms with the best workplace cultures are consistently able to attract, and retain, the top recruitment talent in the market.  A strong organisational culture fosters strong engagement from the recruiting staff, leading to better productivity, more effective collaboration, more innovative thinking, a tighter control over retention of talent and intellectual property, ultimately leading to better financial results and a more attractive employer brand.

When you have the right mix, you will have a business that can acquire and attract top talent, with a culture where success breeds success.


“Effective culture can account for 20-30% of the differential in performance when compared to “culturally unremarkable” competitors.”

The Culture Cycle, James L. Heskett


How Important is Culture to Recruiters?

We have seen how important culture is to the wider workforce in our region.  But how important is it to recruiters, who are often in possession of quite different drivers, personalities and characteristics to the general workforce?

New Zealand’s Recruitment Leaders were asked what they believed to be the main drivers of attraction for top recruitment talent to join their teams.  The 84 respondents produced a top five as follows:

Rank Driver of Attraction
1 Overall Compensation Package
2 Corporate Reputation & Culture
3 Work-Life Balance
4 Future Career Opportunities
5 Stability


Whilst culture was only narrowly beaten to the post by overall compensation package, it is apparent that New Zealand’s recruitment leaders have adopted the more global viewpoint when it comes to attracting top recruiters.  To their mind it is just as important, if not more so, to offer a competitive compensation package than it is to establish a positive workplace culture.

But what about the actual recruiters themselves?  Do they share the same viewpoint on drivers of attraction as their Directors and Managers?  Results of our recent LinkedIn poll might suggest otherwise:

Click on the link above to have your say on what you, as a recruiter, find to be the strongest driver of attraction in choosing a new employer.


To all of you attending the conference I look forward to sharing my findings in more detail, including how the firms with best cultures do it, and some essential tips on what you can do right now to improve the culture of your firm, and thereby improve your ability to attract and retain the top recruitment talent in the market.  See you at the RHUB Social on 17th October!