The battle among gaming companies for workers is about to intensify as the first of the approaching wave of new or expanded casino-resorts opens in Cotai early next year.
Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd is on the front line of the battle. It will be the first operator to open a new phase, with the second phase of the Galaxy Macau casino-resort.
Galaxy Entertainment has one weapon in its armoury that it hopes will be decisive: training. “We have training programmes that prepare [employees] ahead of time,” says the company’s senior vice-president for human resources and administration, Trevor Martin. “We have a whole programme in place to identify people who are ready to take on promotions.”
Galaxy’s policy is to promote staff from its own rank and file. The company has a training department and regularly stages courses to ensure employees are up to the task when put in a new position, Mr Martin says. “The company is expanding so rapidly. We have so many opportunities for people to take on new responsibilities.”
Other gaming companies that are trying to find the staff they need within their own ranks include MGM China Holdings Ltd and Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. Melco Crown says it will need 8,000 new employees at Studio City, which is due to open halfway through next year.
Exactly how many extra workers gaming companies will need to staff the seven new or expanded casino-resorts under construction in Cotai, depends on whose estimate you believe.
Some people say the gaming industry workforce will have to increase by more than one-third.
“Make it look tight. Pull it more,” the instructor says, ordering a new Galaxy Macau recruit who is learning the drill for making up a hotel bed. The casino-resort gives all its behind-the-front-lines recruits in-house training.
The training session includes two recruits, accompanied by a mentor, their “buddy” who will help them through their first days of active service.
The session begins with an instructional video and continues with hands-on practice. “Align the bed cover with the bed sheet,” says the instructor. “Fold the corner at a 45-degree angle. It’s very important.”
The session lasts about 30 minutes. It ends with a few remarks from the instructor and a reminder to the trainees that, when in doubt, they can refer to a tutorial sent to their smartphones.
Training not only improves the skills of Galaxy Entertainment’s workforce, but also keeps trainees on the payroll because it opens up new career opportunities for them, Mr Martin says.
“Talent is hard to get anywhere in the world, including Macau. We have to make sure we optimise the new talent we hire and the ones we already have.”
He says it is difficult to retain staff in Macau because of the “fluid labour market”. It is a euphemism for the problems caused by the paucity of suitable workers living here and the limits on employing migrant workers.
The result is that Macau workers can pick and choose what jobs they do and, if a worker dislikes one employer, they can easily hop over to another. Official data shows that in the fourth quarter of last year, 4.2 percent of gaming employees left their employers.
Galaxy Entertainment does its training close to home partly because it regards itself as an Asian company. The company has partnerships with several institutions of tertiary education. Nine out of 10 Galaxy Macau employees undergo training at least once a year.
Several of the casino-resort’s in-house instructors have seen active service. “Those people are trained by us. We give them the training skills to be able to provide quality training,” Mr Martin says. “They are the people who understand gaming, hotel operations or food and beverage. We make use of that expertise as they become full- or part-time trainers.”
Training also keeps employees in line with the company’s values. Recruits are taught the real-life meaning of the Galaxy Macau motto, “World class, Asian heart”.
Some people doubt that Macau has enough suitable workers to staff the new or expanded casino-resorts Cotai. Mr Martin is positive the city will overcome the staffing difficulties. “The requirements are going to be met,” he says.
He avoids the temptation to read the tea leaves for signs that the government will make it easier to employ migrant workers. But he says he is confident that the government “will be able to support” the development of Cotai.