Golden Nugget Hits the Talent Development Jackpot
How focusing on employee development put the odds in The Golden Nugget’s favor.
“We want to create an environment where everyone can learn every day. We want to battle complacency and for employees to feel challenged to be better every day,” says Charles Castonguay, Director of L&D for The Golden Nugget. Focusing on the individual growth and development of each employee in the hospitality industry is no small feat, as The Golden Nugget isn’t really just one business—it’s more like 100 businesses rolled up into one, with staff ranging from casino accountants to marine biologists.
“The challenge we were facing was that every department had their own training needs, and we were searching for a method to provide parallels among the departments, if possible. Things were siloed, and there was no shared bucket of accountability,” continued Castonguay. “We were starting down a path of mapping out job codes and critical skills for each role. But we were using a lot of nauseating spreadsheets and trying to divvy out assignments to keep people accountable.” Castonguay and team realized this process was not sustainable, so they started searching for a more approachable solution, one that would create a great development experience from day one and help increase employee retention.
The Golden Nugget’s Approach
In the hospitality industry in Las Vegas, there’s especially fierce competition for talent because so many resorts are in close proximity. According to Castonguay, “Particularly in Las Vegas, everyone knows everyone. Everyone has friends and family at different properties. When we look for talent, it’s really hard because everyone has the same talent pool. If your onboarding is complicated, that will put a sour taste in new employees’ mouths. And when an employee gets a call from another place for interviews, it’s super simple for them to just not show up for the second day or second week.”
Add to this the intense pressure to provide great experiences for guests at all times, and Castonguay and team knew they needed to find a way to create a competitive advantage for The Golden Nugget, both in terms of their customer and employee experience. “We’re relentless in the pursuit of guest satisfaction. The smoother we can make internal processes, the happier our employees will be. The happier our employees are, well, that radiates out to our guests. We believe in our process and our core values, and that’s helped us deliver particularly outstanding performance.”
For Castonguay, this pursuit of excellence led them to take an extremely employee-centric viewpoint: “Bridge Perform takes a look at our most important resource, our people, and finds ways to keep them motivated and build their personal growth journey on property.” Key to the L&D team’s approach was:
- Making continuous feedback a part of the culture: “I came from a background where you had your traditional one-and-done performance appraisal,” said Castonguay. “When I came to The Golden Nugget, we wanted to find ways to make sure that feedback and appraisal were something more than just one and done. With Perform, you can track achievements on the timeline, send out assessments, and develop virtual teams. That’s a huge win for us.” Being able to share agendas and track projects and performance on an ongoing basis contributes to the incremental development and growth of all employees, all year long.
- Focusing on what's important for employee development: “We’re trying to turn people from fire fighters to focusing on what’s important. At the beginning of the year we’ll talk about goals, and we don't want it to be this mystical business plan,” shared Castonguay. For the L&D team, having company goals that trickle down into the everyday lives of employees at all levels is imperative. “Perform challenges you to tie your projects into the overarching goals for the company and makes sure we're here for a shared purpose.”
- Having a flexible, centralized solution supported by a reachable team: “Our industry has a lot of a la carte software, so it’s nice that Bridge is all in one place,” said Castonguay. “A lot of our employees won't ever use a PC on the job. The L&D team wanted to create an environment where employees could engage with managers who could help them grow and develop in their career path. The platform is beautiful and simple, and when you call support, people actually answer. Bridge was tremendous in terms of working with us and brainstorming solutions,” said Castonguay. In addition to being able to make continuous feedback and development a digestible process for employees and managers, the Bridge Customer Success and Support teams made it so the L&D team could “sleep easy at night.”
How The Golden Nugget Measures Success
“Our main goal is to have our team grow with The Golden Nugget, but as long as they look back on their time with us and say ‘I learned a lot,’ then we can say we are really making a difference,” said Castonguay. With this in mind, the L&D team measures success in a few ways:
- Gather strategic data for HR: “We’re all about numbers on this property, especially when it comes to feedback and engagement,” reported Castonguay. “With everyone using their own individual platform, we couldn’t aggregate it.” Because Bridge is a centralized solution, Castonguay and team can focus on strategic data: “The data we’re pulling focuses on mastery and how individuals are assessed on soft skills. This helps us get profiles so if we do experience turnover, we can find a similar applicants or focus on the competencies that have been successful in the past.”
- Influencing culture change across the organization: A large challenge was getting managers on board with a continuous feedback process. Castonguay and team heard a lot of typical remarks at first, such as “We don’t have time” and “We’ve always done it this way.” “We’ve been able to find stakeholders who are hyper-engaged and then share those success stories with the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ crowd,” said Castonguay, “As you share these success stories internally, it’s fun to see their eyes light up when we share all the charts that show engagement.” By rolling it out in a strategic way, Castonguay and team have been able to influence the culture organically at The Golden Nugget towards a more employee-focused development culture.
- Impacting employee relationships and retention: “Why do people quit? Many times, it’s related to their managers,” remarked Castonguay. “In HR, it’s our responsibility to look at the reasons people quit and try to mitigate those. With Perform, we can foster relationships with managers and even with coworkers. In 1:1s, you can’t ignore questions, you have to oer feedback, and you have to focus on the person you’re talking with. Everyone who participates in a 1:1 learns how to work with and approach the people in their network. This helps managers focus on not just what’s urgent, but what’s important, like identifying opportunities for all of our people to grow and develop.”