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SUMMER SUN CASINOS, INC.
David Lloyd, vice president of human resources for Summer Sun Casinos, Inc., watched Anne Furlong leave his office. He sat back and reflected on the meeting they?d just had. It wouldn?t be many months before they would have to staff the new $160 million Midnight Sun Hotel and Casino property nearing completion with an estimated 1,800 to 2,000 employees. David and Ann had agreed that staffing for a hard opening1 was always difficult and always crucial to the initial success of a property. David had participated in the opening of several new hotels and casino hotels in his career. As he had opinioned to Ann as she was leaving ?We?ve just got to do it better. Maybe it?s worth doing it differently than we?ve ever done it before.?
THE COMPANY AND SETTING
Summer Sun Casinos, Inc., began in 1976 as The Casino, a 5,000 square foot gaming property in Las Vegas, Nevada. During the 1980s, The Casino was transformed and enlarged to become the Blue Sun Hotel and Casino. It now had approximately 25 times the space of the original property. In 1993 the company went public with what became the most successful gaming offering in the history of Wall Street. Since that year, Summer Sun Casinos had opened a new property every year. At present Summer Sun Casinos had five properties in Las Vegas, including the Blue Sun, and two casinos in Missouri. Soon to be opened in the summer of 1997 was the newest Summer Sun property, the Midnight Sun Hotel and Casino. 1 A ?hard opening? was when a property opened its door with all services at full or nearly full capacity. Las Vegas had been the center of legalized gambling in the United States for many decades. Casino hotels clustered downtown and for several miles along ?The Strip.? In recent years there had been a surge of new openings, several every year. Las Vegas had been the fastest growing city in the United States for the past four years. While growth in the gaming industry accounted for much of Las Vegas?s recent growth, it also had been attracting high technology firms and other light industry as well as retirees and others who wished to escape the pollution and congestion of large cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago. More and more, new casino hotels strived to be family-oriented, having some distinctive entertainment theme, regular exhibits or activities, for example, the erupting volcano in front of The Mirage, the pirate ship battle in front of Treasure Island, or the jousting matches in the Excalibur, to differentiate themselves from their competition.
RECRUITMENT IN LAS VEGAS
Recruitment for new casino hotels was a straightforward process. Companies typically ran advertisements in local newspapers announcing staff hiring with a series of days noted for interested people to show up. Applicants came to the appointed place, got in line and waited until their turn, when they were given an application form to fill out. When the form was completed, it was handed in to one of several recruiters who then scanned it. If an applicant possessed minimum qualifications, they were either given an appointment for an interview or interviewed right then. On the first day of this process, as many as 3,000 people might show up to fill out an application. Some might have to stand in line for half a day or more. As Ann Furlong, the human resource director for the new hotel and casino noted, When you open the first day, your objective is to attract people. Then, when 2,000 people show up, your objective becomes how do we get these people out of here. And this is totally opposite from what you are trying to do. Your mission changes from what you are trying to do. Your mission changes from one of evaluation to processing, and you can?t staff a property properly by just processing. Furlong added, that to help ease the pressure of the situation, she and her staff sometimes even stood in line with applicants, telling them jokes, serving coffee in cold weather, anything to keep them from feeling frustrated. David Lloyd believed there were real weaknesses in the conventional recruitment process. For Summer Sun Casinos, finding and keeping the best employees was believed to be an important way to keep a step ahead of the competition. The Summer Sun Casino philosophy was simple in concept: hire the best employees using the best selection process available. Summer Sun?s goal was to have applicants enjoy the selection process so much that, even if not hired, they would return as customers. Yet there were many barriers. According to Lloyd: Managers have some real problems today. Their pressure is to fill a job while focusing on the operations part of the business. Their number one priority is ?get someone in here,? their number two priority is ?get someone in here who can do the job,? and their number three priority is ?get someone in here who can do the job and is the best candidate available.? It?s very hard for them to step outside the operation and give recruiting the attention it deserves.
MIDNIGHT SUN HOTEL AND CASINO
The newest property of Summer Sun Casinos, Inc., was to be the Midnight Sun. Located on 160 acres of concentrated, commercially developed land, the property under construction would include a 527-room hotel tower and 80,000 square feet of casino space. There would be six full-service restaurants. Other features of the property were to include a microbrewery, a 13-screen movie theater, and much more. Like other casino hotels, Midnight Sun would operate seven days a week with most services available around the clock. WHAT TO DO The more David Lloyd thought about the staffing of the Midnight Sun ahead of him and Ann, the more he was sure that it was time to reexamine the entire selection process. Taking out a pad of paper he began to sketch his ideas. Two objectives immediately came to mind: to increase the applicant flow and to decrease the number of candidates selected to complete the full interview process. Jotting these objectives down, David paused, turning these into numbers, even rough numbers was the next step. And, he didn?t want to just focus on the Midnight Sun for this was an opportunity to reconceive recruitment for the whole corporation. David knew that the corporate annual applicant flow was about 38,000 and in the past that the company had selected about 4 percent. Since his general objectives seemed reasonable, and he thought that his staff probably could spend time with about 20,000 selected applicants, it meant that to be more selective would mean hiring 2.5 percent of these 20,000, who, according to his experience, would come from an applicant pool of 80,000. Jotting these figures down on his pad, David leaned back and grinned to himself. It seemed like a pipe dream. Human resources would have to have its own building and additional staff. To upgrade the quality of hires and fill jobs in a more timely manner while increasing the applicant flow more than 50 percent seemed impossible. Turning his desk chair to look out the window David Lloyd mused to himself, ?I?m sure there is some sort of high-tech, high-touch solution. I?ll start looking around to see what?s available.? In the ensuing weeks David Lloyd began to research available options. He realized that whatever was chosen would be put to the test in the staffing of the soon to be completed Midnight Sun. After several conversations with the Midnight Sun?s HR director, Ann Furlong, Lloyd concluded that what was needed was a technology assisted telephone-screening device to take the routine, time-consuming work of getting applications and initial screening out of the hands of his HR staff and operations managers giving them more time to focus on the better candidates. Lloyd discovered that a firm in Laramie, Wyoming called Birch Tree Software (BTS), Inc., had developed computer-assisted products to improve several human resource activities such as managing customized internal databases and exit interviews. What intrigued him about BTS was both its ongoing validation research on its products and the high level of customer service offered. Contacting BTS, Lloyd quickly learned that it had recently developed a new screening system and wanted a site in which to test it. The BTS Computer-Assisted Phone Screening (CAPS) system, however, was designed for situations where approximately 1,500 to 2,000 employee prospects were expected to be processed. With the CAPS system, Summer Sun Casinos would run advertisements in local and regional newspapers informing readers that they were about to staff a new hotel and casino. Interested people were instructed to call a telephone number provided and answer a series of short questions over the phone. If the caller met the minimum qualifications for the job in question, programmed into the software, he or she was transferred to a HR assistant and scheduled for an appointment at his/her convenience at the Midnight Sun hiring center. On arrival at the hiring center, the person would complete an application, participate in a group interview, and then talk with an employment manager one-on-one, a process lasting no longer than two hours per applicant. Lloyd and Furlong met to talk about how well this new system might work from both the company?s point of view as well as from the applicant?s point of view. Was the CAPS system worth trying?
Read the following: The Summer Sun Casinos Inc. (pgs. 257-259)
2. Read the case carefully. Assume you have been hired as a Consultant to analyze business operation. In an essay, answer the following: Based on the information presented in the case:
3. What are the organizational strengths presented in this case?
4. What are the organizational weaknesses?
5. Suggest initiatives to help increase productivity. Would you recommend changes to the departmental staffing structure? Why or why not?