Wynn Looks to Improve Its Retention Odds

By Gina Ruiz

Aug. 31, 2006

Finding 5,000 employees in a small coastal area of just 450,000 people to staff a massive new luxury resort-casino was just one of the many workforce management challenges faced by Wynn Macau. Just as critical to its future prosperity is the company’s ability to retain the talent it recruited and nurtured once the $1.1 billion property opens September 5.

    The cost of replacing employees in China is about 25 percent to 50 percent of their annual salary, according to Brenda Wilson, principal consultant at Mercer Human Resource Consulting in Hong Kong. And with turnover rates of about 13 percent, avoiding employee churn can go a long way when it comes to saving money.

    Not surprisingly, the company has designed a comprehensive compensation package that not only attracts employees, but also instills loyalty. Employee development is among the cornerstones of Wynn Macau’s workforce management strategy, according to HR executive director Wendy Yu. All employees receive highly individualized training in groups of no more than 20 and are required to pass certification programs before interacting with guests of the property.

    Training is critical in Macau’s service-oriented market. Unlike Las Vegas, where the bulk of income stems from machines, revenues in Macau depend on high rollers, analysts say. Besides extensive training, other development programs for Wynn Macau employees include an education allowance and e-learning initiatives.

    Such a human resources policy may not have taken root if not for the company’s familiarity with the needs and expectations of the local workforce. Natives of Macau, located on the southeast coast of China about 40 miles from Hong Kong, tend to keep their thoughts and feelings low-key.

    “From childhood, people in Macau are taught to respect elders and authority figures,” Yu says. “This lesson is carried into adulthood and into the workplace, where employees won’t come out and tell you what their needs are unless they trust you.”

    Given these workforce dynamics, all but one of the 50 HR employees Yu oversees has had extensive experience in Macau. Yu, who was raised in Macau, has worked there for most of her 16-year career in human resources. HR leadership’s familiarity with the market has led to the creation of key policies, such as the highly specialized health insurance packages, which could prove indispensable for retaining workers.

    Wynn Resorts, which operates the Wynn Las Vegas hotel-casino along with Wynn Macau goes beyond providing the conventional medical coverage typically offered in the U.S. Workers at the Wynn Macau have access to a Chinese herbalist under the health plan. “Some people are comfortable with Western medicine, others are comfortable with Chinese medicine,” Yu says. “This is a good way to cover all of our bases.”

    There are additional benefits—such as paid leave when an employee gets married—offered in Macau that are not common in the U.S. The medical program also takes into account the critical inter-generational relationships that exist in Macau. Workers can access health insurance for their parents, albeit at a cost.

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