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  • Career development at Melco Crown Entertainment

    - Dec 21, 2011

    In a competitive employment market like Macau, staff retention is the top priority for all companies; more importantly, retaining the right people is a critical objective. 

    For Melco Crown Entertainment Limited (NASDAQ: MPEL), owner and developer of City of Dreams, Altira Macau and Mocha Clubs, and one of the largest employer in Macau, its ability to deliver its employer brand promises is due to its Founder, Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Lawrence Ho, who believes in a people-centric organization. “Without this foundation, initiatives become a strategy rather than a realization of a company’s core value,” says Akiko Takahashi, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources/Corporate Social Responsibility Officer of Melco Crown Entertainment.


    Our people are proud of the company’s achievement


    Despite being such a young company, Melco Crown Entertainment has much to be proud of. From listing on Nasdaq in Dec 2006; opening Altira Macau in May 2007 and City of Dreams in June 2009, to being a strong company with over 10,000 employees, it is an admirable feat for any company to achieve this within a short period of three years. What makes it amazing is that this was accomplished with the level of excellence and quality which is proven by the multitude of awards and accolades

    Melco Crown Entertainment was selected as the Best Casino Operator by the International Gaming Awards for two consecutive years. Its properties have received some of the most prestigious awards in the industry. Altira Macau has received Forbes five-star ratings for both Spa and Lodging; Best Luxury Hotel in Macau from TTG China Travel Awards 2010; Best Spa in Asia Award; and Michelin stars for its restaurants. City of Dreams’ multimedia extravaganza, The Bubble, won THEA Award for Outstanding Achievement from the Themed Entertainment Association. Mocha Clubs, the pioneer in electronic gaming in Macau which is prided for its community service, was awarded Corporate Volunteer of the Year by the Association of Volunteer Social Service of Macau in 2009.

    “These awards are possible only through the dedication, commitment and belief of our colleagues. Thus, it would be redundant for us to repeat the mantra of the ‘People/Service/Business Results Connection.’ Bad companies don’t recognize it; good companies talk about it; great companies execute it. The best sustaining companies believe this with a core passion, and this isn’t possible unless this starts at the top. At Melco Crown Entertainment, this is one of the most important personal values of Lawrence Ho. We are extremely fortunate to have this visionary leadership,” said Takahashi. 

    Takahashi explains: “This makes our colleagues desirable to competitors, and that is the greatest compliment to our company. We are proud of our colleagues; we like to recruit the best people. But, it is equally important to note that our colleagues become the best as a result of our culture which drives excellence and innovation.” Takahashi says that the most common reason for applicants wanting to join Melco Crown Entertainment is because of the company’s continued pursuit for excellence, and the applicants’ desire to be affiliated with quality, innovation and the company’s caring culture. Same goes to the existing employees who have turned down offers from other companies: they are extremely proud to be affiliated with Melco Crown Entertainment, a company which has achieved best quality status in the industry. “It is important for employees to be proud of the company.”


    Money isn’t the ONLY retention issue


    This confirms Takahashi’s belief that employee retention is more than just money. She says, “One always hears about Macau employees being interested in only money, even if it is just a 100MOP difference. These occurrences exist, but to apply this to every person in Macau is an insult to the people of Macau, because it implies that people in Macau do not value kindness from their manager, caring philosophy from the company, career development / progression, and desire for quality of life with their family and loved ones – all of which have proven in research all across Asia to be factors beyond money.

    “I do not think that ALL Macau employees are mercenaries, selling themselves for 100MOP more. Therefore, to compete ONLY on money is a losing proposition, since this strategy will attract only those employees whose core value is money, which means they are available to the next highest bidder. In this super competitive market, it is inevitable.” Takahashi says that if an employer cannot offer anything else in terms of a brand promise, perhaps the only strategy remaining will be to compete on money, but it will be a short-term solution, if they don’t build on other sustaining capabilities to bond with their employees. She says that one cannot underestimate the importance of competitive remuneration, but sustaining employee loyalty is about emotional loyalty. It gets built over time.


    A Two-way Street


    Takahashi likes to draw an analogy of employee loyalty to a personal relationship in that it is not always on an upward trajectory, with one side always giving. There will be short-term incidents when both sides may not be happy, but if over the longer term, there has been a history of sharing and trust, hopefully the short term incidents will be viewed in context. Takahashi advises to employees that companies like to invest in people who believe in the company. Employees who depart for another company because of a one-time short term incident and forget all that was provided over the longer term will have to start all over again.


    Commitment to staff development


    Melco Crown Entertainment has initiated and developed many programs to align with their commitment to provide career opportunities for their employees.

     Firstly, Melco Crown Entertainment launched the” 50/2010 Action” which is a commitment to have at least 50% of their management positions held by local Macau people by the end of 2010. Today, 49% of the company’s managers are local Macau people.

    To enable employees to develop in their present jobs as well as advance their future careers, the company provides continuous development opportunities, including launching the in-house “Learning Academy”, possibly the first and only program of its kind in Macau. The company commits to a budget of 2% of payroll for training and development. “We are particularly proud of the fully developed Table Games Career Progression program, in which identified skills, competencies are offered from dealer to Operations Manager,” said Takahashi. Since the launch of the Learning Academy about 5 months ago, over 1,000 employees at all levels have enrolled in various courses, ranging from management, marketing, finance, language, and even lifestyle courses.

    To ensure internal career opportunities for its existing employees, the company policy mandates most positions to be posted internally, and where qualifications are equal, to provide preference to internal colleagues. Thus far, the company has provided 853 promotions.


    No glass ceiling, even at the top levels. We respect ability and potential.


    “We are extremely proud that the top corporate leadership is a diverse representation of gender, race and experience,” adds Takahashi. She says that one proof of respect for ability and potential over race and gender is by looking at the makeup of the company’s top corporate executives. At Melco Crown Entertainment, there is no glass ceiling, other than based on ability, outcome, potential and experience. She jests: “Of course, luck and timing is a factor in our journey of life.”


    Quality of Life is important - Choose: four-, five-, or six-day workweek, or part time.


    “People of Macau’s desire for quality of life doesn’t seem to differ from the rest of the world, based on recent research. At Melco Crown Entertainment, employees can choose to work four, five or six days a week, depending on their preference and demands in their personal lives,” add Takahashi.

    The company’s pioneer initiative, “Strawberry Life”, allows part-time workers to receive full benefits, so they can remain committed to their primary life commitment, such as going to school or taking care of their children, while being able to work part time earning extra money.


    A best-in-class employee area.


    And while at work, the company wants to take best care of their employees. “When City of Dreams was being built, we ensured that the employee areas were the best-in-class for our colleagues. This is a natural decision for a company who believes in the ‘People/Service/Business Results Connection’: you can’t ask employees to go out and provide top service to our customers when their locker rooms, food quality and environment are poor quality,” explains Takahashi. At Melco Crown Entertainment, the employee areas are called “heart of the house” instead of the traditional “back of the house”.


    Recruitment – attitude and potential; experience can be trained.


    “We give priority to our existing employees if all qualifications are equal; in fact, our own internal colleagues are best positioned to be promoted or placed in jobs in which they may not have the experience because we believe in their attitude and potential,” Takahashi explains. Proof of this is an example where a finance person is placed in human resources, or a systems person is transferred into a learning & development role because of their attitude and potential for that job and looking at transferrable skills. “Thus, our mantra of ‘Hire attitude and potential; Train on experience’ is a reality,” adds Takahashi.

    “We’re in the service industry, and it is not secret that attitude is the most important foundation.” She apologizes on the overused statement, but explains that while obvious, it is difficult in its execution.

    ”Attitude at the non-management levels has to embrace a willingness to serve both internal and external constituents. For management, attitude means having the drive and perseverance to create a culture of providing memorable service, which means a relentless reinforcement and encouragement to delivering on our brand promises. It also means everyone must have a common attitude of hiring attitude. Attitude has a different dimension at all levels and scopes, with the commonality being one which aligns with the company’s visions of excellence.

     “Melco Crown Entertainment has several properties under its umbrella, including its flagship entertainment resort, City of Dreams; multiple award-winning Altira Macau; and electronic gaming pioneer, Mocha Clubs. Upon a common foundation of attitude and potential, the personalities and image must match the brands,” explains Takahashi.

    Takahashi continues, “I emphasize what I began with – look at out top leader. Lawrence Ho is the leader of the next generation. In the decades to come, he will continue to build and expand this company into the powerhouse of excellence it has shown to be. Why wouldn’t you invest your future with a leader who will lead the next generation? The future can be yours.”


    Future Job Seekers – Advice


    “Chasing money and title is easier than chasing achievement and solid experience. You can become King, but if the castle is made of sand, it will crumble because it has no foundation. I have seen many people holding titles and making money in which they don’t know what they’re doing - eventually leading to self-demise. Definition of ‘achievement’ and solid experience is not about doing a task, but achieving excellence in it, leaving a legacy, and making mistakes and learning in the process to gain wisdom,” explains Takahashi.

    “Secondly, when looking for work, look at the company, its leader and its reputation for excellence. Generally, we find this extends to all of their business approaches - customer, people and community.”

    Interested job candidates should check out the Melco Crown Entertainment career website at www.melco-crown.com.