In the recognition field, the big buzz at September's Motivation Show was about MGM Grand Las Vegas. The hotel's recognition program was awarded the 2007 Overall Best Practice Award by Recognition Practices International (formerly the National Association for Employee Recognition) — after being named the 2005 and 2006 winner of The Best Place to Work in Southern Nevada and a Fortune 500 “Best Place to Work in America,” right up there with The Container Store and Whole Foods Market, which are considered models across every industry.

Since its opening in 1993, MGM Grand has had recognition embedded in its corporate culture. In the highly competitive Las Vegas market, its philosophy is that employees are what bring the customer back. In other words, the employees are the brand.

Practices that Earned Mgm Grand Highest Honors in the Recognition Industry:

  • EMPLOYEES ARE TRAINED in the company's core values and service standards (see list), and managers use celebrations and employee events to keep morale high.
  • EVERY SHIFT STARTS WITH A REQUIRED PRE-SHIFT TALK, a five- to 10-minute discussion that every manager and supervisor conducts with his or her work group about a core service standard and what that standard means in their area, perhaps with a recent example, perhaps by role playing or inviting team questions.
  • THE MGM USED TO DO YEARS OF SERVICE pins, but felt that the award led to feelings of entitlement on the part of employees with longer tenure. It was replaced with The MVP (Maximum Vegas Performance), an online thank you that any staff member can give to any other member. The MVP is documented in employees' personnel files and entered into a quarterly drawing.
  • THE STAR OF THE MONTH AWARD focuses on a different department (e.g., food and beverage or casinos) each month. A person nominates someone by submitting a written recommendation and verbally lobbying the recognition committee. The committee then selects 12 individuals from each of the properties. All 12 stars win a trip and cash prizes, and one winner from each property owned by MGM Mirage (the parent company also owns Bellagio, Luxor, and Mandalay Bay) is named Employee of the Year.
  • MGM STRONGLY PREFERS PRO-MOTING FROM WITHIN and provides ample opportunity for employees (and applicants) to improve themselves. For example, the company arranges internships for students and entry-level employees, more than 95 percent of whom end up being hired full time.
  • MGM ALSO HAS AN EXTENSIVE INTERNAL UNIVERSITY, with training options ranging from leadership to English as a Second Language. MGM's benefits also include tuition reimbursement at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, community colleges, or trade schools.
  • A COUNSELING PROGRAM called REACH assists employees to enhance their promotability within the organization.

Mgm Grand's Core Values:

Job Mastery

The Results?

Besides the awards that have established MGM Grand as an employer of choice in a competitive hiring market, employee satisfaction has steadily climbed. Turnover has dropped to 11.4 percent, which is extremely low for the Vegas market. The average length of service is an amazing five years, 165 days.

“When you have an effective employee recognition program, that makes for good business and everybody wins,” says Bette Gaines-Snyder, MGM Grand's director of slot and employee events.

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc.; a frequent presenter to management teams and conferences; and a best-selling author of several books, including 1001 Ways to Reward Employees and The Management Bible.