Upward to Elevate

Learn how to develop leadership in gaming

In my role as vice president of industry relations at the American Gaming Association, I listen a lot. Over the past three years when I moved from a communications role on the public affairs team to member engagement in the industry services department, I consistently heard a few key issues where nearly every segment of our industry—commercial operators, tribal operators and suppliers—struggled. The most frequently mentioned? Finding talented individuals to fill leadership positions.

The fact is, it’s really difficult to recruit and retain top talent—particularly in the gaming industry—in part due to the onerous licensing requirements applied to even non-casino floor jobs (e.g., housekeeping). There also isn’t a ton of incentive to leave a well-paying, hourly wage job on the floor as, say, a dealer, when your vertical options to corporate are limited and to move into a supervisor role often means more responsibility without a big pay bump. Why change?

Irrespective of how you feel about how the most recent BLS figures were released, the facts don’t lie in that June’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 1969, which means it’s even more challenging to motivate, incentivize and, frankly, keep good people because they have more choices.

On more than one occasion, I’ve also heard that the industry’s heard enough about millennials; however, as Pew reported earlier this spring, they’re the largest generation in the U.S. workforce and there’s some truth in stereotypes, including that millennials want good jobs where they’re doing good work and enjoying a good life. One of the easiest and most impactful ways to keep employees satisfied and incentivized isn’t to provide free food and free-play slot machines (although that doesn’t hurt), but to provide good leaders, cultures and teams that equally prioritize people with profits and productivity.

This is particularly challenging in an industry where monthly gross gaming revenues or quarterly earnings reports are published for the world to see, making many interpretations of those short-term figures into something that can further exacerbate the national employment challenge, causing good employees to grow concerned over job security, rather than examining the long-term history of casino gaming.

Further, this is not a uniquely millennial problem. Regardless of the generation you fall into, most people leave their jobs due to bad managers. So, why aren’t we investing more in our people?

After testing a few external, expert leadership coaches and presenters at the Global Gaming Expo over the last two years—with great success—I’m thrilled to share that the AGA has launched a new initiative called “Elevate.” AGA Elevate is a first-of-its-kind program that will address current industry trends while raising the profile on issues that impact the future of the gaming industry, including human rights, robotics, emotional intelligence and payments solutions.

Our first in-person program will be titled, “Lead—Adapt to Win,” led by Mary Kelly, Ph. D., CSP, CDR, U.S. Navy (retired), who will take her skills and knowledge as former military, current economist and strategic coach to equip gaming industry leaders with an essential skill: adaptive capacity.

Now, what does that exactly mean? As she explains, adaptive capacity will:

  • Develop and foster commercial casino leaders’ ability to quickly and effectively adapt to a changing environment and bring their teams along while focused on the vision and strategy of the company;
  • Unleash the human capital people power of your leadership to nurture your employees so they can adapt quickly and create agile working ecosystems; and,
  • Create, develop and complete a personal leadership action plan, a Five-Minute Vision Plan, a Five-Minute Employee Engagement Plan and a Five-Minute Business Plan that can be shared with the company and used with other employees.

As the industry continues to adapt to address new challenges and take advantage of all opportunities, there could be no better time to launch AGA Elevate and our first program, Lead—Adapt to Win. I’m thrilled to have my team attend, given the change on the horizon for the AGA, and encourage gaming industry professionals to join us August 13 in Las Vegas for the daylong workshop.

Allie Barth is the vice president of industry relations for the American Gaming Association. In her role, Barth leads the AGA’s educational strategy, advances member engagement to provide demonstrable value to the association’s member companies and professionals, and oversees the Global Gaming Expo brand and portfolio of events, G2E Las Vegas and G2E Asia.

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