How MGM Resorts Links the Candidate Experience with the Employee Experience

By Kevin W. Grossman

How MGM Resorts Links the Candidate Experience with the Employee ExperienceWe talk about the “candidate experience” and the “employee experience,” but sometimes it seems we’re so focused on the idea of “experience” that we miss the forest for the trees: There’s no such thing as a separate candidate experience and employee experience. For those who make it through your recruiting funnel and into the mixing bowl you call your organization, the experiences are one and the same.

But a lot of organizations struggle with this concept, no matter how intuitive it might seem. MGM Resorts has taken the time to make sure that its candidate experience and employee experience are seamless. Inspired by the showmanship of its world-famous resorts, the company has applied that attitude to the experiences of the people who want to work there.

I talked with Kim Virtuoso, former executive director of human resources at MGM Resorts International, and Missy Hallead, former vice president of corporate and global HR at MGM Resorts International, about what it means to make the candidate and employee experiences one big show.

For more of our conversation — including talk about their new venture, All In Leadership — check out my interview with them on the CandEs Shop Talk podcast.

Taking Inspiration from the Customer Experience

The genesis for MGM Resorts’ focus on linking the employee and candidates experiences came from a single phrase: “Holy shit.”

I’m serious. This phrase actually was at the core of MGM Resorts’ branding and marketing efforts — to give customers once-in-a-lifetime moments that can only be described with four-letter words. Bringing it to employees as well meant a cultural shift. “We knew we needed to invest in our people and invest in our employee experience,” Hallead says.

Creating a Show for Employees

The changes included a new back-of-house campaign for employees, emphasizing the showmanship associated with MGM Resorts. “We mirrored the [consumer] campaign for employees and said ‘This is my stage. We are the show,’ ” Hallead says. The organization also embraced the “show” moniker as a training acronym to give employees guidance on expectations for their interactions with customers.

But it also made sure that those in leadership roles were putting on their own show — leaders were given courses on engaging with employees and treating them well. After all, a hospitable experience is the most important part of the hospitality industry. Poor service puts a damper on customer visits, and the same can be said for employees: If they’re treated poorly by management, there’s great potential for this behavior to carry over to customers.

“We really made sure our leaders embraced it, immersed it in the culture and exhibited those behaviors to show our employees that we cared about them,” Virtuoso says.

Merging the Employee Experience and the Candidate Experience

While we know the candidate and employee experiences should feel seamless, hiding those stitches isn’t always easy. The team at MGM Resorts knew it would be work to get the candidate experience where they wanted it because it hadn’t been emphasized enough in the past.

“We weren’t creating an optimal experience for our candidates to really be welcomed to the show,” Virtuoso says. “We were kind of thinking of that after the fact.”

To merge the experiences, the company extended its branding to its onboarding materials, including orientation videos. But it also took care to put the sense of showmanship and teamwork at the center of the candidate experience, demonstrating MGM Resorts’ commitment to its values.

On their first day, new employees are greeted by the company president and executive teams for another “holy shit” moment. MGM Resorts’ team noticed that this created a personal connection with employees, who would always remember that the organization’s executive team greeted them on their first day to set expectations for employment.

The company also discovered that its retention rate for executives who moved from out-of-state was too high for its liking. Often this was attributed to the difficulties of moving with a family. So even before candidates are hired, MGM Resorts now pays for family members to experience the company’s properties. “We actually immerse them into the show,” Virtuoso says. “[We] create and generate even more excitement to then want them to relocate to Las Vegas or move into our organization just given the competitiveness in the market right now.”

As successful as its efforts have been, MGM Resorts still leaves nothing to chance. It understands that linking candidate experience and employee experience is more than just creating consistent branding. It checks in regularly with candidates, new hires and executives to make sure every process is going smoothly. And it continues check-ins with employees throughout the employment life cycle to ensure that the experience is everything it needs to be, so that MGM Resorts can continue to put on the best show possible.

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