It takes considerable talent to secure top talent in Macau. Crown Macau turned to Talent2, a company rapidly emerging as one of the top recruiters and human resources outsourcing firms in the region
The number of workers without jobs in Macau fell to 9,300 in the first quarter of this year, and the remaining unemployed are so lacking in skills as to be virtually unemployable.
The intensifying labour crunch presents a challenge for any operator seeking to open a major new casino and hotel property in Macau. Recruiting staff of sufficient quality to match the glitzy facilities of the city’s first six-star casino and hotel property, Crown Macau, posed a further challenge. Crown Macau operator, Melco PBL Entertainment (Macau) Ltd, sought assistance for the recruitment of the property’s 4,100-strong opening workforce – as well as the assessment and onboarding of staff – from human resources outsourcing (HRO) firm Talent2, the first end-to-end HRO solutions company in the Asia Pacific region. The Talent2 value proposition is not just reducing the cost per hire, but also the time to hire.
Talent2 Director of Managed Services (Asia) Liviano Lacchia explained the brief: “It comes back to the [Crown Macau] brand. They wanted to see the first six-star hotel and gaming establishment in Macau. They have a vision of the type staff they want – not just in skills, but in aptitude, attitude, and presentation. So we had to build that into our screening and recruitment process.”
Mr Lacchia was also mindful that the recruitment experience for applicants had to mirror Crown Macau’s brand image. “Regardless of whether they get hired or not, the experience of when they touch Crown Macau has to be good. That’s very important.” After all, even if someone is not currently “the right fit,” they could still be a future employee, or be able to refer qualified friends and relatives.
Talent2 began work on April 28 last year in order to have the staff in place for “D-Day” –the Crown Macau opening on May 12. The company first dedicated a team to research the various job functions at the property in order to build specific talent acquisition models for each. As Mr Lacchia points out: “With these operations in Macau, it’s not just recruiting for one area. It’s recruitment for gaming, recruitment for hotel, for shared services. We had to take every area individually as part of a total project.”
The core Talent2 team dedicated to the Crown Macau opening consisted of 10-15 people, but went to over 70 at the peak. “That’s the beauty of this model, says Mr Lacchia, “because it gives you flexibility. You don’t want to put on 60 people at the start and get the client to pay for it when you don’t need them until three quarters of the way in. Our biggest intake started in November, and finished in February.”
In building the various talent acquisition models, Talent2 sought input from Melco PBL, and Mr Lacchia comments that not only is “partnering with your client” the best way to determine their staffing needs, but in the case of the Crown Macau recruitment in particular, PBL’s experience in “running a number of casinos already” proved particularly valuable.
For each job function, Talent2 needed to determine “where do you get them from, what do you look for, what are their attributes, their aptitude, etc?”, explains Mr Lacchia. Blackjack dealers, for example, “need acute mental arithmetic skills, especially when dealing with difficult customers.” In Macau, the government also restricts all dealer jobs to locals, which needs to be built into the acquisition model for that function.
According to Mr Lacchia, “our aim was to hire first Macau residents, but then take best of breed from around the region. We received on behalf of Crown Macau around 60,000 applications, 41,000 of which were pre-qualified and registered on Crown Macau’s talent database.” Of those, a mere 10% made the final cut, though the database could prove handy when it comes time to recruit for Melco PBL’s expansive follow-up property, the US$2.1 billion City of Dreams resort. According to Mr Lacchia, Melco PBL “expects a third of the people from Crown Macau to go to City of Dreams. That’s offering their staff a long-term employment strategy. The same as employees from Sands going to the Venetian.”
The 3,000-room Venetian Macao resort will form the anchor-property of the Cotai Strip, where Las Vegas Sands Corp is spearheading the development of 20,000 hotel rooms, which will require approximately 100,000 workers over the next two years. Talent acquisition management and other human resources skills will become increasingly in-demand, and Talent2 will position itself to fill that demand with the experience gained from the Crown Macau project, as well as its current task of onboarding the staff at Venetian Macao – essentially management of job offers and ensuring all the necessary paperwork is in place, background and security checks have been carried out, and the staff actually show up to work or training on the date committed to.
Mr Lacchia asks: “So when the Venetian is fully running and City of Dreams and Macao Studio City are about to open, can your internal team just do that [hire thousands of workers] by itself? It’s a reality now in the world – and it’s done in other areas outside HR – is that you need to collaborate with expertise.”
Mr Lacchia continues: “Especially when you’re doing large-scale recruitment in this part of the world, it’s a very costly exercise doing it in the normal recruitment manner. You can’t go to an agency that’s not set up for large-scale recruitment and say find me 2,000 people in Macau. It just doesn’t work, and by the way it’s going to cost you 25% per placement. In terms of doing large-scale recruitment, our talent acquisition model is set up to deliver in the most effective way, in terms of cost and ability to attract and hire talent.”
Simply put, Talent2 offers clients “the experience and capability to compliment and enhance an internal HR team,” according to Mr Lacchia.
Gaming and Macau potential
Talent2 sees tremendous potential for the region’s gaming and entertainment industry, and is seeking to position itself as the leading HR outsourcing firm in the field. Mr Lacchia also believes Macau presents a tremendous growth opportunity for Talent2 – a company founded in Australia by two icons of the human resources industry (Geoff Morgan and Andrew Banks, who previously founded Morgan and Banks, which had become the dominant recruitment firm in Australia and Asia).
Talent2 is “aggressively building up the Macau-based business,” says Mr Lacchia. “We’ve built up skills internally to really focus on delivering to this market. We did a lot of research. We’ve got a core team of people who are very well versed now after twelve months to do talent acquisition management in gaming. Because it’s very, very specific.”
Yet Mr Lacchia argues Macau’s “longevity” will be based on more than gaming. “It’s now becoming a gaming hub, and the next stage is resorts and the convention business. That’s the strategy of the Macau government with this, and if it works, it makes sense for us to be here long-term, because gaming will subside. It’s like Las Vegas, where the convention and retail business is now a higher-earner per capita than gaming.”
So in the near future, Talent2 will be involved in talent acquisition management in Macau for “gaming, leisure centres, retail, F&B, hotel and MICE [meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions business].”
“There’s a lot of talent in Macau, especially on the young side,” observes Mr Lacchia. “It may not be as skilled, because they’re young. But in terms of level of education, it’s high.”
While Macau’s workforce has potential, it lacks longevity of experience. “With the activity now going on it is developing depth and breadth as in other cities,” says Mr Lacchia. Identifying potential in the absence of experience “really required a lot of work in terms of assessing people,” claims Mr Lacchia. “Making sure they were the right fit. So it was quite a detailed and strenuous interview programme.”
Mr Lacchia also stresses that “you’re ostensibly at full-employment in Macau,” and as such, it’s a seller’s market for labour. “If I’m a young Macanese University graduate with probably an MBA, which is now the case, and I have previous experience, I’d be saying to every employer, “Why you?” A young, bright University educated Macau resident with two or three years’ experience has choice – for the first time in their life.”
The race is heating up to become the employer of choice in Macau.
Mr Lacchia warns that employers cannot simply draw workers from competitors by offering higher salaries. “It’s wrong for the long term because all you’re going to get is cost escalation.” However, he believes “salaries are always going to go up now. It’s a given.”
Employees are interested not just in salaries, but of course, also benefits – Talent2 had 22 some input on the non-salary benefits offered by Crown Macau. Employees will also increasingly consider “the type of company you are and what’s the growth potential of your company. That has to be built in to the attraction strategy,” comments Mr Lacchia.
City of Dreams and Venetian Macao, for example, offer valuable future promotional possibilities for employees of Melco PBL and Las Vegas Sands Corp in Macau.
The employee value proposition (EVP) is part of an integrated gaming and industry specific talent management process developed by Talent2, which also covers:
• People – recruited through its onsite talent acquisition team
• Systems – Business Processes and Recruitment management systems
• Branding – The employee value proposition (EVP)
• Support – Finance; HR and Training; Marketing and Advertising; Project Resources and consulting
Talent2 categorises its HR services as “Acquire, Manage and Optimise.” The company has over 650 staff and consultants with offices across Australia, China, Hong Kong, Macau, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, London and the US, servicing a growing number of blue-chip companies,
The range of services provided by Talent2 include HR outsourcing and consulting (talent acquisition management, HRIS and payroll solution managed services and workforce management), eLearning, executive search and recruitment and assessment consulting services including psychometric tests.
Talent2 also knows how to run effective job fairs as part of its talent acquisition services in the countries across the Asia Pacific it is active in. “We assisted Crown Macau with one of the most effective job fairs in Macau. In December last year, 5,000 people turned up to the Crown Macau job fair,” reveals Mr Lacchia. Search and recruitment is currently the biggest source of revenue for Talent2, followed by managed services, then optimisation. However, Mr Lacchia points out “we have seen an 82% increase in the Managed Services business and we are on plan for it to become the largest piece of our business within two to three years’ time, because it also gives a recurring revenue stream.” One such service is payroll solutions – Talent2 already counts one of the leading Macau gaming suppliers among its payroll solutions clients, and aims to have a number of other contracts in place by the end of this year.
“There was a war on talent, and talent has won,” says Mr Lacchia, Companies will increasingly turn to outsourcing HR functions – as they have done with many other roles – in seeking a vital competitive advantage. “The difference between us and an internal HR team is the way we’re driven and the way we’re managed by the client is around service level agreements,” explains Mr Lacchia. Thus, Talent2 makes a pledge to deliver that advantage.
Blackjack dealers, for example, “need acute mental arithmetic skills, especially when dealing with difficult customers”