CAREERS and the disABLED — Spring 2016
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Succeeding in The Guest Service Sectors
Katie Mcky


HOSPITALITY AND GAMING PROVIDE MULTIPLE AVENUES TO FLOURISH WHILE PROVIDING SUPERIOR SERVICE TO GUESTS.

IN THE HOSPITALITY AND GAMING SECTORS, YOU’RE POSITIONED TO SMILE AND EASE THE WAY FOR WEARY, BLEARY-EYED TRAVELERS FAR FROM HOME. YOU’RE ALSO POSITIONED TO SMILE ALONG WITH PEOPLE ON THEIR JOYFUL DAYS, WHEN THEY MIGHT BE GETTING MARRIED OR WINNING AT BLACKJACK.

THESE SERVICE SECTORS TRULY ALLOW YOU TO HELP PEOPLE AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THEIR DAY. THE POSSIBLE ROLES IN WHICH YOU CAN BE OF SERVICE TO GUESTS RANGE BROADLY, FROM SECURITY AND ACCOUNTING POSITIONS THAT LET YOU SEAMLESSLY DELIVER GREAT SERVICE FROM BEHIND THE SCENES TO FRONT-DESK CLERK POSITIONS THAT LET YOU BE THE FIRST FRIENDLY FACE GUESTS SEE UPON ARRIVAL.

COLLABORATION IS KEY AT JOHN Q. HAMMONS HOTELS & RESORTS

NICOLE BUVARI, DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES, JOHN Q. HAMMONS’ (JQH) EMBASSY SUITES BY HILTON DALLASFRISCO (TX) HOTEL, CONVENTION CENTER AND SPA, SAYS JQH HAS DEVELOPED INFRASTRUCTURE ACROSS ITS PROPERTIES TO CONSISTENTLY TAP THE TALENTS OF DISABLED AMERICANS. THIS IS SEEN AT THE TEXAS EMBASSY SUITES PROPERTY.

“JQH’s Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas-Frisco is nearing completion of our second of three rotations with our Project SEARCH 2015-16 class of 12 interns. They are currently in the job development phase in which they seek employment either at the hotel or in their desired course of industry. In addition, we are in the process of recruiting for next year’s interns. Our Project SEARCH internships provide real-world experience in a range of hotel departments, including human resources, guest services, banquet, housekeeping, culinary, sales and engineering.”

It’s clearly a joint effort. “The hotel collaborates with the Frisco Independent School District, interns and their parents, LifePath Systems and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to help make this a winning initiative. Project SEARCH representatives provide support to the unique training program,” says Buvari.

The effort has produced some life-changing results. “Having developed skills and self-esteem over the course of the program, many of the interns are now planning to pursue college studies, full-time jobs and other life goals that some of them previously didn’t think possible. Our hope is to spread the word about the program’s success at JQH’s Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas-Frisco and at other proper ties within the JQH hotel portfolio to encourage involvement and change lives,” explains Buvari.

SEARCH has begun to transform some of the internships into more permanent job opportunities. “We are very excited about JQH’s Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas-Frisco’s first employment placements with five of our hotel’s Project SEARCH interns,” notes Buvari.

“Project SEARCH helps to develop young students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to transition them to long-term competitive employment,” she continues. “After participating in two rotations of the Project SEARCH program at the hotel, these interns successfully applied for hotel positions of banquet server, banquet set-up, prep cook, kitchen steward and laundry attendant, and now have the opportunity to make the associated wages for their specific jobs without affecting their state-provided benefits.”

And Buvari is thrilled by JQH’s overarching commitment to doing the right thing. “I’ve been with JQH for 20 years and continue to be im pressed by how the company encourages and celebrates corporate responsibility with our associates and community,” she observes.

According to Buvari, JQH provides the necessary support, training, resources and op portunities to im - prove, including em powering associates to explore options in the hospitality field through training programs.

In fact, she says, “open discussions are encouraged [as they relate] to operations and idea generation, such as for creating sustainable programs. Being an organization that is fair and beneficial for all whom are concerned is a priority, and the company operates under a clearly defined structure that promotes an individual’s growth.”

The hotel company also has infrastructure in place to make sure decency wins the day. “JQH has proven protocols in place company-wide to help ensure successful adherence to EEOC employment policies and practices. As a leader in the hospitality industry for decades, JQH has a solid track record for employing a diverse talent pool of thousands of individuals nationwide in a safe, fair and non-discriminatory environment,” says Buvari, who loves being a part of it.

“My role as director of human resources encompasses all facets of the HR profession, including company policy and legal compliance, organizational development, recruitment of diverse talent, leadership training, benefits, payroll and workers’ compensation.”

Want to be her colleague? According to Buvari, JQH seeks candidates with a desire to make a difference. “Serving the communities in which we live, work and play is a mantra that permeates our JQH culture and our spirit of hospitality,” she says.

WHITE LODGING SERVICES FOCUSES ON COMMUNICATION

DANIELA CERMAKOVA IS A SEAMSTRESS AT JW MARRIOTT AUSTIN (TX), A WHITE LODGING SERVICES-OWNED PROPERTY, WHO ENJOYS WHAT SHE DOES AND WHERE SHE WORKS.

However, at first, Cermakova, who is deaf, wasn’t sure how applying for her current position might pan out. “I was born deaf. I was fortunate to get hired. My resume has a lot of experiences on it, so with many years of experience, I had the confidence to help me step up and apply for this job,” she says.

And now Cermakova, who found her position on the company’s website while looking online, is clearly happy that she decided to apply for the position. “I love the friendly teamwork, positive attitudes and smiling,” she says.

That friendly, cooperative atmosphere in her workplace enables her to communicate with her colleagues in creative ways. “I use gestures, body language, and I write notes. I have 750 coworkers at the hotel,” says Cermakova.

Susan Van Nostrand, the human resource manager at the JW Marriott Austin, hired many of those 750 coworkers, and she leverages diversity to deliver an elegant experience to guests.

“I assist in the employment process from hiring to caring for the associates while working here and help with exiting staff. We seek to hire a diverse workforce. For example, we have more than 20 countries represented here now. Our diversity gives our hotel strength and elegance,” she says.

Those 20 countries mean many languages that also require accommodation.

“We focus on communication and have many interpreters that work with us to ensure we are training each associate according to their own needs. By focusing on an associate’s strengths and natural talents, we maximize the performance of each individual,” explains Van Nostrand.

Those strengths coalesce to deliver comfort and quality. It also translates into “an amazing team [that has] fun every day while providing our guests with a great experience,” she says.

Want to be hired? Van Nostrand says the most important trait to have is a positive attitude, plus “the willingness and drive to be the best in our industry. The JW Marriott Austin is a luxury hotel committed to the highest level of customer service.”

MARRIOTT PUTS PEOPLE FIRST

DAVID RODRIGUEZ, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND GLOBAL CHIEF DIVERSITY OFFICER AT MARRIOTT, IS PROUD TO TOUT THE COMPANY’S COMMITMENT TO A VARIED WORKFORCE.

“Marriott works aggressively to recruit a diverse group of qualified associates. Many of our recruitment programs are rooted in strategic partnerships with organizations that sponsor diverse groups, including college and youth programs. Our company has one of the most diverse and inclusive workforces. Welcoming and valuing the differences of our associates is a strategic business priority,” says Rodriguez.

“As a result of our efforts, Marriott has been named one of the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces by Great Place to Work, the world’s largest annual study of workplace excellence. We were recognized as a top company for diversity by Diversity- Inc, the Human Rights Campaign 100 percent equality score, LATINA Company of the Year, Working Mother Best Places to Work [and] Top Company named by the Executive Leadership Council,” he adds.

Rodriguez attributes Marriott’s diversity to its culture: “We strive to build an inclusive and nurturing environment where no energy is spent worrying about whether or not I fit, but rather where I know that we are all valued for the common and the unique talents and perspectives we bring to work every day.”

Of course, disABLED colleagues are a key component of Marriott’s diversity. “There are many examples across the enterprise of how the company’s culture of putting people first has enabled associates, regardless of their different abilities, to excel,” Rodriguez notes, inviting a look at Marriott’s YouTube video “The Ability to Succeed” that highlights a few associates’ stories.

Ensuring the support of all associates is an inherent part of the company’s DNA. This core value naturally extends to supporting disABLED colleagues with proper infrastructure at the worldwide lodging firm.

“A component of this includes giving associates and managers tools to increase their understanding and debunk myths regarding disability. Last year we launched mandatory e-learning on the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) for management, and created additional educational resources (FAQs and discussion documents). Annually, we encourage our hotels to share stories during NDEAM (National Disability Employment Awareness Month) to reinforce the importance of hiring and retaining differently abled associates,” Rodriguez explains.

Thanks to its global presence, Marriott offers diverse employment opportunities domestically and internationally.

“There are more than 200,000 employees at Marriott-managed properties, and corporate and regional headquarter locations, including 102,301 in the United States. Marriott International is a global-leading lodging company based in Bethesda, MD, with more than 4,300 properties in 85 countries and territories.”

Rodriguez proudly contributes to growing those numbers and to acquiring new talent by setting “the company’s global human resources strategy in alignment with Marriott’s marketplace goals and ensur[ing] the vitality of the company’s people-centric culture and talent pipeline.”

The strategy puts people first and casts a wide net to attract associates who have values that align with Marriott’s core values: Put People First, Pursue Excellence, Embrace Change, Act with Integrity and Serve Our World. This strategy nourishes Marriott’s inclusive environment.

“We expect associates to act with the highest level of integrity. We are team-oriented, and characteristics such as trust, loyalty and dependability are important traits.”

Naturally, different roles require different skills.

“For example, [for] hourly positions at our hotels, we seek individuals who demonstrate a passion for delivering great customer service, and who are dependable and have a willingness to assume responsibilities that may fall outside the strict definitions of their job descriptions. We look for associates who can excel at quickly establishing relationships and have the ability to relate to the particular needs, concerns and interests of individual guests. When hiring entry-level managers, we also probe for strong leadership skills because new managers at Marriott, particularly at the supervisory level, are as signed a great deal of responsibility early on. We look for people who can roll up their sleeves and lead by example, people who are not afraid to get their hands dirty and who will do what it takes to get the job done.”

As Marriott’s employees care for its guests, Marriott cares for its employees.

“Marriott values the well-being and happiness of its associates. Happiness is feeling loved, supported and valued. The company’s Take Care initiative embodies Marriott’s core beliefs - embracing what makes each of us genuinely unique while fueling our desire for fulfillment,” states Rodriguez.

Furthermore, he adds, “Marriott provides tools and resources to encourage and support associates’ personal and financial well-being, in an environment of team work, collaboration and ‘family.’ When associates feel valued and supported, they can focus on bringing their best self to work every day. Throughout the year a variety of activities are held that focus on associate well-being and recognition, including Global Unity Day, Spirit to Serve Day, wellness programs, as well as career and leadership programs.”

That care is paid forward. “When people feel they are on the path to better personal health and financial security, and are proud of their company’s workplace and social responsibility, they become highly engaged in its success. They also are inspired to give back to their communities. It’s the ultimate sign of personal wellbeing and one of the highest forms of corporate responsibility and sustainability,” says Rodriguez.

PINNACLE ENTERTAINMENT EMPOWERS EMPLOYEES

GOING FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT TO WORKING SECURITY IN GAMING ENTERTAINMENT IS A SEEMINGLY LOGICAL TRANSITION BECAUSE OF THE OBVIOUS SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE TWO FIELDS. HOWEVER, FOR JOSEPH RICHARDS MALEC, A SECURITY OFFICER AT THE BOOMTOWN CASINO HOTEL IN BOSSIER CITY, LA, IT HAS REQUIRED A FEW ADJUSTMENTS.

“When I first started, I came from a law enforcement background and had to learn the difference between private security work and law enforcement. There are different duties, different do’s and don’ts, and you have to maintain a safe work environment while still delivering great guest service and adjusting to a noisy workplace,” says Malec, who has two hearing devices. “I have two Binaural hearing aids, [with the] right ear better than [the] left.”

However, the similarities, supported by Malec’s training, were the first item that helped ease the switch: “Prior law enforcement experience, having a degree in pre-social work and a minor in business administration, and also having the EMT training obtained while working with the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office helped procure this job. It was natural for me to work in private security or a related field, and I truly love the environment and the challenges of the job.”

What also helped eased his transition was the way Boomtown Bossier and its parent company Pinnacle Entertainment were able to make some workplace accommodations to make his job easier.

“We wear (use) hand-held or belt-carry radios, and I was able to get headsets from a local company (Shreveport Communications) that fits a headset so the dispatcher can relay instructions (directions) to me. With the use of this adapted equipment, I am able to perform as any other officer at Boomtown does. It helps me provide the best guest service in a friendly, relaxed and fun environment,” says Malec.

Boomtown Casino Hotel is one of Pinnacle Entertainment’s 15 gaming entertainment properties, located in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada and Ohio. The company also holds a majority interest in the owner of the racing license for Retama Park Racetrack. Pinnacle further holds the management contract for Retama, which is located just outside of San Antonio, TX.

Malec is one of more than 600 fellow employees at Boomtown Bossier, which has more than 900 slot and video poker machines, more than 15 table games, 187 hotel rooms and 1,500 square feet of conference space, plus four restaurants and a cabaret lounge.

“[The] more than 600 team members enjoy on-site dining facilities, a friendly, team-oriented atmosphere, and competitive wages and benefits. I work with team members in most departments, including slot attendants, slot techs, compliance, Louisiana State Police and local law enforcement agencies,” says Malec.

“As a security officer, I work to help our guests, fellow team members and vendors have a safe experience during their stay at Boomtown so they want to come back for more magical and memorable moments we strive to deliver,” he adds.

According to Malec, Pinnacle Entertainment’s mission is to be the best entertainment company in the world by delivering world-class service and a friendly experience that guests remember and that makes guests want to come back, time and again. “It’s great to be a part of delivering on that promise, and I love the daily interaction with our loyal guests.”

That promise is backed by and delivered to guests by a diverse workforce. “Values of integrity, excellence, care, innovation and ownership can only be had with a diverse workplace [force] that respects each individual and maintains high standards of work,” he says.

Accommodations, of course, further improve performance. In Malec’s case, adaptive headsets have enabled him to not only hear more easily within an otherwise busy casino environment, but to also seamlessly deliver Boomtown’s and Pinnacle’s high level of guest service.

Making sure employees are empowered and enabled to deliver first-rate service to guests is clearly chief among Pinnacle Entertainment’s goals. That’s why Cordell Davis, a blackjack dealer at Ameristar Hotel Casino East Chicago - another Pinnacle property - feels right at home. For Davis, work is also a way to belong.

“My company helps me want to better myself, and they make me forget about my disability because I feel normal when I’m at work,” he says.

Davis works from a wheelchair, a challenging condition mitigated by friends and family. “Every day is hard or scary when you don’t have use of your legs, but having a strong, loving family and friends, and my two beautiful children, helps me navigate through any obstacle thrown my way.”

Ameristar also helps. “What I love about Ameristar is how they give people with disabilities a chance to work, and they also make sure everything is wheelchair-accessible. We have other people with disabilities working here, as well. Everyone always tries to look out for me and make sure I’m okay. It is a terrific place to work.”

Davis became disABLED in a pair of flashes.

“I’m a Level T-5 paraplegic, which happened on May 12, 1995, from two gun shots - one in my spinal cord and one in my lung. My lung collapsed and I had to get half of it removed. My company enables my potential by helping me open the door for others in my condition and hopefully encourage others to get back out there and join the workforce.”

The challenge didn't keep Davis down for long.

“I was at home after being released from the hospital from my accident, and my aunt asked if I wanted to ride with her to a job fair because a new casino was coming to East Chicago. So I said, ‘Okay,’ and as I was looking around, I asked one of the managers if there was anything I could do from a wheelchair. He replied, ‘Yes, blackjack.’ So I did the math test and a few weeks later I received a letter of acceptance in the mail stating I was accepted for dealer school. The rest is history! I’ve been a blackjack dealer at Ameristar for the last 19 years.”

RED ROOF INN PROMOTES TALENT AND HARD WORK

LESLIE FISHER, VICE PRESIDENT, HUMAN RESOURCES AND TRAINING FOR RED ROOF INN, LOVES HOW RED ROOF USES STRAIGHTFORWARD TALK TO CONVEY ITS COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY.

“Our commitment to diversity begins with our brand values, also known as the Red Roof 10 Commitments. Our very first commitment is that we ‘value and believe in our people,’ following closely by our commitment to ‘appreciate our differences.’ These values are shared with hourly employees, in management, [with] franchisees and [with] corporate employees from day one. Team members are expected to treat others with respect and look for ways to make others feel confident, significant and delighted. At Red Roof we incorporate inclusion messages in our recruiting efforts, training and performance management expectations.”

Red Roof doesn’t just talk. It walks the walk.

“At our contact center in Springfield, Ohio, we have numerous agents with special needs who are valuable contributors to our organization. The secret to our success has been our partnership with Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley. We have been working with this organization about three years now. Goodwill has assisted us with education, hiring and training not only sight-impaired agents, but also agents with other disabilities, too. The partnership continues to grow and we are very proud of the work we have accomplished with this group and the wonderful candidates we have received from Goodwill.”

What matters most is that you have a yen for customer service.

“To be successful at Red Roof, you need to be able to connect with others in meaningful ways and you need to have a sincere desire in serving others. We can train employees on the technical aspects of a job, but if customer service isn’t a part of someone’s DNA, then the hospitality business is not the right fit.”

A hankering for learning will foster success.

“At Red Roof I love the fact that no matter your background or your past, if you bring your talents and aren’t afraid to learn, then more responsibility will follow. We’ve always believed that the collective efforts of a diverse work group help uncover new ideas, bring new perspectives to the table, and strengthen relationships both internally and with our guests.”

Red Roof aims to promote hard-working folks with dis- ABILITIES. “One of our goals is to assist persons with disabilities move up in the organization, if they so desire. Red Roof Inn truly understands the talent, skills and abilities [that] persons with disabilities bring to the workplace, and continues to support growing this group of professionals in the company. Goodwill has also hosted a training session with the Springfield Human Resources Management Association to help HR professionals understand the landscape of hiring persons with disabilities and all of the resources available to them if they decide to hire persons with disabilities.”

Seeking to promote talented disABLED employees comes from the corporate culture, one that attunes Red Roof employees to diverse potential.

“Currently, we require all new managers and corporate office employees to attend diversity training as part of their onboarding process. This training broadens team members’ perspective on the ways we make others feel excluded and includes education on how simple accommodations for individuals with disabilities can make the world of difference. Red Roof also offers continuing education training on diversity and acceptance through webinars and online learning content hosted in RED Academy, Red Roof’s Learning Management System,” she says.
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