From a UK perspective, there’s a gathering storm in the betting and gaming industry. Recruitment at staff level has been challenging for a while now for a variety of reasons. The unsociable hours are the first barrier to bringing new faces into the industry, and a tougher trading environment means wages aren’t far north of the unskilled types of roles that include entry level fast food server – with minimum wage legislation narrowing the gap further. Brexit – almost forgotten right now in a virus laden world – may cut off the recent free flow at staff level too.
The reputation of the industry isn’t necessarily the greatest incentive to get involved either, with some high profile negative publicity about fairly predatory behavior from some rogue operators. You’d probably struggle to make the case that the future is too bright as well – online may be flying right now, but with the spectre of legislative sanctions and likely consolidation on the horizon, job security isn’t what it used to be.
The COVID-19 situation, which is still the focus of everyone’s attention, will have effects too. It’s widely recognized that jobs in leisure and hospitality were among the first to be furloughed or released when the pandemic gathered pace. But at the same time, there’s a certain pride in serving leisure customers, which perhaps may have been enhanced by the enforced period of quarantine. Right now we all look forward to a welcoming pub with an obliging friendly face behind the bar, and the gaming industry not far behind on many a wish list.
Perhaps one thing we collectively don’t leverage as much as we might are the prospects for advancement in the leisure industry. There are almost as many stories of gaming floor (or equivalent) to executive level as there are executives, certainly if you count people working across sectors within leisure and hospitality.
The starting point of minimum wage plus a premium for antisocial hours might not be much of a hook to bring people into the industry, but a shot at six figure salaries within a decade for hard work with a bit of applied intelligence starts to look a whole lot better.
From a recruitment agency point of view, there are bright spots. Compliance, which to some CEOs may have the appearance of a troublesome pure cost center, takes top billing in this regard. A cursory glance at any trade magazine will show what happens if you don’t observe your compliance obligations, and from a situation two or three years ago where the demand for skilled compliance people from entry level to director far outstripped supply, we have now seen a rebalancing. A good part of what we do is making companies safer by sourcing the experts they need to protect their businesses.
As a result, we’ve begun to see a more balanced talent pool in terms of gender diversity. Going back to my dealer and shift manager days in casinos, it was very visible that the management teams were heavily male-weighted, and while there is some way to go, the balance feels to have shifted somewhat. There is still plenty of work to do in this regard, all the way through to senior executive level, but progress is being made.
In addition, retention is challenging for all operators. There are twin forces mitigating against lower turnover rates both at staff and management levels. The first is that “land of opportunity” element – most ambitious team members know that the best way to progress through the ranks is to be prepared to change employers to access the next level role, so your best people are often not willing to wait for the job they want in their current employer. Add in that in many sectors, the watchword is wage efficiency and cutbacks, and you may be in a situation where your best people leave to go elsewhere, and the next best wave of prospects decide to forge a path in a more secure looking sector – and what does that leave you with?
It never fails to amaze us how some companies just flat out won’t use recruitment agencies at management level. We can only assume they’ve had bad experiences in the past, possibly receiving relentless cold calls from shady operators, but it really does make sense in many ways to partner with a specialist. We have spent almost 20 years becoming experts in both recruitment and within casinos, and combining this expertise with subscriptions to all major job boards, and extensive presence and reach on all social media platforms.
Plus, there are the everyday annoyances of recruitment that the operator really doesn’t need to be dealing with. All the fuss of setting up interviews and weeding out candidates who demonstrate unreliability during the early stages is taken care of, without wasting the operators’ time. It’s all about ensuring the candidate is committed, before they even get near the hiring manager’s desk.
By the nature of our work, get feedback about candidates as well from current and prior roles. The betting and gaming sector is pretty small, and with the changing of employers noted above, we usually have a decent idea of how well regarded most candidates are, all the more so at senior levels, giving us a good idea of who the stars are, and often more importantly, who will fit with any given culture. This familiarity with candidates can also help us advise employers which areas they may wish to focus on during the interview process.
On the other side, it would be unethical to blacklist candidates based on our knowledge. It’s a fact that some people just don’t mesh with some work cultures, so we work hard to try to forward the people we think will best fit, with a bespoke service shaped by our experience.
The other frustration that we can try to remove from the equation is the dreaded counter-offer. There’s nothing worse for a new employer or a recruitment agency than the perfect candidate being offered the role by our client, a new employer, only for the old employer to suddenly realise how valuable they are and offer them more money or more responsibility, or both, to stay. The standard response would be to say, “Well, if they knew you were worth more, but didn’t pay you, do you really want to stay?” But these decisions are personal for candidates. The ideal placement has a candidate so enthused that a counter offer is simply irrelevant. From the employer’s perspective, though, if you’re using GRS Recruitment and the worst does happen, all you do is tell us to send another selection of superstar candidates for you to select another suitable one, rather than having to go through the whole exhausting process again yourself. You only end up paying the agency when you get someone in the role,
and they stay for three months.
Most managers regard recruitment as a time-vacuum, which can dominate a diary for weeks at a time. While there’s nothing we can do to mitigate the time needed for a thorough interview and assessment process, we source, identify, screen and interview candidates so you don’t have to in order to provide a tight and focused list of the best candidates available. This saves the employertime, resource, effort and allows them to secure the very best available talent.
Paul Sculpher and Steven Jackson are the owners of GRS Recruitment, helping betting and gaming companies across Europe find the best candidates for their management positions.