Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 11, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Great Blue Heron Casino was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2017):
- In addition to helping employees save for the future, Great Blue Heron Casino encourages employees to prepare for the longer term with retirement planning assistance and phased-in work options
- Great Blue Heron Casino supports employees who are new mothers and fathers with maternity and parental leave top-up payments as well as the option to extend their leave into an unpaid leave of absence
- Great Blue Heron Casino encourages ongoing employee development through tuition subsidies for job-related courses (to $1,500) and subsidies for professional accreditation
Staff win big at Great Blue Heron Casino
When employees reflect on the workplace culture at the Great Blue Heron Casino, "family" is often the first word that comes to mind.
That feeling is bolstered by family-friendly policies, like maternity and parental leave top-up payments for new moms and dads, as well as the option to extend their time off into an unpaid leave. Great Blue Heron, located near Port Perry, Ont., also encourages employees to plan ahead with retirement planning assistance and phased-in work options.
CEO and General Manager Arnold Block says the casino's close-knit atmosphere is one of the benefits of an "employee-focused" culture that recognizes that happy employees make for happy guests. Many have been there for more than 10 years, and about 60 long-serving employees were among the first hired when the facility opened in 1997.
"We train them well enough so they could leave," says Block, "but treat them well enough that they don't want to. That's the underlying philosophy."
When it comes to training, Great Blue Heron Casino encourages ongoing employee development through tuition subsidies for job-related courses (up to $1,500) and subsidies for professional accreditation.
The company's peer-to-peer recognition program, Centre Stage Rewards, plays a critical role in helping employees feel valued and motivated. The popular program offers four award tiers valued from $50 to $400. All awards are peer-nominated and are approved by a department manager. A certificate is presented and the employee can choose their prize from a wide-ranging catalogue of brand name items. Pictures of the presentations are shared on the Wall of Fame (an online newsfeed), on the back-of-house TVs, and in a photo display in the casino.
Employees are often recognized for exceptional customer service, from accommodating dietary restrictions or helping a guest up a set of stairs to saving someone's life. Guest Services Officer Cindy Lehman was recently recognized for helping a man who fell ill locate his wife, who was on the slot floor. "It's nice to be recognized," she says. "It makes me feel good to come into work and do my job, and do it the best I can. And we're all willing to help each other here."
Recognition is also extended for demonstrating the Great Blue Heron's eight Cultural Compass Values - such as integrity, work-life balance, or diversity - or for simply coming up with a great idea. Dual Gaming Shift Manager Wendy Horne won a top Standing Ovation Award in 2015 for creating the first Carnival Games Tournament ever held at an Ontario casino. Amid a circus-like atmosphere, players competed in four rotating carnival games for a prize pool of $50,000. It was a roaring success and has become an annual event in March. "I was nervous because we had never done it before," says Horne. "But I had a lot of support from management. They had faith in me."
The culture of family is everywhere. When Dealer Cheri-Lei Worr's two children were diagnosed with rare forms of cancer, her casino family rallied behind her. On the most difficult days, she's drawn strength from the tremendous outpouring of support that has come from her co-workers in many ways, including starting and donating to a GoFundMe page, to doing her gardening at home.
In July, a few hundred employees gathered at a co-worker's farm near the casino for a day-long barbecue and fun fair that raised over $15,000 for the Worr family, including a matching donation from the company. The theme of the day was captured in a short sentence: "We're all Worr-iors" - a play on the family's name and a reminder for Cheri-Lei that her colleagues were standing with her.
Today, thankfully, her daughter is cancer-free, and her son is making progress. "Going through this," says Worr, "it just made me realize my colleagues care about me, my employer cares about me, and I'm not going through this alone. The Great Blue Heron has been my lifeline."