SOME employers in competitive industries think that training staff is a waste of time. The oft-heard refrain: Train them, they get good, then they leave.
But Marina Bay Sands (MBS) chief executive officer George Tanasijevich dismisses this notion.
Admitting that there is some movement within the industry, he argues that training has helped the integrated resort retain staff.
"The way that we look at it, if we do our job right and we provide the right environment, the right training, the right leadership, then people will stay," he said. "We think we are well on our way to establishing Marina Bay Sands as an employer of choice."
People, he said, want to see the way forward.
"They want to succeed in what they are doing and if you can show them the path and give them the tools, then they recognise that a place like Marina Bay Sands is a career, not just a pit-stop," he said, adding that training helps achieve this.
The integrated resort became an in-house approved training organisation for Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) programmes in 2009.
This means that MBS is accredited by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to provide in-house WSQ training and assessments to its staff.
Employees who complete WSQ modules receive nationally recognised statements of attainment.
A string of such statements in the Food & Beverage category, for instance, could lead to a full F&B WSQ certificate.
The WDA also helps to fund the cost of the training programmes it offers, as well as the cost of developing WSQ modules.
MBS currently offers about 80 WSQ modules, ranging from those teaching croupiers how blackjack is played, to basic food hygiene requirements.
It is mandatory for the integrated resort's more than 9,000 full-time staff to go through at least one WSQ module.
On top of this, MBS currently also offers about 40 in-house training programmes. Staff can also apply for external courses that range from day-long sessions to entire degree programmes. Training modules are often tweaked and improved based on feedback.
Mr Tanasijevich, who was appointed MBS general manager and vice-president of Singapore development in 2005, has regular roundtable discussions with staff over breakfast or lunch to "get the true story".
"We sit at our desks and try to imagine what it's like to be in their position and anticipate the issues they face... It's more theory than practice," he said. "They will give us feedback on what's working and what's not working, how they faced challenges and whether they felt they had the appropriate skills themselves or resources to draw on."
All this seems to be working.
MBS' internal quality index (QI) score for non-gaming operations, a measure of customer satisfaction, stood at 69.3 in November 2010. The score rose to 83.6 last month. QI scores are derived from customer surveys.
Its hotel has also moved up the ranks on TripAdvisor, a website that carries customer reviews of hotels and tourist attractions. Last month, it was ranked 39 out of more than 260 hotels, up from 83 in March last year.
The company is moving towards adding variety to its training programmes.
Earlier this year, MBS worked with WDA to film its own 10-episode reality TV show. The series, aired internally, will screen its last episode next month. MBS employees auditioned for a spot on the show to role-play positions such as a butler and a sampan boat rower at The Shoppes.
Three people were chosen for each episode and pitted against each other to see who provided the best service. They had to face challenges such as someone acting as a difficult customer.
Winners, judged by supervisors in various departments, were chosen depending on whether they followed protocol and displayed initiative.
Six winners went though a week of company-wide voting and three finalists were chosen for the final episode. The overall winner was selected by a panel of judges, using marking criteria under the WSQ framework.
This way, said Mr Tanasijevich, "we are able to capture the interest of our team members and share important information in a very creative way".
Results, he added, show that there was higher retainment of information compared to more traditional classroom teaching methods.
He said: "In a sense, the success of this series signals a new and exciting start for the future of our training initiatives."