Part 1: A company focused on its team members
The opening of Sands Macao on May 18, 2004, marked the beginning of an era of transformation for Macau’s tourism industry – a period that has witnessed enormous growth in the SAR and for Sands China Ltd.
Fifteen years later, the company’s first property continues to welcome millions of guests through its doors each year, and has since been joined by four integrated resorts on the Cotai Strip. Together, they have recorded 700 million visits to date, while setting ever-higher standards of service excellence in a city that is establishing itself as a world centre of tourism and leisure – a city primed to be a key player in the development of the Greater Bay Area.
To mark this decade-and-a-half milestone, this is the first in a five-part look at Sands Macao and Sands China Ltd. We start with the company’s focus on its team members.
When you talk to Sands China’s team members, you often discover that they are happy, and that they are loyal.
Approximately 8,300 of Sands China Ltd.’s more than 28,000 team members have spent more than a decade in service to the company. Over 1,600 of those have worked for the company for 15 years, representing more than a third of Sands Macao’s opening team. Sands China has worked hard to create a positive and supportive workplace environment and to ensure its employees are well cared for – establishing and optimising a human resources management system that keeps pace with the times. This is one of the key reasons that its team members are so loyal to the company.
The benefits scheme the company offers its employees across all pay grades could be considered the top factor in this retention rate, believes Dr. Wilfred Wong, president of Sands China Ltd. Understanding team members’ needs, and the company’s desire to truly meet them, are a key factor, Dr. Wong said. Reflecting this value is the fact that Sands China’s medical insurance plan, which covers all team members, also extends out to the families of team members of eligible grades.
Moreover, unused sick days can be carried over to the following year and converted to annual leave. This focus on employee wellbeing has created a culture of loyalty from staff as they feel cared for and valued.
Training and development
Sands China believes that nurturing talent is the major driver of sustaining the company and the community’s development.
In 2018, Sands China provided 1.7 million on-the-job training hours in more than 400 categories for its team members – equivalent to around 580 team members trained each day. On average, each Sands China team member receives approximately 67 hours of training, higher than the standard of 34 hours introduced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD).
Sands China’s management team has seen a striking and impressive growth in the ratio of Macao locals in management positions – from 20 percent in 2004 to 90 percent in 2019. Since 2004, the company has made over 15,300 promotions and more than 1,400 horizontal movements – giving team members the flexibility to explore career opportunities in other departments, where they are able to gain new skills and broaden their professional horizons.
A 15-year connection
The Times spoke with three Sands China team members who have been with the company for 15 years.
Daniel Hui, who began at Sands Macao as a security manager in 2004, has not only been promoted to become the department’s associate director, but he also played a role in Sand Macao’s opening-day mega spectacular – likely the first time Macau had seen such anticipation for an establishment’s opening. “At 4 p.m. the day before the opening, there were already about 100 people waiting opposite the Sands Macao main entrance,” Hui recalled. “Over the next seven hours, 25,000 people gathered around the building.” The company had provided Hui with first aid, management, and customer service training before he ever began working – something that was not the norm for Macao’s security guards at the time. As a result, Sands Macao’s security guards became well-known for greeting all customers with a smile.
When Sands Macao opened in 2004, Tina Leong was a senior bartender making and serving drinks to guests on the main floor, and supervising other staff. Now, as a team member dining room manager, she oversees what was at the time the largest employee dining room in Macau. She remembers when she started at Sands Macao, she didn’t have the knowledge or training to provide the five-star service that is associated with the company. However, she was provided training to help her ultimately deliver the best possible service. “The company even invited a tea specialist to teach us how to make tea!” she remembers. After she transferred to the 24-hour dining room, which at the time served 7,000 to 8,000 meals a day, one of the first lessons she learned was that Sands Macao is a company which treats its team members like guests. The décor of the team member dining room at Sands Macao emulates an American diner, with a buffet featuring separate stations for drinks, bread, salad, cold cuts, desserts, and main dishes.
Ann Lam began her journey with Sands Macao as part of the pre-opening team, and was working with Macau’s first semi-automatic wardrobe system. Uniforms are delivered automatically to team members as they begin work each day, and for Lam, seeing it in action for the first time was an “inspiring experience.” Lam is a prime example of Sands China’s capacity to spot talent. Although she wasn’t highly educated at the time, Lam believes her experience in factory work appealed to Sands China – “Probably the company thought I could help with last-minute uniform repairs,” she noted. Lam was subsequently trained in communication skills, as she interacts with team members frequently as part of her current job as a supervisor in the wardrobe department of 20 staff members, including four tailors – a team that handles 5,000 to 6,000 uniform movements per day.
Families of team members
Icy Lam joined Sands Macao the day before opening, as a pit supervisor. She is now a gaming shift manager who has 10 other family members working for Sands China. Then there’s Thomas Ieong and Koey Lam, who both work in the gaming department. They met each other at Sands Macao and got married right before the opening of The Venetian Macao. They started their careers as dealers, and Thomas is now an assistant casino manager, while Koey works as a casino manager. They’ve each been promoted seven to eight times since beginning their careers at Sands Macao.
The way in which people recommend Sands China to family members seeking employment is a testament to the attractiveness of the organization as a workplace, in terms of career experience gained, the benefits it provides to team members, and the work environment. When asked how they would describe their experience at Sands China, every single employee we spoke to used the same word: family.