The Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana is still looking to hire employees in Gary. The $300 million casino, which opened to the public last month, says it is looking to hire a “significant number” of people for culinary and food operations at all five of its restaurants. With the end of Indiana’s extended unemployment benefits coming on Saturday, the casino says it is hopeful there will be an increase in area residents ready to return to work.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Vice President of Human Resources Dawn Reynolds Pettit said opening the casino during COVID-19 was “extremely challenging.”
“You’re working under social distancing and other restrictions,” said Reynolds Pettit. “You have individuals who did not feel comfortable going out and seeking employment, and so, just being able to hire individuals to the numbers that you need in order to provide great service was challenging.”
Reynolds Pettit says the 200,000-square-foot casino opened with about 1,400 employees.
The casino says it has been creative in its recruitment efforts, engaging in several tactics to not only recruit, but also retain, a solid workforce. The casino has been using social media, engaging in grassroots campaigns including employee referral bonuses, and partnering with the community.
Hard Rock is also offering a $2,000 signing bonus for experienced cooks and restaurant stewards.
“This is the first time I’ve had to figure out a way to hire talent when you couldn’t have more than 25 people in a room or people had to be socially-distance,” said Reynolds Pettit. “Things had to become very creative. We, in essence, for our hiring events, we scheduled interviews. We scheduled individuals to come in. We made sure that we didn’t have more than 25 at a time. We really tried to engage individuals, understanding that people had their masks on.”
Reynold Pettit said it was “a lot of work to get” to get to the right numbers and bring talent on. Instead of one or two hiring events, she said the casino has held about 60 different events to try and recruit the necessary number of employees.
Reynolds Pettit says as COVID restrictions lift, she hopes finding workers will be easier.
“Individuals are going to be getting back out there and really taking advantage of the opportunities that are presenting themselves, not just in the culinary space, but I think beyond the culinary space,” said Reynolds Pettit. “If we look around, there’s help wanted signs everywhere. Now, in the new landscape, it will be much easier to align talent with opportunity.”
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Dawn Reynolds Pettit discusses the need for more employees as COVID-19 restrictions ease.