Betting On Employee Education

(Image credit: Sands.com)

In an industry not often recognized for acts of enlightened self-interest, Las Vegas Sands has innovated an approach to continuing education that benefits not only its own team members, but also those of its competition.

Developed by UNLV’s PLuS Center, the program combines hospitality and gaming art, science and business know-how into short, digital modules that learners can complete over a coffee break or lunch. Las Vegas Sands has funded the program for its first three years, and has already hosted sessions for its team members.

“We wanted to find a way to give back to the industry, including our team members,” said Ron Reese, the Sands’ SVP, Global Communications & Corporate Affairs. “We’re investing in our people and our communities by ensuring that the program is open to anybody who’s interested in career advancement.”

“A rising tide raises all ships.”

The idea was born over three years ago, as Reese and former Sands’ president Mike Leven were talking to UNLV about helping fund its new hospitality college building.

“Mike said it would be nice if we could bring practical training to our people while they’re at work,” Reese said.

Those people number over 40,000, spread across locations as diverse as Las Vegas, Bethlehem, PA, and Macao. Each community is different and, by definition, all of those potential students have ‘day jobs’ that make most traditional approaches to continuing education impractical. As Kimberly Spencer, the PLuS Center’s Interim Executive Director, explained:

“Our goal was to create a program that was more accessible, more flexible, and more useful than any other.”

“I think our defining insight was to speak the language of the learner,” said Monique Makhlouf, the Center’s Instructional Designer. “We targeted their needs with content that is meaningful and relevant, then structured it to give them the ‘what, why, and how to apply.’”

UNLV also innovated the learning delivery and experience, dividing courses into 10-minute modules that integrate 3-4 paragraphs of material with dynamic videos and links to related content, and then formatting that delivery for smart phones and tablets. Learners can self-assess their progress with micro-quizzes, and sign-up for regular reminders of incomplete courses or next steps.

“Las Vegas does hospitality like no other city, and most of the presidents on the Strip went to UNLV,” explained Stowe Shoemaker, Dean of UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, with Makhlouf noting that the city is also a unique lab for testing new ideas, including education.

“We want to be the school of choice for that next generation of leadership,” Shoemaker added.

“We believe in giving back to the community, first because we believe it’s simply the right thing to do, but also because empowering people to advance and be successful in their careers will benefit our business,” said Reese.

“There could be a future executive working on our floor right now, or at one of our competitors. We’re happy to place this bet on their ability to make a difference for us and our industry.”

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