Guest post by Toby O’Brien, Vice President of Marketing & Client Services, Raving Consulting Company, Reno Nevada.

(Originally published in Indian Country Today Media Network)

Ask employees what would make them happier and more productive at their jobs and one of the top three items on the list will be: “Please don’t let me be the last to know.” And, “Give me some say in the decisions that affect me and my work.” And, “Recognise me when I do a good job.” Surprisingly, what’s top of mind is rarely about money. That’s what hundreds of tribal casino employees have told me in focus groups across the country.

Why should this matter to you? At a time when the U.S. is deep in a struggling economy that has forced companies into cutbacks, layoffs, pay reductions and eroding benefits, maintaining employee morale is significantly more challenging. But the adage, “Happy employees mean happy customers,” is as true as it’s ever been. So, when it has become more difficult for you, Mr. or Ms. Manager, to keep the spirits of your staff members up, it is even more important to find ways to take care of your employees, so they’ll take care of your guests, and your business will continue to thrive.

What can casino managers do to keep employees in the loop, engaged and motivated? Create a plan that puts these principles into action:

Share the Vision

What are your company’s goals? Driving 10% more slot revenue? Improving the guest service experience? Making the gaming floor more fun? Employees feel more connected to the business and more willing to help achieve corporate goals if they know what they are and how to get it done. Property-wide pep rallies and goal-oriented management meetings are good ways to get everyone on the same page. Having something to strive towards is a powerful motivator.

Improve Access to Information

Sharing information with executives and the marketing team isn’t enough. Mid-level managers, department supervisors and frontline employees need to know what’s happening on your property and for your customers. Multiple communication tools work best: get the news out through back-of-house signage, intranet email, computers in break rooms, Facebook employee groups, buzz sessions at the start of every shift, and employee newsletters.

Empower Employees to Act

It is critical, especially when working short-staffed, to enable employees to make decisions, especially when it comes to satisfying guests. It needs to feel safe to make mistakes (constructive criticism replaces threats of firing). Give some extra power to employees you trust – freedom to comp a worthy player, the ability to deal with a complaint. Trust goes a long way to getting things done and to making employees feel good about their work and their value.

Initiate 360º Communication

Stop talking AT your employees. Become an active listener by asking employees how they would improve areas of the business. Invite discussion and opinion; your frontline staff knows the business and what is important to your customers better than you may think. They can help you solve problems and initiate effective processes, which makes them feel important. And don’t be afraid to be human – sharing your successes and your failures not only encourages learning, but challenges others to try new things and bring fresh ideas to the table.

Be Visible

How many of your senior executives and managers have earned the right to work that highly-prized, Monday-Friday, 9-5 schedule? That may be great for them, but it’s not good for your frontline employees who need more guidance when the casino is most busy (nights and weekends?); your customers, who primarily visit evenings and weekends; or your business (how much money do you make on weekends?)! Being visible to your staff, letting them see you chat with employees and customers, push in a chair, pick up trash, and help them deal with difficult players, enables them to learn by example. It’s the best way to teach and the most effective way to motivate.

Recognise and Praise

What does it take to make an employee feel good? Giving a little of yourself. Thank a slot attendant for graciously handling a customer need. Shake a players club rep’s hand for moving a line along quickly. Acknowledge a dealer for making the blackjack players at his table laugh. Get out of your office and have lunch in the EDR with the housekeeping staff. Ask an employee taking college classes what interesting thing she learned lately. And, you can’t underestimate the value of a simple, hand-written note of thanks.

Create Opportunities to Participate

If you’re sitting under a pile of work that you just can’t get out from under, share some of those jobs with your employees. They’ll appreciate being trusted with more important, critical details of the business and they’ll have an opportunity to learn the kinds of things that will move them along their career paths and make them even more valuable to the property. Invite frontline staff to a brainstorming session about how to bring excitement to the gaming floor. Let employees take part in a parallel promotion to a player event to give them a taste of winning. Giving them a chance to join in the fun and play a part in business development will make their work meaningful in new ways.

Focus on Your Best Employees

Who are your best employees? They’re the ones who have an excellent work ethic, show up on time, go above and beyond their job description, are enjoyable to spend time with, set a good example for other employees, take excellent care of your customers, are responsible for the success of the business, and are critical to your success. They are the people you’d want to take with you if you opened your own company. Got a list in your head? Now, how do you leverage the significant value of these amazing employees while keeping them motivated and engaged? Meet with them often, let them develop solutions, and involve them in the action plan above. Your best employees care. They want the company to be successful. They want their lives to have value. Ultimately, they are the ones who will (and always have) gotten things done, made things happen, and enabled you and your property to be successful.

Engage your employees. It’s really not a choice; it’s a necessity. They’ll be more informed and they’ll be happier. So will your customers. And so will you.