Dream team: Wynn Las Vegas’
top employees were rewarded
with the “trip of a lifetime”
in the Caribbean last February.
Gaming giant Wynn Las
Vegas’ first employee travel reward program took place in
April -- a luxurious SeaDream Yacht Club Caribbean cruise that
touched upon St. Thomas, Nevis, St. Barts and Jost Van Dyke -- as
orchestrated by Dawn Hume, the company’s director of special
events. Participating were 12 employees who had been named “stars
of the month” during the previous year and were automatic nominees
for employee of the year. Winners came from all divisions of the
company and ranged from a butler from villa services to an engineer
who handles the property’s costly artwork to a performer from the
resort’s signature show, Le Reve.
When these 12 “star” employees were
called to a meeting late last January, they assumed it was to learn
the details of the gala the company typically threw to honor the
best of the best. Steve Wynn, chairman of the board and CEO of Wynn
Resorts (which owns Wynn Las Vegas), had a long tradition of
staging lavish, Academy Awards-style fetes annually at all of his
properties (among his former Vegas holdings were The Mirage and
Bellagio) to recognize top employees. It was a beloved tradition,
but it had become just that: something everyone expected -- and
something other casino resorts in Vegas also did to reward their
standout staff. But a sea change was in store for the 2006 winners,
and it came about in a rather fortuitous manner.
Elaine Wynn, Steve’s wife and a
director on Wynn Resorts’ board, and Andrew Pascal, president and
COO of Wynn Las Vegas, attended a private party aboard a SeaDream
Yacht Club vessel, an uber-luxurious, 110-
passenger cruise ship, last December. The week before, the Wynns
had chartered the ship with the intention of using it as a holiday
gift for their casino’s high rollers. But after experiencing the
cruise line’s impeccable service and sumptuous trappings firsthand,
the executives felt it was the perfect reward for their own VIPs,
the resort’s 12 top performers.
From the ship, the executives called
director of special events Dawn Hume, who was knee-deep in
preparations for the employee awards gala, set to take place in
February of this year, and the about-face for the program began.
Instead of the bash, winners would take a SeaDream cruise in
Breaking the news that the gala evening was going to be
replaced by a luxury cruise turned out to be an event in itself.
The participants, who were expecting a meeting about the gala,
instead viewed a Love Boat-style video featuring Wynn
executives as Captain Stubing and company, the 12
employee-of-the-month winners as the guest stars and, in the role
of the Pacific Princess, was the SeaDream 1
“When they realized they were going on
this trip, it was an Oprah moment,” says Hume. “Everyone was
laughing, screaming, jumping.”
The video was followed by a burst of
confetti, and the curtains opened to reveal a steel drum band and
stations set up to provide all kinds of services and goods for the
winners. Among them were passport expediters, a luggage station, a
toiletry station, travel coordinators to make arrangements to fly a
relative in to take care of children, pet-sitting services, a
personal training service for winners who wanted to get in shape
for the trip, and even personal shoppers to help them coordinate
(and purchase) a cruise wardrobe.
For the actual sailing, the group was
flown, via private jet, to St. Thomas. Each winner brought one
guest; other participants were supervisors who nominated the
winners and key executives. During the cruise, all shore excursions
were hosted by a Wynn honcho. Each night had a different party or
theme. And as nightly pillow gifts, winners were given Visa gift
cards to use in port the following day. Winners also received
credits for the ship’s onboard spa.
“They were treated like royalty by the
ship’s staff -- they have the same dedication to service that the
winners do,” says Hume.
When the rest of the company (the
resort employs 7,000) heard about the trip of a lifetime their
co-workers won, motivation was stoked. Says Hume, “All of a sudden,
everyone is stepping up to the plate; more supervisors are
motivated to nominate people for the program.” As for this year’s
winners, “They know something is in the works,” says Hume. At press
time, the 2008 reward had not been announced.
“It’s hard to quantify the results,”
says Hume, “but not one person who went on that trip has left the
company. They tell us they’re employees for life.”