The Soboba Casino Resort has been able to recruit and retain successful employees since it first opened its doors in 2019 even amid the mandatory shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. A recent shortage of workers at all types of businesses throughout the country led SCR management to make the decision to raise its minimum wage to $17 for its hourly employees.
“The labor market in Southern California has become very competitive, and we recognize the difficulties many of our team members face with rising inflation and the cost of living in general. We very much wanted to both be competitive and provide a living wage for our team members,” SCR Human Resources Director Gloria Baron said.
Of its current 1,275 team members, a total of 1,038 will be affected by the wage increase. Not every department includes team members at minimum wage but this increase does still impact a large percentage of team members.
“Our goal is to have over 1,400 employees when fully staffed,” Baron said. “We are looking to fill approximately 300 open positions in several different departments. Open positions can be found on our website at www.soboba.com/careers.”
Rene Alvarez is a recruiter for SCR and has created partnerships with many entities to let potential employees know about the opportunities that are available to them. Aside from local community colleges and county agencies, such as the Department of Public Social Services, America’s Job Center of California and the Veterans Administration in Loma Linda also maintain strong relationships with Alvarez.
SCR has always kept pace with the current California minimum wage and will continue to keep doing so. The starting rates for part- and full-time employees in many positions are the same. However, in addition to the $17 per hour wage, full-time workers receive additional benefits such as medical, dental, vision and basic life insurance, a 401K plan with up to a 5% match, various discounts, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a generous Paid Time Off allowance and more.
“Like almost every business across the country, Soboba Casino Resort has been affected by the labor shortage,” Baron said. “Many of our open positions are in Food and Beverage.”
Robert Mejia, Director of Food and Beverage, said that in the hospitality industry, every day is unique and dynamic. “You must be willing to adapt and adjust your plans, as each day brings different challenges and opportunities,” he said. “Team members and management need guidance, however, it is imperative that despite titles or positions, collaboration and communication is key. I have always found that to be effective as a leader, you need to listen.”
He said what he finds most rewarding about his job is that he has the opportunity to instill change, whether it’s positive financial success, improving the guest experience or offering suggestions that impact a department.
“In my opinion, the hospitality industry is the toughest industry in the market. Finding the balance between effectiveness and sustainability in a fast-changing industry drives me to continue to maintain collaboration with my team. Providing a vision that is consistent across multiple types of service avenues is key to success,” Mejia said. “Welcoming team members is vitally important to development, retention and overall department growth and success. Within my department, the success of a new team member starts day one.”
A department trainer helps with the transition for new employees. Understanding their position and providing the service training and expectations gives them the opportunity to have the confidence to be successful. Mejia said, “Training, communication and ensuring they understand their role helps new team members ease the strain of the unknown. In my position, I make it a daily habit to walk my areas multiple times a day to just say hello. When I recognize new team members, I take the time to introduce myself and ask if there is anything I can help them with and I encourage my management team to do the same. The willingness to listen, regardless of reason or conversation, shows that I/we care.”
He said that employee engagement is and will always be what he asks of himself and his management team. “From day one to the entirety of a team member’s time within the department, we will engage, coach and mentor to foster growth,” Mejia said.
SCR has also been able to maintain a high level of customer service, while limiting the strain on its current team members by concentrating labor into its most popular food venues and into key areas on its gaming floor. This enables the customer experience to remain at the high level that SCR has become known for since it opened in March 2019.
As Director of Hotel Operations, Michelle Woodfin said that her department is always looking for individuals that are driven and open to learning new skills.
“We strive to find the perfect position for each applicant based on their experience and interests. More than anything, if an applicant has heart and a desire to work hard, we are willing to teach them the skills they need to not only perform their duties, but to also grow within the company,” she said. “When all new hires are introduced to their department trainers, they are provided an on-boarding guide to introduce them to the property, the hotel and their department. It is a tool they can use to reference when performing their duties in the future and to provide a written media for learning. We understand that everyone learns in different ways, and it is important to provide training in a written, visual and hands-on manner to help guide them through their new role.”
She said applicants are not expected to be an expert in the field of their position. Some individuals that have strong retail or customer service skills may not have ever worked in the hospitality field but can be shown how to adapt their past experience to their current position.
“We will teach them the operations and more importantly, the ‘why’ behind the reasons we do the things we do,” Woodfin said. “We also work very closely with our Training Department to look for classes in our Casino Essentials to help our team members grow in their roles or prepare for positions they aspire to learn. When we receive a new team member, it is important that they feel welcomed and supported in their new role.”
Woodfin attends orientations to introduce herself to all new team members and provide them with information. She also regularly makes herself available to answer any questions they may have regarding Hotel Operations or the property as a whole.
“The part of my job that I love the most is when I see a team member grow within our company,” she said. “Many people apply for a position with the intent of moving up within the company and it makes me so happy to train, mentor and nurture someone that is passionate about hospitality.
Seeing a team member take the skills we have provided them and put them in action to promote to a supervisor or management role makes me proud. To know that we helped them to achieve their goal is a truly great feeling.”
Assistant General Manager Jason Cozart, who is also a Soboba tribal member, said, “The Soboba Casino Resort and the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians has always been committed to taking care of our valued team members and being good members of the surrounding community, in the San Jacinto Valley and beyond. The positive changes we are implementing will go to support both of those goals by providing a living wage to our team members and creating even more jobs right here at home. I am proud of the steps we as an organization and a Tribe have taken in an effort to strengthen this community.”
Several department specific hiring events are scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. on the following dates: Jan. 26, Feb. 9 and 23, and March 3 and 24. A Job Fair to recruit for all open positions is planned for April 14 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Additionally, hiring events will be held at America’s Job Center of California’s Riverside location at 1325 Spruce St. from 9 a.m. to noon on Feb. 1 and 15 and March 8 and 15.
Further details are available at www.facebook.com/JoinTeamSoboba. For individuals interested in applying for any open position, please visit www.soboba.com/careers, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the staffing team at 951-282-0986.
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians