MGM diversity officer lauds hiring record

Phyllis A. James, MGM’s chief diversity officer (Courtesy of
Phyllis A. James, MGM’s chief diversity officer (Courtesy of

(NNPA)–MGM National Harbor is meeting — and in some cases exceeding — its local and minority participation goals that Prince George’s County officials set in a Community Benefits Agreement.

The $1.2 billion hotel and casino project that’s being constructed along the Potomac River has a 31 percent Minority Business Enterprise participation rate, according to the first quarterly report issued by an oversight committee formed to evaluate the company’s hiring efforts.

The rate exceeds the goal of 30 percent established in the agreement.

Further, there’s a 16 percent participation of county-based Minority Business Enterprises, exceeding the 12 percent goal noted in the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

However, achieving those goals isn’t without its challenges, said Phyllis James, MGM Resorts International’s executive vice president and chief diversity officer.

“As far as challenges … one of the things I think people should understand is that working with us is not the same as working with a hotel down the street,” James said.

“Because we offer gaming and entertainment, we are a highly regulated and licensed facility and many, if not most, employees will have to qualify for an occupational license from the gaming commission and that means they will have to pass background checks including good credit records and have acceptable criminal history records, so that’s an extra layer that’s not typical in most employment situations for private employers. It can be challenging for some minority candidates.”

James also noted that the demands of working at a gaming resort can also be challenging.

She said MGM operates 24 hours every day of the year and some individuals might be misled by the glitz and glamour providing through the environment and not realize the importance of the hard work that goes into such an operation.

“We had an experience at our MGM property in Detroit. What many don’t think about is that to provide the level of world class customer service every hour of every day is really hard and grueling work and it’s not for the faint of heart,” James said.

“There is an adjustment required in terms of expectations and the level of effort that has to be put in. We’ve found that people will fall out of this business very quickly because they can’t keep up with the pace or the quality of service that’s necessary and that we consider the hallmark of our operation. It’s important to us as part of our brand that first class service is not a desired goal but an expected goal.”

James, who has worked at MGM for 13 years, grew up in Northwest, Washington, and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in American History and Literature in 1974 from Harvard/Radcliffe College after having received the honors of Phi Beta Kappa junior year, the Captain Jonathan Fay Prize and the Isobelle T. Briggs Fellowship for Graduate Study. She earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1977.

In addition to her position as executive vice president and chief diversity officer, James, named to the Savoy 2014 list of top influential women in corporate America, also serves as special counsel for litigation for MGM Resorts International.

Special to the NNPA from the Washington Informer

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