Founded in 1881, Woodbine Entertainment Group is a long-established giant in the racetrack, betting and casino industry – but it’s also a leader when it comes to HR innovation.
Last year, the company picked up the Canadian HR Award
for Best Employer Branding after it overhauled its HR function and used creative marketing techniques to launch the newly-formed people experience team.
Tania Caza is the senior VP of the revitalized department – here, she spoke to HRM about industry worries, professional obstacles, and what’s next for the award winning team.
If you could give your younger self, or someone entering HR for the first time, one piece of advice – what would it be?
Patience. This is definitely a career where the experience of working through the various issues we encounter helps you to develop your skills and practice. The one thing I do know as I get 'more experienced' is how little I actually know. Take time, have the patience to be open-minded and take the opportunity to learn. We live in a world of grey, so take the time to find all of the different shades before jumping to a black or white conclusion.
Is there anything exciting in the pipeline for your HR department?
We are heavily focused on a culture shift in our organization. These efforts require streamlining all of our traditional HR services and get into some really interesting and leading edge leadership development program. I am super excited about the ongoing evolution of our management coaching program, which is open to 180 of our leaders. I am proud to work for an organization that is supportive of these kinds of programs and tolerant of the various initiatives our department is implementing.
What’s the biggest professional obstacle you – or your team – have faced and how did you overcome it?
As exciting as the culture shift (mentioned above) is for our team, it is definitely a huge obstacle that we are in the midst of overcoming. We know that culture shift doesn't happen overnight and changing mindsets of this old organization is a huge challenge. As we are entering into our 3rd year of the plan, we know it is slowly shifting and we are overcoming this challenge. It starts with making culture shift a priority in our organization. It is part of our strategic roadmap and each manager's bonus is partially attributable to hitting our culture measurable....so we are putting our money where our mouth is. This expresses the importance of the goal to our managers and encourages them to take their own goals seriously as it relates to their own teams. We participate in a survey and give the results along with the tools to help support our managers in setting their own department priorities for the year. So far, we have seen the needle move each year. We have a long road ahead of us, but are heading in the right direction.
What’s your biggest industry worry or concern right now?
Retention of people. Attracting and retaining top talent remains an ongoing concern, especially as our culture is shifting and we are trying to attract the right fit for the business going forward. Also, the motivations for the various generations to feel fulfilled are very different and training our managers to understand that and meet those needs is an opportunity for us.
If you could change anything about the HR industry, what would it be?
The industry continues to evolve and many organizations understand the need for HR to be a strategic partner, knowing that people are really an organization's competitive advantage. Unfortunately, the HR industry still has a tarnished reputation....one of being the compliance police, with all the rules, being sent to the principal's office, etc. We are working at changing that mind-set internally, but it continues to be pervasive in society.
What is the proudest moment or achievement of your HR career so far?
My personal proudest moment is watching my staff grow in their careers, either internally or externally, and knowing how their time spent with me has helped them along in some way.
What the most rewarding thing about being in HR?
We have a vision for our HR team..."Empowered by our Values & Beliefs, we will make work awesome." We have actually rebranded ourselves as the PX department (People Experience). We don't like to consider our people 'resources' and much prefer to refer to our employees as the people who deserve to have an awesome experience while at work. It is definitely visionary and aspirational, but definitely rewarding as we try to reach this goal.
How do you predict the industry will change, if at all, over the next five years?
I think we will see it grow to encompass all people related pieces of an organization...maybe guest experience, and stakeholder relations. The reality is that people are motivated by the same things and want to be treated the same whether an employee or a customer.
What would you like your HR legacy to be?
I want to be seen as an HR leader who is on the frontier of evolving the industry, who isn't afraid to try new approaches to create the best leaders and people managers.
Nominations for the 2017 Canadian HR Awards are now open and HR professionals are being encouraged to nominate themselves, their team, or their entire organization for a coveted award.
Accolades up for grabs include the Award for Best Workplace Culture, the Award for Best L&D Strategy, and the Award for Best HR Communication Strategy.
More information about the upcoming awards – due to take place in September – can be found online.