Topic: Company Culture


Niagara Casinos: Creating Purpose, Reinforcing Values

Niagara Casinos

Welcoming millions of visitors each year from around the world, Niagara Casinos’ employees are committed to shaping memorable customer experiences and giving back in their community. Named the Top Employer in the Niagara Region for 7 years in a row, Niagara Casinos has built a culture that engages their 4,000 employees.

“Our employees create our business success. We don’t make a product here, we create an experience. People come here from all over the world to celebrate and have fun. We get to be part of milestone moments in our customer’s lives,” says Jules Bartley, Manager of Communication, Events, and Recognition.

Connecting to what matters most

Any program created to engage employees at Niagara Casinos ties back to their 4 company values: Provide remarkable service, Earn trust and loyalty, Work as one team, and Improve our communities. After these values were introduced, Niagara Casinos searched for a recognition partner that could help reward employees for demonstrating the values. They also wanted a partner to provide a program employees would love and help increase engagement across the organization.

The Human Resources team first sought feedback from employees. They held focus groups to understand what was working and what was not with their current recognition program. They also met with team leaders to see what was important to them.

“It’s all about getting to know who are people are. We have 4,000 employees of different backgrounds here. We don’t speak at our employees, we speak with them,” says Bartley.

“You can't deliver a remarkable customer experience without employees that are committed and connected to the organization. We believe that recognizing employees that go above and beyond is a strategic imperative for our business because when done right, it pays dividends.”
—Maria Graham, Vice President Human Resources & Organizational Development

Finding a partner

The usual process for finding a new partner was to bring vendors in for a demo. But rather than a demo, Bartley explains, “What was really unique with O.C. Tanner was they did not come in to show us their product right away. Instead they asked us to tell them about our company and what our goals were. They wanted to get a feel for us as an organization and what we wanted to achieve with our program before they presented anything.”

Because the link to company values was so important, O.C. Tanner worked with Niagara Casinos to create the Great People Celebrations program that would bring awareness to and reinforce their four values. The recognition program included an online tool that allowed for peer-to-peer recognition, offline and mobile tools, and a Yearbook program to recognize years of service. It was branded to look and feel like Niagara Casinos and had the same look and feel as the launch of the new values.

“Visually, we wanted all of our programs to link together. O.C. Tanner tailored our program to our needs instead of an out-of-the-box program. Everything you see on our program is written in our language. From our employees’ perspective, they see it as a Niagara Casinos program, as opposed to an O.C. Tanner product,” says Bartley.

“The whole process was so smooth. We launched a rebranded, online recognition program in 3 months. In our partnership with O.C. Tanner we met or exceeded every single deadline, and when we launched, we could all stand back and be proud of it.”
—Jules Bartley, Manager of Communication, Events, and Recognition

Great People Celebrations

To launch their new recognition program, Niagara Casinos made sure it would be fun for their people. They gave away bags of treats with instructions on how to access and log into the system. With over 3,000 offline employees, making sure the program was easily accessible and available (via the mobile app and access at home) to those without a computer was crucial.

Manager information sessions previewed the new program and reinforced the importance of recognition. “It is important for managers to understand that engaged employees provide exceptional service to our guests which will bring our customers back and have a direct impact on business success,” says Bartley. Recognition is also a component of new hire orientation for every employee.

Live streams of ecard and award descriptions are played on plasma screens in the employee cafeterias at all properties to serve as an ongoing reminder of recognition happening across the organization. “Great People Celebrations is a huge part of the company language – employees encourage each other to send ecards for birthdays, service anniversaries, accomplishments big and small,” says Bartley.


Niagara Casinos saw over 10,000 recognition experiences in the first 10 months of their program. Recognition brought awareness and appreciation between departments and teams that normally don’t interact with each other, and improved camaraderie.

“Recognition is contagious. You see people celebrating one another’s successes. You see people comparing gifts at awards lunches. You see the awards displayed at work. It’s creating a conversation and engaging people.

Recognition has helped reinforce and bring awareness to our values. It enhances a sense of pride in our employees when they hear about the great work others are doing at our organization. You feel inspired to do that great work you are hearing about. It encourages people to provide remarkable service and truly live our values.”

Survey says:

  • 100% felt appreciated after receiving recognition
  • 100% found the system easy to use
  • 85% said their recognition connected their contributions to company goals
  • 90% understand how they contribute to the success of the company
  • 93% likely to stay                        

Click here to learn more about how O.C. Tanner's Culture Cloud suite of solutions can help your company grow.

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