How This Michigan Casino Was Recognized on Forbes’ Annual List of America’s Best-In-State Employers 2020

Q&A with the CEO of FireKeepers Casino Hotel, Kathy George and the VP of Human Resources, Frank Tecumseh

FireKeepers Casino Hotel is located in Battle Creek, Michigan. The current hotel tower has 243 rooms and a new hotel tower is being built to accommodate 203 additional rooms. The casino has 2,900 slots and 70 table games and a 27-table poker room. The casino employs approximately 1,800 team members and will be increasing this number by over 200 when the new hotel tower opens. The casino has been open since August 2009. There are 26 Tribal casinos in Michigan operated by twelve Tribes. There are also three commercial casinos that operate in the state.

Chris: FireKeepers Casino Hotel has just been recognized as part of Forbes’ annual list of America’s Best-In-State Employers 2020 (this was based on an independent survey of approximately 80,000 U.S. employees working for companies employing at least 500 people in their U.S. operations). Name the top three things that you believe has contributed the most to your team members’ satisfaction.

Frank: It’s difficult to narrow it down to just three things, as we do so much to make sure our team members are appreciated and taken care of. If I had to pick just three, I believe the top would be our all-encompassing service mantra called WEEA. Our service culture permeates everything that we do at FireKeepers. WEEA stands for Welcoming, Engaging, Enthusiastic and Appreciative. It guides us on how to not only interact with our guests, but also with each other. We’ve created programs to monitor, grow and reward WEEA here. From our instant monetary recognition for providing WEEA to guests and each other, to large scale WEEA events for team members.

A second thing that I believe has helped contribute to team member satisfaction is our engagement of staff. We’ve broken down silos and have involved the team in decisions and programs to get all perspectives, build trust and drive buy-in. For example, our WEEA program is not just a Human Resources duty, we’ve taken a committee approach to ensure it’s a property initiative and all departments are involved in how our service program works. We’ve taken a committee approach to a variety of other initiatives such as Recruiting, Retention, and Safety to name a few.

Finally, we want to be more than just a paycheck. We feel training is important to drive team member satisfaction, and, by providing job enrichment, we have developed opportunities for team members to grow at FireKeepers. Our training programs continue to evolve and for someone who wants to learn about the casino industry, our training program is all encompassing. We have a Track program which consists of four levels. The first track (Track I) consists of a 12 week class that is taught by property executive and departmental leadership that does an overview of what their department does and how they got into the position they are in. Track II is focused on building leaders, with a 12-week program that goes into leadership concepts and skills with a on the job training component. Track III is micro-learning that is done monthly on a variety of content that is instructed by both internal and external trainers. Finally, Track IV is a two year program that prepares staff for managerial and executive level positions. This program involves external trainers; some of the content is Franklin Covey, Dale Carnegie and other top tier leadership development programs.

We also host an annual leadership conference on property that every leader can attend. The reinvestment in the team has not only provided team member satisfaction, but has also built bench strength, increased our retention and engaged our staff to grow themselves.

Chris: Michigan Tribes are poised for legalized sports betting. Is this an initiative for your Tribe? What is your process in identifying the opportunities and are you working with any other Tribes?

Kathy: Yes, we opened our Dacey’s Sportsbook on June 22, 2020. We opened during a difficult time due to the limited sports activity due to COVID-19, but it allowed us to ease into the busy operation that it is quickly becoming. We had initial conversations with other Tribes to discover the opportunities to share services or other facets of technology but we have not formalized any agreements. We are currently working with the State of Michigan and other authorities and lawyers regarding Online Gaming and look forward to a resolution hopefully by year end, which will help take us to another gaming market.

Chris: Your casino and Tribe’s commitment to your community is something I’m told you even bring up in the hiring process. How do your employees contribute to the FireHub, the pantry, greenhouse and restaurant? Do team members get the chance to put their hands in the soil … or to interact with the community outside of the resort floor?

Frank: The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi and FireKeepers Casino Hotel believe in the power of community and work to ensure we are a part of and a leader in the community. Employees are encouraged and see their leaders volunteering in the community and follow suit. There is a food distribution to needy families weekly at The Fire Hub where employees volunteer to help distribute food. There are many opportunities for the team to volunteer at The FireHub including, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas gift and food distributions, coat/jacket drives, food drives and other special events. They have the opportunity to volunteer with the YMCA through the Operation Fit program where we distribute food to schools and daycares in the region, the community garden and the greenhouses located on Pine Creek Reservation have also had employees help with planting, upkeep and harvesting of food while interacting with Tribal members there.

A group of team members regularly work at the South Michigan Food Bank in a variety of roles. In addition, we have many that volunteer hours at S.A.F.E. Place (a domestic violence shelter and service provider), The Haven (which provides services and shelter to the local homeless population), The Humane Society, and many other causes in the area. We partner with companies that believe in giving back as well, and our big events with Michigan International Speedway, who has a charity arm that gives back to the community, as well as, our Symetra Tour Event – Road to the LPGA where the professionals give time to community while they are in town for the tournament through the Outside the Ropes program. In addition, we are in the process of implementing a program where guests can donate their unused TITO tickets or cash donations to go to charity.

Chris: Due to COVID, you chose to go to a fully non-smoking facility. What does post pandemic policy look like and what has been the feedback?

Kathy: To date, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. To maintain proper social distancing and wearing of face coverings, we felt it necessary and prudent to make the decision to go non-smoking. We provide areas outside the entrances for smokers to utilize with easy access back into the building. The employees remaining non-smoking during their shifts was a difficult decision, but needed to be done again to maintain social distancing of employees on breaks. Knowing that a fellow casino in Michigan allowed employees to smoke in their approved area caused exposures and numerous quarantines, we made the decision as an executive team to keep this from happening here. We pay for smoking cessation for any employee wishing for that benefit to help during this time. We have not made a post pandemic decision on the policy yet for guests or team members.

To find out more about FireKeepers Casino Hotel, please visit

Christine Faria 45 Articles