Make Your CSR Message a Showstopper

How do you train a staff of 62,000 about diversity and inclusion? If you're MGM Resorts International — where 42,000 of your employees work in your Las Vegas properties, and a fair number of them moonlight as performers — you put on a show.

MGM International Resorts is headquartered in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, and there is no shortage of stage-worthy talent among its employee ranks. And at the 2015 COMMIT!Forum on corporate social responsibility, held Oct. 21–22 at the TKP Conference Center in New York City, Phyllis James, MGM’s executive vice president and chief diversity officer, told a packed room how a 90-minute musical — created and performed by MGM employees for MGM employees — came to be the vehicle the company used to internally convey its corporate social responsibility policies. 

 Employees auditioned for roles in the show — “Inspiring Our World: A Musical Journey” — which also happened to be written by staff members. One hundred employees, representing a cross-section of management, housekeeping, and guest services, made the cut. The message of the show, James said, tied back to individual employees’ role in embodying the company’s core values, including its commitment to diversity, philanthropy, and environmental sustainability.

“Inspiring Our World” was performed 12 times in December 2012 at the Mandalay Bay Arena, each time to an audience of 5,000 employees. MGM reached more than 40,000 staff members with its corporate social responsibility message in about a week, James said, and then the cast went on the road in 2013 to deliver the CSR message via song and dance to approximately 20,000 staff at MGM’s properties in Michigan and Mississippi. 

MGM employees — cast members and the audience alike — saw the performance “as a huge investment in them,” James said. “Our chairman spoke at every performance. It was just huge for engagement and morale.” That message lives on, with parts of the show incorporated in new-employee orientations. Calling it “a milestone in perpetuating the kind of culture we want to have in our company,” James said its impact can still be measured by a spike in MGM’s employee-opinion-survey scores on its CSR culture.

Obviously, James said, not every company is able to produce an employee musical. But she offered the case study as an example of how MGM used part of its mission and identity to get an important message across. Which left the audience — several hundred corporate social responsibility and sustainability professionals, foundation heads, and nonprofit executives — thinking about how to use their own organization’s DNA to convey their commitment to CSR. And, perhaps, what latent talent they could tap back at their office.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.