Creating A Better Environment for Workers … and Potential Hires

This is the second of two Golf Course Industry Game Plan columns focusing on becoming an employer of choice.  For more, check out the previous article “Become an Employer of Choice”.

“… And what do you do, Mike?” the guy grilling the burgers at the neighborhood barbecue asked casually.

“I’m the golf course superintendent at Laurel Lake Country Club.  It’s an amazing place to work.  I have a great team and my manager really appreciates the job we do.  If you’re thinking about joining a club, why don’t you come out as my guest one day?”

Is that the kind of answer one of your staff members would give in a similar situation?  If it is, you’re in an enviable position in this tight labor market — you’re what’s known as an “employer of choice.”  Employers of choice enjoy higher retention rates, better productivity from their teams and a healthier workplace culture.  What’s more, they don’t have to search as hard for top talent because the best people come to them, hoping to join their team.

So how do you create that kind of reputation for your club?  It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can start with the ways in which you promote job openings.  Here are five keys to positioning your club as a place where top talent wants to work:

1. Show your colors up front. Describe who you are and what your course or club represents. This description of your values and the high standards to which you hold team members is attractive to top performers.  Stating your values and the significance of the position helps prospective employees know if your club is one where they would be proud to work.

2. Describe the job benefits clearly. Benefits are an important differentiator in today’s workplace, but don’t think of them in limited terms. Beyond health insurance, sick leave and vacation days, benefits include respect, being part of a winning team, and the opportunity for continued professional learning and development.  Make sure you help prospective employees understand the full range of benefits that you offer.

3. Tell what the job entails. Pay attention to the language you choose to describe the job and its responsibilities. And don’t be hesitant to describe the job in demanding terms. Top performers want jobs that challenge them and ones that matter.  Describe the team that the prospective employee would join, its work ethic and its team spirit.  Being a part of a great team is a strong incentive to employees who enjoy collaboration and sharing.

4. Know your competition. Being an employer of choice requires that you do your homework to know how your compensation, benefits and culture compare with the competition. In a tight job market, it’s also important to realize that your competitors include more than golf clubs and other golf operations courses.  You’re also likely competing with landscape companies and hospitality positions for top talent.  Knowing what competitive organizations offer helps you structure benefits and comp attractively while being mindful of the budget.

5. Tell stories of valued performers. Stories of performance, customer service, overcoming adversity and teamwork give new employees insight to the organization and the culture they are part of. Think of it as a window into your team room, which allows you to describe the human components of the job that are not a part of the formal job description.

In his book, “Attracting and Retaining Talent: Becoming an Employer of Choice,” Dr. Tim Baker emphasizes the importance of standing on trustworthy values.  “In plain terms, being an employer of choice means establishing a business that is a great place to work.  If companies don’t genuinely act to become an employer of choice, then good employees will simply vote with their feet and move to a forward-thinking employer who offers them what they want.”

Remember the story of the janitor at the Johnson Space Center in Houston who, when asked by President John. F. Kennedy about his role, said, “Mr. President, I’m part of the team that is putting a man on the moon.”

Don’t you wish that janitor worked for you?

This article was authored by GGA Partner Henry DeLozier for Golf Course Industry Magazine

Hiring Staff with Staying Power

Sourcing high quality staff who are in it for the long run is a challenge for all clubs, not least those situated in rural areas. GGA’s George Pinches demonstrates how putting in the hard yards at the point of search can produce the people you are looking for.

1. Talk to us about the current hiring landscape for clubs. Is high staff turnover still an issue?

Staff turnover remains an ever-present burden clubs have to face. One which is costly in both monetary and non-monetary terms.

The difficulty for clubs is the complex nature of the reasons behind the hiring challenges, ranging from:

Economic forces – When recruiting and retaining both management and staff, clubs often come up against macro-economic issues that are beyond the scope of the club to address

Cost of living – In many markets, the high cost of living limits the available staff within the club’s catchment area

Geography – Location and commute-time constraints can often lead to prospective employees seeking out a more practical job opportunity

So, the landscape can be challenging both for the club and for prospective or current employees, with only some of these variables within the club’s control.

2. What issues does this create in relation to morale and sense of identity within a club?

Private clubs are the ultimate in repeat business, so members want to know staff on such a level that staff know their preferences without even needing to ask.

Consistency and recognition are very important aspects of the club experience, and this is greatly hampered by a constant change in club personnel at every level. Managers often find themselves in a position of needing to start from scratch each season – losing the staff morale and good will built up over time.

Retaining club professionals and instructional staff is critical due to the personal nature of their interaction with members and their children. They are a great ‘unifier’ in the club environment across members, staff and the board, and the continuity in these roles is of paramount importance to the mood of the club at any one time.

3. How can clubs experiencing prolonged high staff turnover get themselves out of this cycle? What do they need to do differently?

They can pay attention to the local market and strive to be an employer of choice. While compensation is important, many other factors impact recruitment and retention.

In terms of taking practical steps, start by investing in the current management and staff. Professional development is a key component, regardless of whether an employee eventually leaves. Many private clubs become a sought-after employer because of the people they have produced within that sector.

Second, just as the club uses a member survey to gauge member satisfaction and obtain specific information that is useful in planning, engaging staff through a survey can be just as enlightening. Management, and to a much lesser extent the board, need to hear from the silent majority to understand which initiatives lead to less turnover.

The use of data-driven decision making is just as critical in Human Resource Management as it is in other aspects of club leadership.

4. How much can a robust structure and process help in all of this?

Recruitment and selection must be a structured process. Clubs must take the time to establish well-defined search criteria which clearly reflects the knowledge and experience you seek.

When recruiting for core positions, avoid short-term thinking and think carefully about emerging trends and the skillset you need to face the challenges of the future.

Retention, at the most senior level, involves setting clear expectations in writing with a well-defined monitoring and performance appraisal policy in place. Typically, Boards want accountability, measurable results and consistent results within the club’s unique history, vision, and culture. GM/COO’s want clear expectations in writing, and for their results to be regularly monitored and evaluated.

5. Are there certain measures a club can take to help identify the types of individuals they are looking for? More importantly, the ones who will help achieve a greater level of continuity within the club?

Clubs benefit from attracting and retaining individuals who have decided to make the club industry their career path, individuals who envisage a time when they are leading their own club and are keen to learn and develop. There is always a risk that you will lose that “rising star”, but they will often return when the opportunity presents itself.

How do you find these individuals? Predictive Personality Testing is one tool which helps augment the search process to isolate those with the best behavioral and cognitive fit for your club, later confirmed through a more traditional interview process.

Referrals are another tool for attracting, sourcing and retaining managers and staff. GM/COO’s who are active and networking in the club industry develop a deeper and wider connection with their peers, which can pave the way for referrals and approaches from prospective employees.

Any tactics you deploy in your search will be underpinned by one fundamental component: reputation. The reputation of your club, both from a staff or member perspective will either attract or put off prospective employees. So, think about the influence of online reviews, social media, and other outlets where people are expressing an opinion about your club. Address just criticism through investigation and resolution – this will clearly demonstrate your duty to the club’s stakeholders, build a positive reputation, and appeal to prospective employees who are in it for the long haul.

This article was authored by GGA Director and Club Governance expert George Pinches.