Staffing For Success: Part 3

Game Plan – Henry DeLozier‘s monthly column in Golf Course Industry Magazine – continues its series on staffing for success with the third of three installments. After looking at how the pandemic has afforded club and course managers the opportunity to reevaluate their teams (Staffing for Success: Part 1) and strategies for finding and hiring the right team members (Staffing for Success: Part 2), we turn to creating a culture that inspires and retains top performers.

Culture: The Secret Sauce of Success

A Supreme Court justice once defined obscenity by not defining it. “I know it when I see it,” Justice Potter Stewart famously said in 1964. It seems that an organization’s culture might fit into the same category: difficult to define, but obvious once illuminated.

The difficulty in defining organizational culture is because it is so many things at once. An amalgamation of personality, values, reputation, purpose, style and traditions framed by a set of written and unwritten rules developed over time and considered inviolable. Put them all in a pot, let them simmer for a while — a few years or maybe a few decades — and what’s left is culture!

Culture then is nothing less than an organization’s heart and soul, and its importance rivals any other asset or advantage. It is the glue that holds the organization together. It inspires loyalty in employees and motivates them to act consistently and pridefully. It influences them to perform at a high level because they feel a responsibility to uphold their end of the cultural bargain.

Culture is also an important factor in retaining top performers. Randstad, the international employment and recruitment firm, lists toxic cultures with poor pay, limited career opportunities, lack of challenging work, lack of recognition and work-life imbalance as the leading reasons people leave their jobs. There is an urgent need to pay attention to the culture growing around your club or course or risk losing top talent.

If this amorphous entity known as culture is so critical, what steps can you take, what keywords can you prioritize for search engines and what KPIs do you elevate to bake it into your organization? If only creating or transforming culture were so easy. Every winning culture is part of a unique set of attributes and characteristics that cannot be invented or imposed. It must be discovered from within.

But that doesn’t mean you should sit back and wait for culture to reveal itself — or for it to form in ways that could be detrimental to your future success. The road to a sustainable and winning culture ensures that employees:

 

  • Understand the club’s/course’s vision and how they contribute to it. When everyone knows where their leaders are steering the ship, it’s much easier to get people onboard and for employees to feel good about rowing.
  • Know how their performance is measured and what their personal success looks like. What results are expected? Are there both quantifiable and qualitative measures?
  • Are consistently recognized for contributions that meet and exceed goals. Nothing is more motivating than recognition in front of colleagues.
  • Recognize a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Employees of color and minorities want to see evidence that their opinions and work is valued and that they’re on a level playing field.
  • Feel that their managers are taking steps to safeguard their health and well-being. In a post-pandemic world, employees want to feel confident that their job is not putting them and their families in danger.
  • Are rewarded through a set of personal, flexible, creative benefits. Baby boomers, millennials and Gen Xers think about benefits and perks differently. To make them meaningful, managers must understand what each employee values most.

In addition to helping retain top performers, an engaging and embracing culture also has competitive advantages, particularly when it comes to sustaining high performance. Bain & Company research found that nearly 70 percent of business leaders agree that culture provides the greatest source of competitive advantage. In fact, more than 80 percent believe an organization that lacks a high-performance culture is doomed to mediocrity.

Culture may not be the easiest thing to define, but you can take steps that encourage a culture in which your organization thrives. You can’t rush culture, but you’ll know it when you see it.

This article was authored by Henry DeLozier for Golf Course Industry magazine.

Staffing For Success: Part 2

Game Plan – Henry DeLozier‘s monthly column in Golf Course Industry Magazine – continues its series on staffing for success with the second of three installments. After looking at how the pandemic has afforded club and course managers the opportunity to reevaluate their teams and redefine job descriptions in Staffing for Success: Part 1, we turn to finding and hiring the right team members.

As businesses reshape themselves into leaner and more efficient operations, top performers are the best value their money can buy.

A great many Americans are currently unemployed and looking for a job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6.7 percent of the labor force — more than 10 million people — is out of work. Finding top performers for rising needs in club management roles should be easy work, right? If only it were a simple matter of statistics.

As management professionals in any business know, the magic is finding the right person for the right job. With the war for talent continuing to escalate, we turn to three experts to help us identify the best practices for optimum staffing in these turbulent times.

Jim Collins: Get the right people on the bus

Step one, as management thinker Jim Collins advises in his bestseller “Good to Great,” is to start by “getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats” before heading down the proverbial highway. In other words, focus on “who” before determining “what.”

Those who build great organizations make sure they have a busload of people who can adapt and perform brilliantly no matter what comes next. Selecting the right people is a matter of clearly deciding what types of people — attitudes, talents, backgrounds, skillsets — are needed to enable your team to accomplish great things.

Jeff Bezos: Ask these three questions

The Amazon founder uses a straightforward three-question guide for hiring key employees. Bezos’ three questions offer direct application to the management of golf and private clubs and are particularly useful during unpredictable circumstances.

1. Will you admire this person?

“If you think about the people you’ve admired in your life, they are probably people you’ve been able to learn or take an example from,” Bezos says. This discipline requires that management first knows who he or she is and has a clear-eyed understanding of the strengths and benefits that are needed for any position. Hiring managers do well to ask themselves:

  • What traits and attributes inspire me to be my best?
  • What do we need?
  • To what do we aspire?

2. Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they are entering?

Will the candidate increase the efficiency within the organization? Is he or she able to see around the corner and anticipate needs? Are they willing to challenge established norms and traditions? (Should course setup be executed in the afternoon instead of first thing each day? Can mechanical work be executed after hours by veterans who need extra work?)

3. Along what dimension might the person be a superstar?

Listen to candidates’ answers. Push for details. Ask follow-up questions to understand how your candidate thinks and imagines your operation. One is more likely to be a superstar when he or she is encouraged to make others better.

Regina Hartley: Hire the scrapper

Throughout her 25-year UPS career — working in talent acquisition, succession planning, learning and development, employee relations, and communications — Hartley has seen how people with passion and purpose will astound you when given the opportunity. That’s why she says, “Hire the scrapper.” She defines scrappers as people who have had to fight against the odds to get ahead. They differ from those she calls the “silver spoons” — people who have had clear advantages in their lives and from birth seem destined for success.

Before tossing the résumé of someone who has obviously scrapped his or her way to the experience and skills that qualify them for a job in your organization, at least give them an interview, Hartley says: “A résumé tells a story. A patchwork quilt of odd jobs and experiences may signal a lack of focus and unpredictability. Or it may indicate a committed struggle against obstacles.”

This article was authored by Henry DeLozier for Golf Course Industry magazine.

Read Staffing for Success: Part 3

Staffing For Success: Part 1

This month, Game Plan – Henry DeLozier‘s monthly column in Golf Course Industry Magazine – kicks off a three-part series on staffing for success. First in the series is a look at how the pandemic has changed staffing needs and why superintendents and managers should consider reorganizing their teams and redefining job descriptions. Parts two and three will look at finding, hiring and retaining the right team members and creating the culture that inspires and motivates top performers.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste” is a quote often attributed to Winston Churchill in the days following World War II. Scholars question whether Churchill ever spoke those exact words, but as we make tentative steps to emerge from a pandemic-induced crisis of our own time, the lesson it implies — finding opportunity amidst great difficulty and challenge — rings as timely and as relevant as it would have in Churchill’s day.

In the still-churning wake of the global health pandemic of 2020, maybe the first place we should look for opportunity is with our own staffs. As COVID-19 raced through communities across America, thousands of golf clubs and facilities found themselves on either side of a dilemma. For those places where golf was booming, stretching tee sheets, golf car fleets and maintenance staffs to their limits and beyond, the question was whether to staff up to handle the surge or stay with current staff levels, figuring the wave would eventually crest and return to some semblance of normal. For places the boom never reached, the questions were: How long can we manage to keep our current team intact before payroll takes too much of a bite from dwindling revenues? And among those eventually let go, who will we bring back and who no longer has a place on our team?

By now, many of those calculations and decisions have been made and the ramifications felt. But the lessons they taught should not only endure, but also inform future staffing plans. In the heat of crisis, owners and managers learned who on their teams could take on more responsibility, who had leadership potential and who had reached their ceiling. They learned where they needed additional resources and where resources might be redeployed for better coverage and results. Now it’s time to put those lessons to work with redesigned organization charts and job descriptions.

One thing is for sure: a dynamic job market has changed even more in the last 12 months with continued disruption on the horizon. “The fallout will fundamentally change recruiting and hiring practices long after the pandemic has passed,” recruiting strategist Jack Whatley recently told Forbes.com.

Another certainty is that the war for talent will continue to escalate. Top performers will be in even greater demand because as businesses reshape themselves into leaner, more efficient operations, those top performers are the best value money can buy.

“Twenty years ago, all interns had mechanical skills and no computer knowledge. Now it is just the opposite. They all know how to operate computers, but they can’t change a spark plug,” says Rick Tegtmeier, the long-tenured and highly respected golf course superintendent at Des Moines Golf & Country Club. “It sure doesn’t hurt someone to work at a lesser-budget golf course operation and learn more of the skills that help you become a more rounded superintendent.”

There will never be a better time to take all the names off your org chart and rethink the needs of the club and course, the time and talent required of each of those needs, and the right names to place in those roles. As you go through that exercise, be aware that the pandemic and its economic reverberations have also changed employees’ perspectives.

Workers have had a lot of time recently to reevaluate their careers and question their next moves. Am I in the right job in the right industry? Where could I find more happiness and greater security for me and my family? Is this a stable environment and can I count on a stable paycheck? Where will I be exposed if (or when) another crisis emerges?

“Safety and job stability are at the top of mind for the job seeker now — and that changes what they want in a job,” Whatley says. “Businesses will have to become employee-centric as well as customer-centric.”

Hopefully, you and your facility have weathered this crisis without too much damage. Now’s the time to take advantage of an opportunity it has afforded.

This article was authored by Henry DeLozier for Golf Course Industry magazine.

Read Staffing for Success: Part 2

Results Reflect Preparation

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘it will be happier.’”

Alfred Lord Tennyson

As the esteemed poet laureate for England and Ireland wrote in his 1892 tale of Robin Hood, the new year ushers in the annual opportunity to reset your personal and career compass.

Soon golf professionals will be off to the PGA Show, golf course superintendents will travel to the Golf Industry Show and club managers to their World Conference. The goal for every pilgrimage (in addition to finding warmer weather and reacquainting with friends) is to improve knowledge and skills.

You’ll improve your chances of doing that by accomplishing a few tasks before packing your bags. First, complete your annual plan for your facility. Your annual plan forms the basis for your show strategy. Here are a few other suggestions offered from the threshold of a new year.

Superintendents

  • Many superintendents use their agronomic plans to establish expectations, define standards of care and educate members. With these goals in mind, head to your show with a bias toward learning. Study best practices, compare them with your opinions and integrate new knowledge into your plans.
  • Dedicate yourself to finding new solutions for labor costs. With more than one-half of the facility budget for greens and grounds dedicated to labor, this must be a point of emphasis. As national labor policy changes, demands on management professionals in every category will be more strident and urgent. Three sure-fire steps that you can take to manage labor costs: ask peers about labor solutions that are working for them, research labor solutions in non-golf categories and, if you think you might be perpetuating outdated methods, rethink your labor and scheduling plan.
  • Remember the science of your profession. As the most knowledgeable scientist at most clubs, superintendents’ scientific knowledge may be taken for granted. Don’t make that mistake, use the GCSAA educational platform as an invaluable resource and keep current.

Golf Professionals

  • With less than 10 percent of private clubs in North America full and most daily-fee courses in a constant state of recruitment, golf professionals should work to improve their selling skills. Three steps you can take to improve your sales skills: build a library of selling resources, including skills and rainmaking; develop your own method of managing relationships with your golfers and provide new services so they rely upon you more.
  • Expand your reach in your community. For golf to increase participation – especially among women and children – more people need to be invited to and find comfort at the golf course. That falls to the golf professional and his or her staff. One opportunity is to participate in scouting programs that bring young boys and girls to your course. Teach the business skills, environmentalism and character virtues that help them earn badges. In turn, they’ll tell their mothers and fathers, who will appreciate and reward your interest in their families.

Club Managers

  • Demanding times require bold and target-specific goals. Set bigger goals for your club by focusing on leadership, revenue growth and your club’s brand. As you do, make sure those goals and your intended results are aligned.
  • Healthy clubs are growing and replacing members who leave. Their secret lies in ongoing membership recruitment and retention. Keeping your club vibrant requires deliberate planning and execution. Increasing relevance helps to keep members engaged. Greater engagement leads to more member referrals. As a rule of thumb, successful membership recruitment is converting 10 percent of qualified leads into members. The membership recruitment net must be cast far, wide and consistently.
  • Remember that club culture lies within governance and governance is often a reflection of leadership. Therefore, leaders must act with greater purpose. The most consistent example of leadership is the club manager who sets the priorities and tone for day-to-day management activity. Monitor your own daily behavior to ensure it reflects your long-term goals.

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

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