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It’s a Wild World Out There

Oh, Baby, Baby it's a wild world It's hard to get by just upon a smile…- Cat Stevens

The effect COVID has had upon the operation of clubs and society in general has been varied and extensive. Not a day goes by that I wonder “did that really happen?”. “How did that person think his/her behavior was ok?” etc. The following are my observations of the new Wild World we live in and how we can navigate our way through it! Often in articles you will see references to HBR, Financial Times and other heady publications. Sorry not here. This is the world according to Jim!

There was a time when you would look at someone who is complaining, unhappy or disengaged with their job and tell them to “Suck it Up” or “Grab your lunch bucket and move on”. I am not suggesting that was ever an appropriate motivation strategy. Your teams today are made up of people who are more in tune with the environment around them and the effect it has on them. They will not sit silently by if they are not fulfilled on a variety of levels. Competitive compensation is important...

(US Club Study data, Feb 2023)

...but the table stakes today have created a working environment where people need to feel valued, cared about, listened to and part of the process. They want a say in where the organization is headed and how it is going to get there. Explaining the “Why” is mandatory today. That does not stop you from having firm and precise SOP’s and standards that must be met. That’s called running an effective and successful club. How you shift someone to meeting those is the challenge. The cost of recruitment is high. If you can reposition someone to an area where they can succeed or coach them to where you need them to be then that is the investment you need to make. In today’s tight labor market, you must strive to put the people you have in the right position.

(Canadian Club Study data, Jan 2023)

Caring about your people, investing in what is important to them, building a team on a personal level and listening with an empathetic ear will give you a fighting chance. Top-down lines of authority need to be flattened so more people are involved in the decision-making process which in turn creates buy in. When someone has bought in, meeting and exceeding your standards will be much easier and people will naturally hold themselves and others accountable.

A common theme I heard from club managers across the country is the inability to find seasonal and seasoned workers who want to work full time. In our club (The Derrick Golf & Winter Club), and based on the average hours worked in 2022, we will need to hire 40 people next summer on our Turf Team to have 24 FTE’s. Every day last season we had people call into say they weren’t feeling well, they might have COVID, they needed a day to clear their head, or they woke up and were tired so were taking the day off.

(Canadian Club Study data, Dec 2022)

I don’t know the cause of this shift in workplace attachment and responsibility, but if it represents the new normal then us as employers need to adjust and accept that the standard 40-hour work week may be gone.

(US Club Study data, Sept 2022)

I believe that once you make an adjustment and have a “contract” with your people for what they will commit to then you must hold them accountable. If you don’t then you are saying your word and their word don’t count. People need to be held accountable and understand there are consequences if they don’t do what they say they are going to. It may leave you short staffed but letting someone go if they don’t fulfil their commitment is a life lesson we are charged with giving.

I think the time people spent at home in the summer of 2020, financially assisted by the government, allowed them the time to reflect on what was important in their lives. And for many that did not include their job. The prospect of having their cake and eating it too proved irresistible. They enjoyed working the hours they wanted and no more. They wanted to spend time on the activities that made them happy. They were, for instance, not willing to forgo the hike in the mountains or time spent with friends and family for a few more hours at work. Play seemed to have trumped pay. To be honest I can’t say I blame them. Be respectful of these needs and make sure your work environment and expectations make that possible.

What seems to go hand in hand with the new appreciation of work life balance is also a sense of entitlement. A shift I have seen is an expression of “I deserve this” even when it may not have been earned or ever offered. I believe it is important to lay out your expectations and the benefits, so everyone is crystal clear at the beginning of a relationship. Early understanding eliminates confusion later. Consistency amongst your whole staff is imperative so everyone is playing by the same rules.

One area we need to focus our training on is Unconscious Bias.

A simple definition of Unconscious Bias, also known as implicit bias, is what happens when we act on subconscious, deeply ingrained biases, stereotypes, and attitudes formed from our inherent human cognition, experiences, upbringing, and environment. What was once semi accepted at a club is rightfully completely out of bounds today. We need to be aware of our bias and understand how they may impact our decisions and thoughts about people we engage with at the club. We need to make our Teams aware of these as well, so they can perform their duties in a free and safe environment. People are more sensitive to how they are being treated and we must ensure we are doing it equally without any subconscious biases.

It appears that the Rules and Regulations governing conduct at a club are being increasingly flouted by some members. At the 2022 CMAC National Conference it was a topic of conversation amongst the club leaders. Members are behaving, acting, and interacting in ways that have not been seen before. The disturbing part is the frequency with which it is happening.

(US Club Study data, Aug 2022)

What once might transpire a couple of times a year now seems to be a weekly occurrence. I don’t have any answers to police, let alone suppress the unruly, but we do need to arm our teams with the tools and tricks to deal with this conflict. As the front-line recipients, we must do what we can to deal with the situations and when necessary, arm the “House Committee” with the facts about the characters involved for a formal discussion. Make sure you are setting your Teams up for success by placing the right people in the right situations. Having your senior servers on during the men’s member guest may stop the old boys from misbehaving as the server won’t be afraid to say, “smarten up or I will tell your wife and kids”. Training, training and more training is necessary to create a level of confidence when dealing with these situations. Keep your Board of Directors informed so they know what you are dealing with. Also, an old fashion public discipline process helps, so the whole club knows happens when a member acts like an idiot 😊

Finally, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) is on our radar these days. Whether that be in your marketing program, printed material, hiring practices or volunteer selections around the club it is something we need to be always considering. I believe most of us were practicing doing the right thing by making sure we had diverse representation in all areas of the club. We have always tried to find the best possible people that represented the make up at our club and community we are in. Whether that was in our staff, committee volunteers and board members. The big difference today is we need to keep a scorecard to ensure we are doing the right thing. We are being questioned about our DE&I practices and we must be able to show the protocols we have in place and the impact they are having. This can’t be about ticking a box; it must be about effective change. I also believe if asked about DE&I it is ok to say, “In all facets of our operation we strive to do the right thing”.

Life leading a club today is different than it was in 2019. The good news is the movie playing at your club is the same at all the clubs…. you are not alone. Your club managers support community is tighter, more helpful, and always understanding. Reach out to your network, share your war stories, ask for tips, and get ready to tackle this new wild world!

Jim Hope, CCM, CCE GM/COO The Derrick Golf and Winter Club

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1 Comment

Jon Nusink
Jon Nusink
Feb 28, 2023

Well done Jim! It's nice to see we're not alone in these challenges.

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