2022 Global Club Management Conference Review

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At this year’s conference in California, one of the main topics of discussion was how to deal with the recruiting and staffing crisis in the global golf club industry that has occurred in over the past two years. reports Chris Duffy.

A year ago, no one would have believed that Tiger Woods would play at the Masters.

Two and a half years ago, no one knew what effect the Covid-19 pandemic would have had on the club industry.

Seven years ago, I didn’t know the influence the Club Management Association of Europe (CMAE) would have on my career. An influence that would lead to job opportunities around the world, a renewed passion for learning and a unique tribe of club managers around the world that I can count on for advice and guidance.

In March 2022, I traveled to my fourth Club Management Association of America World Conference and Trade Show in San Diego, California to continue my educational journey and complete a seven-year journey to earn my designation as a “Certified Club Manager” (CCM), becoming one of 65 CCMs in Europe.

For those unfamiliar with the term, CCM is an internationally recognized designation that demonstrates dedication, knowledge and expertise in club management. Candidates earn this designation based on classroom training, work experience, and a written exam to assess club and business management knowledge and skills. Walking on stage in front of over 1400 club industry peers and being recognized for my accomplishments, I found a deep sense of pride and fulfillment.

Attending the global conference not only provides high quality club training, but also the opportunity to understand what is happening globally in our industry. Reach out and network with key club leaders around the world to find out how they see the industry, where it is heading and what we can do to support its development or guide change if needed.

The San Diego conference was the first major club management conference after Covid-19. The general feeling within the industry was one of joy and relief to be able to share experiences with members, guests and our teams, but the fundamental undercurrent was nervousness about what lies ahead in terms of recruitment and endowment.

It has been well documented that the hospitality and travel industries are currently suffering from a staffing crisis. Confidence to work in the hospitality industry is at an all time low and many who worked in the sector before Covid-19 have opened their eyes to new opportunities.

Working from home became the new norm, the internet became our go-to place to shop, home delivery became the norm, and family and friends wanted to spend more time together after so long apart.

Club employees who were furloughed returned to work to find that everything had changed and some decided not to return. The club team was smaller, but our members and guests were still as eager as before Covid. The club from the outside still looked the same, but internally the clubs had lost many libraries of knowledge as long-serving employees pursued other careers or retired.

There are so many good things about working in the club industry, but losing an industry employee or friend hurts the most. The daily joy and happiness we bring to our members and guests, those special moments we share with our teams, the personal opportunities to travel the world and work in very special environments are just some of the reasons why I love the club industry – so why are we facing a staffing crisis?

During the conference, the personnel crisis was recognized and discussed in detail during educational sessions and networking events. Feedback focused on five key areas:

• Lack of relevant knowledge and experience of board members.

• Lack of recognized and relevant data and information to support action.

• Lack of support from recognized associations at the right time.

• Lack of member understanding of rising operating costs.

• Lack of competitive compensation and benefits for employees compared to other industries.

Unfortunately, the above covers many of the issues we face as leaders in the club industry and until we can be provided with the tools, education and data to convince boards clubs to start putting employees first, the club industry is understandably on a downward spiral.

Over the past 12 months I have seen several clubs invest in non-essential works, course renovations and clubhouse redevelopment. Club membership has never been stronger, the Covid-19 effect as people found solace outdoors, and in particular golf clubs which were allowed to reopen earlier in many countries compared to other sectors, has led to a boom in club memberships.

For many clubs there is money in the bank and a waiting list for membership, but how many have recognized club employees in their 2022 budgets. I know very few who have approached employees and said ‘here’s a significant pay raise – we appreciate all you have done over the past two years to support our members during the pandemic, we appreciate all you do on a daily basis and we want you here at our club’ .

We often talk about member retention, but very rarely does anyone talk about employee retention.

Club employees are the skeleton of the club, and members are its lifeblood, and both are needed to survive. We know it costs a lot more to hire and train new employees than it does to retain those already in your club, so when was the last time your club’s board or committee Examined the longevity and compensation of its employees against other similar industries and available data?

Over the past few months, I have seen various institutions issue statements regarding support staff and the need for increased compensation packages to support employee recruitment. It is well known that club budgeting is typically reviewed and completed between October and December of the previous year and as such such statements, while welcome, should be brought to the attention of the Board of Directors sooner. . As managers and industry leaders, we also need to follow up on these statements with relevant data, allowing time for discussions and actions to be agreed upon long before subscription renewals are released to members.

If clubs are to turn the tide of our employee exodus, we need to find ways to pay ‘above’ market price – the hospitality, club and hospitality industry is short of talent – it’s a fact – and many industries are finding ways to fight competition to attract top talent, which often pays more and rewards the talent they employ. I call on members, the board and committees to recognize the work our teams do consistently, to pay fairly and to reward excellence.

Whether it is our greenkeepers, catering team, golf professionals or qualified and educated club managers, all are in short supply and clubs are facing a shortage of staff. Many have found new job opportunities and have chosen to leave our industry, but for those who have chosen to stay and continue to serve in our clubs, I say thank you and may our global journey continue, in the club industry that I love.

Chris Duffy CCM, former manager of Modry Las Golf Resort in Poland and Huddersfield Golf Club, is one of 65 certified club managers in Europe.

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