How to Manage Your Seasonal Golf Course Staff

In the US, the recreation industry has a 28.7% turnover rate year-to-year, which is second only to retail and hospitality. However, to many managers, it can seem much higher than this because of the high cost of training and onboarding new employees, which in turn leads to lack of motivation to train when you know that a third (or more) of your employees won’t return next season.

How do you handle a seasonal, low-skilled staff?

We suggest focusing on the following areas:

– Burnout reduction

– Technology training

– Trouble employees


Burnout Reduction

Many golf managers blame seasonal employee turnover on the blazing hot weather, long hours, and crabby players who come through the course. However, Gallup reports that nearly 70% of the time, the employees’ beef is not with the weather or the players, but with the manager.

That means that managers have a huge role in determining whether or not the course keeps regular employees for the season. Here are a few things managers can focus on to make sure those employees come back:


1. Offer IncentivesBountifulRidge_awesomeEmployees-2-1

The #1 motivation of seasonal employees is money, and you can use that to your advantage. Create contests with cash or apparel prizes for things like the classic “Employee of the Month” or “Fastest Training Completion.” If you have golf-obsessed retirement-aged people on staff, offer a package of free tee times instead. Be creative, and use their desire for money to your advantage.


2.  Break Up Training

It’s tempting to spend a few days inundating your new employees with all the information they need to know, but that kind of training usually ends up with employees making big mistakes, like deleting a month’s worth of data on accident, or feeling dissatisfied with their job, because they don’t understand it.

What many successful companies do instead is break up their training by tasks that employees need to understand immediately, and more general hospitality training.

For golf courses, that might look like training them how to use the tee sheet and POS, and waiting to show them all the bells and whistles that come with the software for another day.


3. Implement a Buddy System

Pair each new employee with an older, more experienced “buddy” who can show them the ropes of the course & your business software and answer any questions they have. This will mean a lot less questions and mistakes on the part of the employees and happier and more encouraging managers.


4. Offer Online TrainingmanagingCourse

If your tee sheet software doesn’t already have training modules, consider investing in online training software. It will require you to spend a large amount of time up front when you create the educational “courses”, but it will save you countless hours down the road as you train a new batch of seasonal employees every year.


5. Stay In Contact

Long experience has shown that staying in touch with your employees through social media, phone calls, etc. as well as taking a genuine interest in them while they’re at the club or course has a huge impact on turnover reduction.


Technology Training

Nearly all business at golf courses is conducted on computers, and the technology that runs those transactions get more and more robust every year. This also means that the technology gets more and more complicated every year, making it difficult to properly train seasonal employees.

So what can you do to make the process simpler?

1. Involve Employees in the Software Selection Process

If you’re looking for a new golf business software solution, involve your management team in the selection process. That way, when it comes time to train new staff members on the software, the managers will be well-prepared and excited to train.

(We recognize that this might not be possible for public courses, as the city managers most often choose the software for the course).


2. Have Good Support

No matter how well you train your employees, there are bound to be mistakes, and when that happens, the worst thing that can happen to your course is for you to get stuck on hold for hours while the software wreaks havoc on your course.

Make sure that your support has a fast response time (foreUP’s average is 45 seconds!), and that they consistently post technical items like a post-mortem, which shows that they take outages seriously.


3. Focus on What MattersBountifulRidge_awesomeEmployees-2

60% of the features in golf business software are irrelevant to the seasonal employee. They’ll never use reporting or inventory, and the vast majority of foreUP users don’t even use the F&B module, due to the limited amount of F&B operations at our clients’ courses.

That means one thing—don’t train them on things they don’t use. It might seem like a good idea to show them the inventory module, because they might need to do an inventory audit, but chances are that they will never, ever do that.

So don’t waste your time. Focus training on the things that matter. For golf clubs and courses, that’s almost always the tee sheet and the POS.


4. Leverage Quick-Learning Users

If you have an employee who is picking up the software really quickly, use them. You can incentivize them, like we mentioned above, and you can also assign them to be a “buddy” to someone who needs more help understanding.


Trouble Employees

Despite every manager’s best efforts to find and hire the best employees, at some point, an unmotivated, sarcastic, chronically late employee will come to the course. It’s tempting to just wait it out and hope that they don’t come back the next season, but that can turn a summer into an eternity. Better to try the following steps:

1. Listen

As Nalu Madeiros, foreUP’s Director of Customer Success, says, “The only way I can improve a tough situation—at work, with clients, at home—is if I have a crystal-clear understanding of the situation, and that includes knowing the other person’s point of view.”

Listening in itself doesn’t resolve a situation, but it is an absolutely essential component for a successful resolution.


2. Give Clear FeedbackBountifulRidge_awesomeEmployees-3

Be specific in your feedback, whether positive or negative. If you give vague positive feedback (like saying, “Thank you for your hard work today” to the whole staff), then a trouble employee might think that their poor behavior was included in the thanks.

If you give vague negative feedback (like saying “You need to improve your people skills), they’ll never be able to improve at all as they lack a specific direction.


3. Document

If the situation gets out of control, you always want solid evidence of their mistakes, so that the conflict doesn’t devolve to their word against yours.


4. Be Consistent

If you tell the employee that you’re not OK with a specific behavior, you must keep that boundary and not let that behavior slide some of the time. That means that you have to pick your battles wisely so you don’t become overbearing to the employee.


Make a Plan

At the end of the day, all this advice means nothing if you don’t make a plan for training and dealing with seasonal employees. Every course is different and has its own unique needs, but the areas of burnout reduction, technology training, and dealing with difficult employees will give any course the outline they need for a successful season.