The times have changed from having an open position and filling that role, to first taking a step back and looking at the people you have, understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and then finding new employees with complementing strengths.
With businesses still starting to re-open as we come out of the pandemic, one of the greatest challenges that many now face is hiring staff. In the hospitality space, this need is even greater and the challenge to find the right people—or any people for that matter—is proving to be a huge barrier.
The days of posting an open position and sorting through ten highly qualified applicants are simply behind us. But if you are willing to be creative in how you think about the people and positions you now have, as well as those you need to fill, there is an opportunity to build a more robust staff that can serve members and guests in new and effective ways.
New Holes to Fill
When I first started to hire staff members, I would simply post the duties and requirements and sit back and watch the applicants roll through. I would usually get five to ten really good candidates who I would have to vet and narrow down to hire for the position.
In spring of 2021, however, I tried that same strategy and not one applicant met the basic requirements. We didn’t know it back then, but we were at the genesis of this great labor shortage.
I believe the times have changed from having an open position and filling that role, to first taking a step back and looking at the people you have, understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and then finding new employees with complementing strengths.
Consider what we have gone through as we’ve come out of the COVID shutdown. Most clubs have been getting by with a staff that’s been willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. This has meant your staff has had to wear many hats around the club.
During a massive uptick in club usage, the staff members who were there have stepped up in huge ways to serve members’ needs. And there are many people working in the industry whose job responsibilities now have very little to do with their job titles.
The upside of this expansion of job responsibilities has been that some employees have found they have a new passion or can excel in new areas they previously didn’t think of. But on the other side, some employees have found some of what they’re now asked to do to be draining and unenjoyable. As a club manager or director, it is our job to understand the current demands that are placed on our staff, and then to understand their level of satisfaction with their new roles.
As clubs sort through this labor shortage, it is imperative to remain supportive of your current staff. Empower them and give them an opportunity to grow. And consider how we can keep our current employees satisfied and rewarded for their hard work.
This might mean listening to their needs and desires about what it is they want to be doing. It might also mean transitioning roles or having a part-time employee move up into a full-time role.
Our willingness to listen and hear what our current staff desires will result in a workforce that is motivated and understood, and the end result will be a better working environment and better service. Giving an opportunity to grow further in their career to the members of your current staff who have demonstrated they are willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to get the job done might be the best investment you can make.
Putting the Person First
While analyzing your assets among current staff members is an important first step, it will not solve the problem of hiring new staff. As that need now arises in the current environment, the best approach is to find qualities in a person that you want to add to your staff, and then to find the right position or give them the right responsibilities that matches those qualities.
We will need to leave behind any preconceived notions of what we think “the job” requires. One of the most important aspects of hiring new staff is spending time with them and understanding their motivations and what they are passionate about. If you simply hire based on filling an urgent need, you will likely end up having to rehire for that position much sooner than you think.
For instance, if there is a desire among members to add a new group fitness class, such as kettlebell cardio, I would start by putting out a group fitness instructor posting—but when interviewing possible candidates, I would spend most of the time listening to the subjects that motivate them to be their best. What is it they are most passionate about, and what are their goals?
If this candidate has the right personality to fit in with your current staff, you are most likely better off hiring them and letting them take ownership of a new group-exercise class that really focuses on biomechanics and teaching how to move properly. And then providing them with a space to educate on sleep and nutrition, and how members can work with them to improve those areas and their overall well-being.
The end result is that the club ends up with a highly motivated employee who is very passionate about what he or she is doing—but more importantly, is supported and empowered to implement those passions.
So when you do have an opportunity to hire new personnel, strive to find someone whose strengths will only add to the effectiveness of the staff you currently have in place. Be open-minded and worry less about hiring for a specific position, and spend more energy on hiring the right people and assigning the right responsibilities to them.
Keke Lyles is recognized as a leader in human performance, with experience with professional athletes and Navy Special Warfare operators.