“Dry times” can be the best time to intensify recruiting efforts and position your property to improve its service culture.
Everyone’s always on the lookout for new talent. But the smartest employers who want to hire the best people recruit a pre-qualified candidate pool of potential employees before they ever need to fill a job. Or as Harvey Mackay, the well-known author and speaker, puts it, you need to “dig your well before you’re thirsty.”
THREE STEPS TO A GREAT STAFF
In today’s economic climate, success in the club and resort industry hinges more than ever on first assembling, and then directing, a top-notch staff that can maximize operating efficiencies while providing the great service that assures members and guests they’re getting proper value for their money.This means that club managers, even if their properties are currently in a hiring freeze or perhaps even reducing staff, must not ignore the critical “three Rs” of staff management—recruiting, rewarding, and retaining.
In this three-part series, Don Vance will draw on his nearly 40 years of experience as a top manager at leading clubs and resorts to offer valuable tips on how to get, motivate and keep the best people needed to keep a property in a leadership position.
To follow this initial installment on recruiting, Parts Two and Three will appear in the September and December issues of C&RB.
The way we recruit is not just about a process or a system, or only a means to attract talent. Recruiting top talent to our organizations is as much about projecting our image, and marketing our clubs and resorts, as it is about recruiting employees. If we aren’t always recruiting, we are not taking full advantage of the available talent market.
A few years ago, I was dining at one of my favorite BBQ restaurants with my wife, Debbie. Our server was a very nice young girl who had a dynamic personality and was very friendly and service-oriented. I told my wife that she would make a great server at our country club.
I asked the young lady if she had ever thought about waiting tables in a country club. She replied that she felt she wasn’t a “good enough” server to work in a club.
I told her we had a great training program, and then added that she had something I couldn’t teach—a magnificent personality and friendly service attitude. While I knew we didn’t have any current positions open at the time, I still handed her my business card and asked her to call me if she ever wanted to make a change in her career in the future.
Several weeks later, I received a call from this young lady, and I put her in touch with my Clubhouse Manager. After a series of interviews, we hired her, and she soon became one of our top performers. Then, after two years with us, she ended up being recruited away by one of our club members, who was a real estate executive. Later, I found out that she had studied for her real estate exam, become a broker and ended up becoming a top real estate sales executive.
But I can’t begrudge her any of the success that came after she started working at my club—nor do I feel that the club member who hired her did anything wrong in noting, and pursuing, the same qualities that I first saw in the restaurant. More than ever, this is the way the game must now be played.
Getting What You Don’t Pay For
Today’s business economy is clearly an employer’s market, and with unemployment at some of its highest levels since the Great Depression, it’s easy to go “bargain-hunting” when you do have an opening to fill. A good friend of mine who works with a worldwide recruiting firm recently told me he has never seen so many unemployed executives show up in his office—all of them willing to take 50% pay cuts to get back to work.
But no one should be fooled into thinking that this means “recruiting” is currently an unnecessary activity. If you think that all you now need to do is “cherry pick” from an overflowing talent pool, you’re likely to be in an even more dire situation once things turn around, as your “bargain” employees quickly jump ship to find better-paying opportunities.
Recruiting is about developing partnerships with current employees and bringing them along for advancement opportunities, at the same time you are developing future relationships with prospective employees who can be a great fit for our clubs and resorts and the cultures of our organizations.
Along these lines, in addition to always keeping an eye out for great talent wherever you go, now is the time when you need to pay closer attention to all of the inquiries for job opportunities that we’re all being inundated with, even though few of us have many positions to fill.
A recent survey reported that less than 10% of employers respond to individuals who send in their resumes and inquire about opportunities, even when a job has been listed. The percentage of responses to unsolicited inquiries, of course, is probably under 1%. The primary reasons stated by the surveyed companies for their lack of response were related to the amount of time it takes to organize responses, and also out of fear of “establishing a dialogue” with candidates they were not interested in.
This is short-sighted on many levels, and actually amounts to an insult to the talent that’s out there that does not reflect highly on your organization. To begin with, it’s easy to find templates for responses from Web sites that specialize in human resources-related documents, so the “amount of time to organize responses” is really negligible. Even sending out an automated response is better than sending none at all.
Beyond that, the responses that you may get if a dialogue does begin—and remember, you’re always in position to end the discussion at any time—can be very instructive in helping you identify people who really understand your needs and will be the best fit with your culture.
How Is As Important As Who
This can often prove to be a more effective process, in fact, than traditional recruiting approaches. A few years ago at a club where I was the General Manager, we recruited and ultimately hired a highly successful manager from the Disney organization. We felt she was the best person to take our service to the next level. But once she came on board, she soon proved to be a bad fit with our employee culture and created tension among our management and employee group. While this individual was extremely talented, she came across as a “star” employee who did not try to fit in or earn the respect of her fellow teammates. Ultimately, I had to let her go.
The key recruiting mistake I made in this instance was thinking that I could force our service culture to change more quickly by hiring talent from the outside, as opposed to changing it from within. If you make it a point to maintain consistent dialogue with available talent who can help you bring about change—whether you already have them on board, or meet them in the outside world in person or through correspondence—you will be in much better position to put, and have, the right people in the right places.
Because while recruiting top talent is key, it’s equally important to hire people who share the same goals and values, and will be able to work alongside one another to develop a better team of professionals. Recruiting is about more than just filling a position; it’s about building a team and strengthening and enforcing a service culture so it can keep evolving. Thus, how you go about your recruiting process is as important as who you recruit.
This approach should be a consistent part of any recruiting plan. Even when a labor market is flooded with talent, that talent will still be assessing and interviewing us, as much as we are them. And as busy as we all are, we should try to always make time to meet people who seem promising in person, even if we have no available positions for them.
While it’s traditional, and convenient, to try to “screen” and sift through candidates and potential talent over the phone, this can cause you to miss many things about people that you just can’t sense through a limited medium like the telephone. Research has shown that 55% of communication is conveyed by body language, eye contact, gestures and facial expressions, while 38% is conveyed by voice quality, tone and inflections, and only 7% by the actual words being used.
It’s also important to be as job-specific as possible whenever you’re recruiting someone or assessing them as possible future talent. If it’s an F&B position, have them cook with you and your chef. If it’s
golf-related, have them play a round with your pro, or show you how they’d go about giving a lesson.
In all cases, have them not only meet, but have meaningful interaction—through a meal, or tour, or other extended session—with as many of your existing staff members as possible. Some of my best hires have hinged on the recommendations I’ve received from current staff, because they have the best insights into how new people will fit into our existing service culture. So even if you have the luxury of being able to afford outside recruiting services or pay for high-exposure ads, don’t overlook, or underutilize, the value of the internal resources that you also have on hand.
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