Maintaining seasonal workforce is an annual battle

Maintaining seasonal workforce is an annual battle

Joyner, Joel

It’s not an uncommon struggle, particularly with a larger seasonal workforce, for superintendents to find and retain reliable and productive employees. Having good employees is essential to managing a successful golf course maintenance operation. For some superintendents, obtaining the right combination of workers to match their maintenance programs is a yearly challenge. According to Golf Course News’ recently conducted two-part News Poll (see page 7), 55 percent of the golf course superintendents surveyed said that more than half of their workforce is primarily seasonal. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Location is one of the obstacles for maintaining a seasonal workforce, according to superintendent Kevin Goolsby at the Sportsman Golf Resort in Pensacola, Fla.

“I have trouble getting good employees because of my location from developed areas that have the workforce I need,” he explained. “We are located along the Gulf Coast, and we depend on resort guests. I would like to find a great source for immigrant and migrant workers because of their excellent work ethics.”

Economic factors also play a large role in the size and structure of several golf course maintenance staffs. Finding the right combination of employees and providing the right incentives are critical to running a smooth operation, according to superintendent Mark Lytle at the Salina (Kan.) Municipal Golf Course. “We rely on seasonal employees for economic reasons,” he said. “We use approximately 10,000 hours of seasonal employees and 6,000 hours are worked by full time employees.

“We give the seasonal staff free golf and reduced fees for golf car use to enhance their compensation each year,” he continued, “and have been extremely successful with this program. The 10,000 seasonal hours cost us about $65,000 per year. The 6,000 full time hours cost approximately $90,000 per year with benefits.”

Some of Lytle’s seasonal workers have been with him for 12 to 14 years. “Most of them are retired and are very dependable, are never late for work, and are my most productive workers,” he said. EXPERIMENTING WITH DIVERSITY Experimenting and diversifying within different pools of the workforce and finding the right combinations – retirees, students, interns, housewives, etc. – may prove beneficial.

Blackberry Patch Golf Club in Coldwater, Mich., runs a high maintenance operation with minimal financial resources, according to superintendent Pamela Smith. Smith has successfully put together a team that combines seniors and students.

“The senior staff is critical to our department,” she said. “They are quick to learn the operation of the equipment, are always dependable, and bring a wealth of knowledge and life experience to our operation. In addition, they are able to take the layoffs and return each year.”

The combination of seniors and students creates a unique synergy said Smith. “Young people who have never held a formal job are brought into the workplace often aided by the values and work ethics of the senior staff here,” she said. “The result is not only teaching onthe-job behavior but also positive lessons for life. Our maintenance department is a great place to grow our youth professionally and personally.” OBSTACLES TO ADDRESS

Of course, in experimenting with different alternatives and approaches, challenges are likely to develop.

“Over the past few years, we’ve shifted from a 75 percent seasonal staff to just less than 50 percent,” said superintendent Frank Rendulic at the City of Dayton’s (Ohio) Kittyhawk Golf Club. “In the process, we created several permanent, parttime staff positions [35 hours/ week year round].

“The intent was to be able to hire more qualified people. However, finding work for these folks during the winter season is a challenge,”he continued. “It’s possible that having a larger seasonal crew actually works better.”

SOLUTIONS TO LABOR ISSUES Two articles in this month’s issue of GCN focus on solutions and different approaches to help reduce employee turnover rates at clubs.

Raymond Davies’ article (see page 8) addresses the challenges of understanding the local community and demographics as well as devising a best worker profile to help identify the right candidate for the job.

On the club management side, hiring issues also exist as experts predict that the hospitality industry will need to add 20 million more workers by 2006 to support anticipated growth. David Hubbard’s article (see page 21) covers presentations by these experts who outline ways to lower employee turnover rates at golf facilities.M

According to Dr. Stella Coakley, department head of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University, Dr. Elaine Ingham (“Compost tea slowly gaining golf converts” Feb. GCN 2002) is not an associate professor in that department nor is she employed at Oregon State University. Dr. Ingham was last employed by the University on a part-time basis in 1997 as associate professor/senior research. She then held a courtesy associate professor/senior research position in botany and plant pathology until June 1999. Since that date, she has not been a member of the department. GOLF COURSE NEWS

Copyright United Publications, Inc. Mar 2002

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