As this article is being written, the employment landscape for skilled labor and qualified leadership remains a challenge for the majority of our owners and operators. The golf industry’s greatest challenge is competing with other leisure and hospitality businesses. Whether for food and beverage personnel, pro shop staff, cart attendants, irrigation technicians or management-level employees, the competition is high.
In September 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported leisure and hospitality had a “quits rate” of 6.4 percent. Within leisure and hospitality, art, entertainment and recreation had the largest increase in quits from August to September 2021 (+56,000) and a quits rate of 5.7 percent. Also within leisure and hospitality, accommodation and food services had a quits rate of 6.6 percent. BLS reported that “job resignation” accounted for 4.4 million job vacancies in the leisure and hospitality industry.
To gain an understanding of its impact on golf course owners and operators, the Michigan Golf Association recently surveyed their members and asked them to have their three key departments (agronomy, food & beverage, and golf operations) rate the level of difficulty of finding employees in each area. The agronomy programs reported it most difficult to hire mid-level employees. For food and beverage, they also reported the biggest challenge with finding mid-level employees. The golf operations category reported upper-level employees were the most difficult to find, closely followed by mid-level hires. Overall the food and beverage programs were the most difficult department to fill vacant positions. While this data reflects the state of labor challenges in Michigan, it is consistent with what we are hearing from around the country.
So what can operators do to manage the labor shortages? As with any challenge, there is not one single solution. If we look inside the department of labor’s data, we see over one million of the lost workers being due to retirement. The golf industry has always been successful in hiring retirees who are looking for a second income source in an industry that supports their recreational needs. While many of these fill entry-level positions, many have skills that are transferable to other mid-level and upper-level positions within your organization.
Technology is another tool golf course owners and operators have found helpful to offset labor shortages, especially in food and beverage areas. The pandemic challenged us to find alternate service delivery methods. Now, the current labor shortage produces another opportunity to be creative.
Some may be considering filling vacant positions by using contract labor. This is definitely an alternative. The food and beverage industry has always leaned on contract labor for special events. These employees are employed by a third party so there are few labor law concerns. While expensive, it is an option. However, we would caution you when considering the use of independent contractors to perform mid-level or upper-level jobs. NGCOA has provided extensive material on the use of independent contractors and encourages you to review this material and your state’s regulations to ensure contracting labor is the right decision for you.
This issue of Golf Business provides a deeper look at labor challenges within our industry and offers creative solutions. While recruiting new hires is always a critical management task, more importantly, it’s vital to remember you must always work to retain existing employees, as their options in finding alternate employment have never been better. These employees have helped you sustain your business. Recognize and reward them for their personal commitment to your organization and you may find job satisfaction and retention may be the best solution to vacant positions!