HR Trends at Private Clubs

By: Rob Hill – Partner, GGA March 16, 2017

At Global Golf Advisors, we recently completed two surveys of over 175 club managers, one in North America and one in Europe, seeking to identify the trends that are and will continue to have, the most significant impact on private clubs.

Both our 2016 National Club Trends Survey and European Private Club Leaders Survey identified a trend emerging for clubs on both sides of the Atlantic, relating to the sourcing, managing and retaining of staff.

In Europe, 94% of the managers surveyed observed that their ability to attract and retain talent was likely to have a significant impact on the performance of their club in the coming five years.  They were also in agreement in identifying it as the leadership challenge which had increased in its impact the most over the previous five years.

HR Trends in 2016 - Expectations of a High Impact on Clubs

This same group indicated that clubs had become considerably less competitive than the hotel sector when it comes to attracting talent. Reasons cited were not in relation to remuneration, but rather those hotel operators were considerably better equipped to demonstrate the opportunity for career progression, and provide personal and professional development.

In North America, 90% of club managers stated that HR had a high or very high degree of impact on their club’s performance in 2016.  A key element of the Human Resources dilemma is that external factors control or influence who and how managers can hire.

They have no control over the larger social and political trends impacting their local labor market.  The weight of regulations and administrative law are a constant burden.  The survey found that the typical club now employs between three and five people on its HR staff, such as HR Directors, HR Coordinators, or Employee Relations executives.

Housing and transportation, too, have an enormous impact on HR. Prestigious clubs are often located where rents are high, which means the staff they hire must often travel long distances to and from work, which makes the job either less attractive or capable of commanding a higher wage or salary.

“Some clubs,” the Survey notes, “are improving staff retention by emphasizing …career education and skill development. Other retention tactics include exceeding minimum wage pay requirements, implementing contemporary performance review systems, and bolstering morale through departmental recognition, anniversary luncheons, and staff awards.”

The survey notes that the millennial workforce (the cohort between ages 18-34) expects better employment conditions and remuneration than have previous generations. They want to be proud of their employer. Their belief in an exceptional quality of life extends to the workplace (a work/life balance, attention to ethics, personal development, advancement, flexibility), requires club managers to understand and adapt to these generational differences.

The crucial takeaway from our surveys is that in this rapidly changing and highly competitive employment environment, club leaders must demonstrate a strong commitment to understanding their people, investing in professional development, and to nourishing a team culture staff are inspired by.

The challenges associated with recruiting and retaining talent will become even greater for those clubs that do not heed these lessons, and the talent they seek will be drawn to those clubs that have.

For further insights on HR and other impactful trends at private clubs, contact Rob Hill at for complimentary copies of both reports.