The club industry staffing crisis

By: Chris Duffy CCM April 11, 2022

One year ago, no-one would have believed that Tiger Woods would play the Masters. Two years ago, no one would know the effect the Covid-19 pandemic would have taken on the club industry.

Seven years ago, I didn’t know the influence the Club Managers Association of Europe (CMAE) would have on my career. An influence that would lead to worldwide job opportunities, a renewed passion for learning, and a unique tribe of club managers from around the world I can rely on for advice and guidance.

CCM 2021 staffing crisis

In March 2022 I traveled to my 4th Club Management Association of America World Conference and Business Expo in San Diego, California to continue my education journey and to fulfil a 7-year journey to collect my Certified Club Manager (CCM) designation becoming one of only 65 CCM’s in Europe.

For those not familiar with the term “CCM” it’s an internationally recognized designation that demonstrates dedication, knowledge, and expertise in club management. Candidates earn this designation based upon completed classroom education, work experience, and a written examination to assess club and business management knowledge and skills.

Walking the stage in front of 1400+ club industry peers and being recognised for my achievement I found a deep sense of pride and fulfillment.

Attending the world conference offers not just high-quality club education but the opportunity to understand what is happening on a global level within our industry.

Reaching out and networking with leading club managers from around the world to ascertain how they see the industry, what direction it is heading, and what we can do to support its development or guide change where needed.

Chris Duffy staffing crisis

The conference in San Diego was the first major club management conference post-Covid-19. The general feeling within the industry was joy and relief at being able to share experiences together with members, guests, and our teams, but the fundamental undercurrent was nervousness about what lies ahead in terms of recruitment and staffing.

The hospitality and travel sectors are currently suffering a staffing crisis.

It has been well documented that the hospitality and travel sectors are currently suffering a staffing crisis.

Trust to work in the hospitality industry is at an all-time low and many who worked in the sector prior to Covid-19 have opened their eyes to new opportunities.

Working from home became the new norm, the internet became our favourite place to shop, home delivery became the standard, and family and friends wanted to spend extended time together after so long apart.

Club employees who were furloughed came back to work and found everything had changed and some decided not to return. The club team was smaller, but our members and guests were still as expectant as pre-covid.

The club from the outside still looked the same, but internally clubs had lost multiple libraries of knowledge as long-serving employees pursued other careers or stepped into retirement.

empathy-hospitality-skills staffing crisis

There are so many positives to working in the club industry but losing an employee or friend from the industry hurts the most.  

The daily joy and happiness we bring to our members and guests, those special moments we share with our teams, the personal opportunities to travel the world and to work in very special environments are just a few reasons I love the club industry – so why are we are facing a staffing crisis?

During the conference, the staffing crisis was recognised and discussed at length in both educational sessions and networking events. The feedback came to five keys areas:

  • Lack of relevant knowledge and experience of board members.
  • Lack of recognised, relevant data and information to support action.
  • Lack of support from recognised associations at the appropriate time.
  • Lack of understanding from members to increasing costs of operations.
  • Lack of competitive compensation and benefits for employees compared to other industries.

Unfortunately, the above covers many of the issues we face as leaders in the club industry, and until we can receive the relevant tools, education, and data to convince club boards to start putting employees first then the club industry is naturally on a downhill spiral.

Staffing crisis golf club jobs

For many clubs, there is cash in the bank and a waiting list for membership

In the past twelve months, I’ve seen multiple clubs investing in non-essential works, course renovations, and clubhouse redevelopment.

Membership of clubs has never been stronger, the Covid-19 effect when people found solace in the outdoors, and especially golf clubs which were allowed to reopen earlier in many countries compared to other sectors has led to a boom in club memberships.

For many clubs there is cash in the bank and a waiting list for membership, but how many have recognised the club employees in their 2022 budgets.

I know of very few that have approached employees and said here is a ‘significant’ pay rise – we appreciate everything you have done over the past two years to support our membership during the pandemic, we appreciate everything you do on a daily basis and we want you here at our club.

We often talk about membership retention but very rarely does anyone discuss employee retention.

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Club employees are the skeleton of the club

Club employees are the skeleton of the club, and the members are its blood, and both are needed to survive. We know it costs much more to hire and train new employees than retain those already in your club, so when was the last time your club board or committee reviewed its employees’ longevity and compensation compared to other similar industries and available data?

During the past three months, I have seen various institutions issuing statements regarding supporting staff and the need for increased compensation packages to support employee recruitment. It is well known that club budgeting is generally reviewed and completed between October-December of the prior year and as such these statements, although welcomed, need to be brought to the attention of the boardroom earlier.

As managers and leaders in the industry, we also need to follow up these statements with the relevant data allowing time for the relevant discussions and actions to be agreed upon long before the subscription renewals are delivered to the members.

employee-experience-and-customer-experience-for-revenue-growth staffing crisis

If Clubs are to turn the tide of our employee exodus we need to find ways to pay “above” market price – the hospitality, club, and hotel industry are short of talent – this is a fact – and many industries are finding ways to fight off the competition to attract the best talent which is often paying more and rewarding the talent they employ.

I call for members, board, and committees to recognise the work our teams do on a regular basis, pay fairly, and reward excellence.

Whether it is our Greenkeepers, the Food & Beverage team, Golf Professionals, or qualified and educated Club Managers all are all in short supply and clubs are facing a staffing crisis.

Many have found new employment opportunities and chosen to leave our industry but for those who chose to stay and continue to serve at our clubs, I say thank you, and may our worldwide journey continue, in the club industry I love.

Yours truly,

Chris Duffy CCM