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February 2022

Easing Labor Pains


By Doug McPherson

How courses can compete with McDonald’s, Walmart and other big shots for frontline employees

You don’t have to look very hard or very far these days to see how McDonald’s, Walmart and other mammoth-sized employers recruit frontline employees. They simply roll up their sleeves, flex their money muscle and use the words signing bonus or flash a high hourly wage.

For course owners and operators who are competing for workers, it can feel like an unfair fight.

But before you start singing the blues, you can take heart in the old story of David and Goliath. Yes, sometimes underdogs can overcome seemingly overwhelming odds to win battles and even the war. But how? How can a golf course compete with the Goliaths?

The answer might be closer than you think. In fact, Bart Bement, CEO of Fast Workforce, a recruiting solutions company for hourly workers, says the answer is right under your nose.

He says in hiring frontline folks, the best solution for golf courses is to take stock of your course’s “unique attractions” compared to your competition – even if they are behemoths with bulging budgets.

“Use your course’s unique niche to come up with tactics and your target audience,” Bement says.

In essence, consider the differences between you and your competitors. David knew he wasn’t as big as Goliath but he soon realized he could attack from a distance – by slinging a stone – to inflict damage to the giant without endangering himself.

Bement suggests taking time to understand what you have that your competition doesn’t have: a truly fun place to work where there are happy people doing what they enjoy, wide open greenery, less bureaucracy, more flexibility, reduced or free green fees, no late shifts and a variety of jobs.  

“You want to offer unique job perks only a golf club can offer,” he says. “Perhaps free Monday golf for employees, discounted golf gear, maybe offer occasional golf teaching clinics for employees. And for turf maintenance, offer free classes to help them learn more about turf and course maintenance.”
Cathy Harbin, owner of Pine Ridge Golf Course in Paris, Texas, agrees that emphasizing the environment of a course is key.

“I think it’s the biggest opportunity for courses in hiring. [You want] to make an impression on prospective employees by showing them the environment they’ll be working in and have them meet the nice people they will be working with,” Harbin says. “That’s a true differential point and it’s a mistake not to capitalize on focusing on the kind of workplace you can offer.”

So in your ads, it can help to emphasize views of the course that are appealing to the eye along with images of your workers and quotes from them about how happy they are working at the course.

Bement says to keep ads short. “Do not use long-winded job descriptions in your ads. The main focus of your ad should be engaging the applicant via visual graphics and a call to action to click the apply button.”

Harbin adds that it helps if your employees have friends at work, too. Which leads to another tactic for recruiting, according to Bement: a solid employee referral program, one that rewards current staff for referring successful hires.
“It’s one of the best ways to gain good new hires, especially if you arm your current employees with golf related perks to help them sell the positions,” Bement says.

He says a referral program is the lowest cost per hire. “If it’s not, you need to review your plan and your method of publicizing it to your workforce. Also, consider using your Facebook page to supercharge your referrals and recruiting.”
Bement says current employees can market “the course to their friends that have an interest in golf. And these friends would never be caught dead working at McDonald's or a Walmart.”


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