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May 2023

Keeping ‘em Happy

‘No replacement for treating employees with kindness and respect’

By Doug McPherson

When you ask Mark Andersen why he stays put at his employer – the Pine Ridge Golf Course in Paris, Texas – he’ll first say that he grew up with golf and that he loves it. “I love teaching golf and seeing students’ enjoyment as they learn the game,” he says.

And of course, there are the free rounds of golf and discounts on food and drinks. Pretty common perks.
But if you pry a little more about Andersen’s satisfaction there, he’ll talk about the work atmosphere and feeling respected and appreciated.

“I love working here – for me the most important thing is the work atmosphere. Cathy is an inspiration to work for. She cares and she goes above and beyond,” says Anderson, who has been at Pine Ridge since 2019 and who now serves as the clubhouse manager and teaching pro. “The way she treats us has made us all like a family.”
The Cathy he mentions is Cathy Harbin, Pine Ridge’s owner, who, by the way, attended the 2023 Masters Tournament and returned with gifts for her staff. Andersen got a hat. “I’m wearing it now,” he says with enthusiasm on the phone call for this story.

Harbin says what she’s learned in her many years in managing people is that employees want to feel valued and appreciated. “There’s no replacement for treating employees with kindness and respect and giving them work that makes them feel proud,” she says. 

She adds that workers – especially the younger ones – want to feel like they’re not just working, but contributing to something greater. “We focus on them feeling like their work is meaningful by talking about the impact they’re making in the lives of our guests and the impact they’re making in their community.”
On training younger workers, Harbin says while they have good intentions, they may not know how to be good employees. “The basic manners and work ethic that other generations may have developed earlier in life need to be a part of the training with some of the younger generation folks.”

Harbin says a significant shift for her came when she realized that she had to work around employee schedules. “The days of giving out a schedule and asking them to work around it no longer exist. Their free time and family time are a primary focus of theirs and we need to work around it.”

Kate Drimel, a career services recruiting specialist at the PGA, agrees that deep listening to employees’ desires is key. She says courses that are successful at retaining all employees – no matter their age – “truly take the time to understand the wants and needs” of each employee.

“Learn how to be flexible with their schedule by planning ahead, offering a weekend off every month and allowing them to work from home when possible – setting up a tournament, responding to emails, etc.,” Drimel says.

She adds that younger-generation workers are seeking mentorship in jobs. “Your influence means more than you know and taking the time to meet with them, discuss their aspirations and provide your advice on how to achieve those goals builds loyalty.”

And when writing job descriptions, Drimel says to focus on what you’ll provide for the employee versus what’s required for the job. “Describe your culture, then add what they’ll learn in the position and include all the benefits of working there.”

With training employees, Drimel says listening to them with an open mind works. “Often in the golf industry we see seasoned professionals doing things the way they’ve always been done. This next generation offers a completely different perspective on how to approach a situation and may provide solutions you may not have initially thought of. Provide them with opportunities to take risks and fail, as this will be the only way they’ll learn and be successful as the next generation of golf industry professionals.”

Drimel closes with this: “People who stay with an employer are highly compensated, highly valued, given great work-life balance and are in a job that matches their values.”

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