Is it just me, or is it getting harder to keep quality seasonal workers on your staff for more than one year? Seems like the hardworking guys and gals who used to give you three or four years during college, or those years after high school when they’re trying to figure out what they’re going to do with their life, don’t stick around as long.
Why is that? Is there something about the job or the industry that has changed? Has the workforce itself changed? Have seasonal worker expectations evolved into something new? Maybe we (as golf course superintendents) have inadvertently made the job too difficult.
Perhaps we’re asking too much of that carefree 20-year-old.
A contributing factor to seasonal worker satisfaction might very well be influenced by the state of the industry as a whole. Less revenue at golf courses has, of course, affected maintenance budgets significantly in recent years. And the single most effective means to lower a budget is to reduce labor. Labor can suck about 50 to 60 percent of a super’s annual budget.
Reducing labor means hiring fewer seasonal workers, which means that the seasonal workers you hire are being asked to do more than they might expect. A job that in the past would take three guys to do (let’s say, raking bunkers in the morning) has now become a two-man job. Maybe two guys cut 18 holes of cup in the morning. Now the job is solo.
Seasonal workers want to work, but they want to have fun doing it. We need to remember this. If you work those kids to the bone and you’re paying them slightly above minimum wage, why should they return the next year? There are simply too many opportunities out there for them.
Solution? Try and get what you can out of this valuable commodity while doing your best to keep it fun for these folks as well. But keep in mind, you still want to get your money’s worth out of them. You can’t make it all sunbathing, cart races and afternoon dips in the pool. You have to toe that imaginary line between keeping it fun for them, yet productive for you as well.
Bet you’re wondering if I have any ideas, aren’t you?
Of course I do! Here are five surefire ways to keep those quality workers interested in returning for your next season:
1. Mix it up. Keep rotating jobs. Often this means more training for you and your assistants, but it’s a win-win situation. It gives you, as the employer, more flexible seasonal workers who can do more jobs, and for the employees it keeps the job fresh.
Just because you find the absolute best cup cutter on the planet, don’t have them cut cups every day. They’ll get burnt out in a hurry. Save them for the days you really need some quality cup cutting.
And, in the same regard, don’t give the most menial jobs to the same workers over and over. Mix in a little rough mowing with the daily string trimming or bunker weeding.
2. Monthly crew tournaments. In addition to everyday golf privileges for workers (which are essential), we have crew tournaments as well. We used to do this once a year, but now we try and it keeps the job fresh for the employees.
Workers love it, even if they aren’t avid golfers. Golf tournaments are fun. Maybe have a showdown match between the maintenance crew and the clubhouse workers.
3. Pools. Not the swimming kind (although that’s not a bad idea either). One thing we like to do with the money we generate during the winter from selling firewood is have prepaid pools for the four major golf tournaments. The nice thing about these pools is the employees don’t pay a penny. The money from your kitty is the prize money. Draw the golfer names from a hat or, even more fun, have a draft. (If this is in any way illegal, I’m just joking!)
4. Be flexible. If seasonal workers ask for a weekend off, or even a week here or there to go on a planned hike or a camping trip, I usually give it. Summers can be short, and if you go to school for nine months a year, you don’t exactly want to spend every day of the other three months working. Put yourself in their place.
Another thing I’ve found beneficial is to give these workers less than 40 hours a week, even if they come in saying they want to work as much as they can. If you stack 40 hours a week on them and even some overtime, chances are you’re going to burn them out much faster than you would your long-term employees.
Be flexible with their work schedule. Often 30 hours a week is better than 40, even though they don’t even realize it.
5. Part of the team. Lastly, how about making them feel like a real part of the operation? I know in the past I’ve been guilty of not giving seasonal workers’ opinions and suggestions the same credence as the lifers. I’ve learned from this mistake.
I’ve found that often your seasonal workforce tends to play more golf than the full-time crew. Golf privileges are no doubt a huge factor in attracting some of these individuals in the first place. Golfers can see things perhaps non-golfers don’t, despite how good they are at their job.
Not only listen to everyone, but make them feel like you listened.
It may seem like something that isn’t terribly important, but keeping your seasonal workforce happy and interested in the job is becoming more and more vital to all of our operations.
Our long-term survival may very well depend on how fun we can make the job for them.