Good and reliable employees are hard to find these days, especially in golf course maintenance. So we asked members of our editorial advisory board: What are you doing to find good and reliable employees, and what tips can you provide to other golf course superintendents to find the best workers and retain them?

Here’s what they had to say:

Todd Voss
COO-Golf Course Superintendent
The Double Eagle Club
Galena, Ohio

We have all heard this phrase uttered from the coaches of our favorite sports teams, “We need a change in culture or just one more good person, and then we can build off our core.” Having or building a work force is no different, but first the staff you have needs to be taken care of. People should be treated like you yourself want to be treated. They need the tools to do the job along with proper compensation. Teams have tryouts, we have seasonal help. We all hope, as staff come and go, that there is a diamond in the rough. There is no magic bullet to building the right staff. But if there is someone that is bringing your crew down, then you need to let that person go. At Double Eagle, we would rather be short-handed with the right people.

Shawn Emerson
Director of Agronomy
The Desert Mountain Club
Scottsdale, Arizona

I would recommend you have a game plan on what you need to do. At Desert Mountain, we put attitude above all else, and we believe we can train people to gain the appropriate skills. When hiring, I prepare myself to ask the right questions. I also give plenty of time for the applicant to talk. Our best place to recruit is based on recommendations from our existing staff.

Steve Hammon
Golf Course Superintendent
Traverse City Golf & Country Club
Traverse City, Michigan

I have had really good luck in the past advertising my open positions on Craigslist. I haven’t used the newspaper classified section in over a decade. The candidates coming to me through Craigslist are always a better fit than those answering a classified ad. I really try to describe the job, hours and pay in great detail so people know what to expect before they even consider applying. I attend our local college’s job fair in early March, which always produces one or two dedicated, hard-working and honest people. Keeping an updated list of open positions on our club’s website has helped as well.

Pat Daly
Golf Course Superintendent
Framingham Country Club
Framingham, Massachusetts

When we have an opening, we start by asking our more reliable staff members to recommend people. Once we hire someone we work hard trying to train that person on the way we do things at the club. We allow them to grow into a position and continue the training process if needed. We try our best to rotate job assignments and be flexible with their work hours and time off. Finally, it’s important to show people that you appreciate their hard work. A thank you, thumbs up, or pat on the back can go a long way during a long season.

Brian J. Stiehler
Certified Golf Course Superintendent
Highlands Country Club
Highlands, North Carolina

Not only is finding reliable employees difficult, it is made worse at my club due to its remote geographical location and a small pool of applicants who live in an area with a high cost of living. I’ve found that I have to budget to create full-time, year-round positions with benefits when worthy employees present themselves. The best way to find these folks is by relying on existing staff and word of mouth. When the existing staff has involvement in the hiring process, they are more likely to coach and mentor individuals to be sure they are in the best position to succeed. They also weed out the people who don’t understand the physical nature of the golf business and the need to work long hours and at times in less than ideal weather conditions. There is no doubt it takes the right individual for long-term success.

Jeff Corcoran
Manager of Golf Courses and Grounds
Oak Hill Country Club
Rochester, New York

I have not had any issues with finding employees. Between our local Hispanic labor force and standard employees, I have not struggled putting a team together for the last 13 years while at Oak Hill. Where I find the challenge is hiring the right individuals. I have worked extremely hard to develop a culture among our staff that is based upon our needs, our goals and the type of individuals who I think will succeed in our work environment. There are always going to be outliers that do not quite fit into the parameters that we are hiring for. My method of hiring is very simple: understand your culture and the human characteristics that allow people to be successful in that culture. Hiring outside of your culture is like putting a square peg in a round hole. When I hire people who fit within our culture, I have a very high retention rate. Last year I only had to hire five seasonal employees for a staff of approximately 60.

Dan Dinelli
Certified Golf Course Superintendent
North Shore Country Club
Glenville, Illinois

The labor pool at all levels is challenging. Trained labor is especially tight. But we have found success in hiring employees because we offer a facility to work at that manages many on-site research efforts. We strive to stay engaged in cutting-edge research to advance our practices and the industry, which attracts those who want to be part of our team and expand their professional knowledge. Some of the research engages scientists from several universities, which feeds into networking that is favorable in attracting students to help fill our team. Staying competitive with compensation is important. However, managing a work environment that makes each employee feel that he or she is part of an important, productive and appreciated team is equally important. In the end, many times the best employees are recruited from existing staff members who reach out to friends and family. This is an effective way to recruit, especially if the existing employees feel good about their jobs.

Rick Slattery
Golf Course Superintendent
Locust Hill Country Club
Rochester, New York

Historically, staffing a golf course crew is challenging for me when the unemployment rate is low. It’s at times like this when I shift my focus from recruiting to retention of good employees. I’ve learned to concentrate more on the quality of character of a person and less on qualifications — I can always train them. A priority for me is to enhance our reputation as a good place to work. I’m also continually searching for ways to be creative with new technology to become more efficient and produce the same quality golf course with a smaller staff.

Michael Osley
Golf Operations Superintendent
Aurora, Colorado

Unfortunately, I don’t have any tips. Finding temporary labor is a major problem for us. We have not been able to hire reliable seasonal labor for some time now — the key word being “reliable.” All of our courses are shorthanded in maintenance, and we do not see a solution anytime soon. To make things worse, the new guidelines from our human relations department based on the Affordable Care Act will not allow us to work our seasonal laborers more than 29.5 hours a week.

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