For a manager, I doubt there is a more distasteful responsibility than having to fire an employee. Unless it was thrust upon me by an unexpected event like theft or physical abuse, the whole process made me ill.
Short-term tenured people (less than two years) weren’t easy, but I was even more uncomfortable when it was someone who I had employed for longer periods. I couldn’t stop thinking about the ramifications for the person and, by extension, family.
I hated the tossing, the turning and the anguish. Unfortunately, even in spite of every conceivable effort to reorient someone, sometimes we simply had a poor fit.
My system of loyalty, trust, support, faith and training almost always worked. Both of my assistants with six years of experience transferred with me when I moved to another club. The three of us worked there together for 13 years until, once again, I moved on.
The Club hired one of them to replace me as the head professional for an additional 14 years before he passed away. The other is still there 35 years later. I guess the club found our business model to be sustainable!
Many staff problems at private clubs arise because boards of directors turn over staff on a regular basis, causing a loss of continuity.
This is the same loss of continuity that erodes the potential for highly-accomplished business people who are elected to boards from learning the subtleties and nuances of the golf business.
It is for this reason I believe the club should appoint a person to act as the staff liaison for a prolonged time frame. This person should be the only one who conveys contractual communication and/or personnel-related matters between the employees and the board.
Naturally, the superintendent should work with the green committee and the head professional with the mens’ and women’s captains. However, staff should never deal directly one-on-one with the president as it opens the door of opportunity for unprofessional, personally motivated platforms or agendas.
A good president will work through his/her advisors and not put him/herself in a position of conflict or expose the club to potential lawsuits due to untimely statements.
Adoption of this method could be difficult depending on budgets. Options include the general manager, the course owner or a board-appointed representative. The point is make sure your key staff have an avenue to discuss employer/employee relations that is fair, open and not a controlled, one-sided clash.
Firing begins the day an employee is hired. This is the time to discuss the job description, remuneration, vacations, benefits and notice of termination. Not only should these be discussed, but also the method whereby each will be discussed in the future.
In the event of a contract extension, the terms should be discussed on or before the first of August with the head professional or course superintendent and representative of the board of directors.
In the event the contract is not be continued, notice should be given in person by a representative of the board and by a hand delivered letter. This way, there are no surprises or underhanded approaches.
It also provides the best window of opportunity to gain alternative employment and disburse any equipment/merchandise purchased specifically for this club.
Both parties should be well aware of the labour laws and/or get legal advice when assembling the contract and pay particular attention to both short-term and long-term tenures.
I believe that due to the unusual nature of the golf business and the limited opportunities for top level employment, consideration for reasonable severance should be given.
In fact, I think it should be stated in the contract that the employee be granted 90 days notice upon signing, plus an additional one week per year after five years. In year 15, it should become one month per year. This is in lieu of not taking vacation time during the summer months.
Remember, every business has only three assets: property, patrons and staff. Each is expensive to attain, maintain and retain.
A loss of any one of them costs time, money, diversion and may affect morale, both with staff and patrons. There might even be a loss of business from patrons loyal to the employee and some might even follow the employee if he/she is hired by your competition.
In the golf business, staff can overcome a lot of property-related problems and attract a lot of patrons but a great property run poorly will drive people away. Staff is your No. 1 asset.
Recognizing the material presented above, I believe the best approach to success for employees is a well thought out, organized, improvement program.
Determine the areas of desired improvement and discuss them with the employee.
Design an attainable program for the employee that includes a reasonable time frame for completion, an outline of the expectation for specific results, a responsible method to monitor improvement, payment support for all costs and possible bonus incentives for achievement.
After all, at completion, the employer would have a more valuable employee.
Occasionally, after every possible consideration has been given and all has failed, the inevitable still exists. The opportunity for the employer to show the industry why anyone should apply for the vacant position has come.
Termination should never be due to a personal vendetta unless the employer is prepared to pay a significant severance. New applicants should be very wary of clubs who treat exiting employees poorly.
The organizations to which the dismissed employees belong (The CGSA, the PGA of Canada and the Society of Club Managers) should also be aware of the events and attitude surrounding the situation.
Further, in the case of long-term employees, perhaps there should be an agreed plan of retirement, discussions beginning at least one year in advance of implementation.
Such a plan might include hiring and training a replacement for a prescribed time period, followed by a reduction in responsibilities, which might include performance of duties known as being an ambassador for the club and finally, a pension and a lifetime membership.
Dignity and respect are the main objectives and go a long way in the determination of how much class the employer’s reputation earns.