As recruiters and consultants for the private club industry, we travel to clubs all over the country and hear the reoccurring theme about the difficulty of attracting and retaining employees.

Even as clubs continue to re-open post pandemic, attracting top talent is still the goal and to do so requires a paradigm shift away from traditional hiring methods.

Believe it or not, it’s a still a competitive labor market out there even with national unemployment numbers at all-time highs. There is no magic pill to solve the competitive market but there are ways to increase your success in attracting and retaining talent.

Many of the easier ways are as simple as making sure your club has a well-articulated value proposition for prospective employees and a robust benefits package but there is another approach that has caught our attention.

While at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant Innovation Summit in Cleveland recently, I ran into a local restauranteur who owns 13 fast casual pizza restaurants in northeast Ohio. I asked how his business was doing and he talked about the tight labor market and how 18 months ago his company did a paradigm shift on how the company views and is marketed. They took their cue from the pizza giant Dominos, he told me.

Several years ago, when Domino’s came back on the scene in a big way, the company branded itself as a tech company (still does) that happens to sell pizzas. Domino’s boasted of over a dozen different ways that you can order a pizza with technology either on your phone, computer or through voice recognition software.

Wow, a pizza company that says they’re not a pizza company?! Interesting.

Well, my friend modified this approach and said that he decided they were no longer in the pizza business but were now in the leadership business and happened to sell pizzas. He and his team developed a professional growth certification program for all positions in the restaurant from prep all the way up to regional manager.

The company created a professional growth path for its employees, and it has allowed them to attract and retain more of their employees. In the last 18 months there’s been a 15 percent reduction in employee turnover and are now committed to teaching each and everyone of their associates the business behind the business.

Clubs can certainly apply this same kind of approach and make it a strong recruitment calling card. The best clubs are continually adapting to the changing landscape of their members’ wants and needs, whether it’s building a modern fitness center with a quick serve restaurant offering healthy meals, coffee drinks and smoothies or offering prepared family meals to be picked up or delivered to members’ homes.

This same out-of-the-box approach to member retention must be applied to the employee value proposition if you want to stay competitive in the current labor market.

My high school senior daughter was so excited when she got a job at Starbucks. A friend of hers that worked there talked endlessly about how much fun it was and how cool it was that with a starting wage of $10/hour, and benefits, included a free drink each shift, one food item every time you worked, tips, a free pound of coffee every week, free Spotify, a 30 percent discount anytime and a subscription to an app called Headspace Plus that would normally cost $70/year.

My point here is that Starbucks’ robust benefits of employment package made it a “must have” to my daughter and her friends.

Whether it is by establishing an HR Committee laser focused on employee attraction and retention programming or maintaining a long list of benefits of employment, the best clubs in the country are looking for ways to be one percent better in 100 different ways in order to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

About the Authors…

Sam Lindsley is a search and consulting executive for Kopplin, Kuebler and Wallace. Sam can be reached via email:

Michelle Riklan, ACRW, CPRW, CEIC, CJSS is a career strategist, consulting and search executive with Kopplin, Kuebler and Wallace. She can be reached via email: