Whenever I begin an employee search, one of my first tasks is to delve into the club’s culture, discerning what best suits the club and the potential candidate for the role.

This process entails administering surveys to search members, the board and the executive team. These surveys yield invaluable insights into the club’s needs, which we complement with property tours and meetings with stakeholders to pinpoint areas necessitating attention.

In my nearly three years of conducting these searches, a glaring pattern has emerged regarding employee turnover and its impact on service quality. Time and again, it circles back to how we care for our employees.

The initial stages of employee onboarding are pivotal. As operators, we grasp the importance of ingraining employees into the club’s culture. While we dedicate extensive hours to training and onboarding, we often falter in providing employees the space they require for downtime during shifts.

So how does your employee space stack up, if you even have an employee area? Those by the loading dock could scarcely be sufficient, welcoming and accommodating. Is your employee area where your 30-year-old banquet chairs go to die? Does it have natural lighting? Are the walls crying out for a fresh coat of paint? How are the smell, temperature and quality of the airflow?

While clubs frequently prioritize enhancing member experiences, it’s equally paramount to prioritize the well-being of staff. With the labor landscape in the hospitality industry evolving rapidly, becoming an employer of choice is imperative. To this end, here are six strategies for cultivating a better workspace for employees:

Employee well-being matters: The well-being of employees directly impacts the quality of service provided. Break areas serve as sanctuaries where staff can recharge, relax and refuel during demanding shifts. Neglected break areas can increase stress and decrease morale, ultimately affecting employee performance and job satisfaction.

Retention and recruitment: Providing comfortable and inviting break areas can significantly contribute to employee retention and recruitment efforts. A welcoming space demonstrates that the club values its staff and their needs, making employees more likely to stay in the long term and attracting top talent seeking employment in the industry.

Productivity and performance: Adequate rest and relaxation are essential for maintaining high levels of productivity
and performance. A well-designed break area encourages employees to take regular breaks, reducing burnout and fatigue. By investing in the well-being of their employees, clubs can expect improved focus, efficiency and overall job performance from staff.

Health and safety: Break areas should prioritize health and safety, providing employees with clean and hygienic spaces to rest and dine. Proper ventilation, comfortable seating and access to amenities like refrigerators and microwaves are essential for promoting a healthy work environment. Neglecting these aspects can lead to increased absenteeism and health-related issues among staff.

Employee satisfaction and engagement: Employee satisfaction is closely linked to the quality of the work environment. A thoughtfully designed break area fosters a sense of belonging and appreciation among staff, leading to higher engagement and commitment to the club’s mission and values.

Reflecting club values: Private country clubs often emphasize exclusivity, luxury and impeccable standards. Extending these values to employee break areas reinforces the club’s commitment to excellence in all its operations. It demonstrates a holistic approach to hospitality, where every team member is valued and supported.

To address this, clubs must acknowledge the need for improvement and prioritize employee spaces in capital planning. A strategic initiative I’ve undertaken involves conducting comprehensive tours of employee spaces for club boards.

These tours shed light on the most neglected areas of the club’s campus—employee dining areas, locker rooms and grounds maintenance areas. These areas are vital to the individuals who depend on them the most. Elevating these spaces to top priority in capital planning fulfills the club’s duty of care to its staff and it augments operational efficiency, enhances reputation and fortifies overall success in the long term.

A club’s genuine excellence extends beyond its amenities. It’s also evident in how it cares for its employees. By prioritizing employee well-being and investing in comfortable, functional employee spaces clubs can create environments where staff thrive. In doing so, clubs fulfill their obligation to their employees and bolster operational efficiency and reputation, ensuring sustained success in a competitive industry landscape.


Michael G. Smith is a search and consulting executive with KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. He can be contacted at: michael@kkandw.com or (585) 794-6150.