Your employees are the key to your club’s success. Now more than ever, having leaders on your team who focus strictly on your employees is critical.

These experts may have different titles – human resources, team member engagement, employee experience – but their focus is the same: set the talent strategy and take exceptional care of your employees, who, in turn, take care of your members.

Tactical versus strategic HR: HR leaders, especially within HR departments of one, have to be both tactical and strategic. Shifting to a strategic mindset starts with understanding the difference between the two. As HR experts, we need to be thought leaders on all things “people.” While the administration and compliance of HR is important, our clubs also need us to drive the talent strategy. We must stay ahead of trends and push change and innovation efforts that will keep our workplaces relevant for the generations we recruit. The four key components to strategic HR are:

  1. Know the business
  2. Know the trends
  3. Make data-driven decisions
  4. Connect the dots (tell the story).

Know the business: Understanding the club business is the foundation for HR effectiveness. For many reasons, we may tend to “stay in our lane” in HR; however, deepening our understanding of the business will help us support the talent strategy more effectively. As HR leaders, we should know the answers to these questions:

  • What are the club’s goals and objectives?
  • How does talent play a role in achieving those objectives?
  • Where is the operational and labor money spent?
  • How does each department function?
  • What financial reports/metrics should be reviewed regularly?
  • How can we build a talent strategy to support the club’s overall business strategy?

How well do you know all the businesses of the club? Food and beverage, culinary, golf, agronomy, racquets, membership, finance, and board governance? In looking at the many departments within the club, in which area do you feel confident? Which area do you know the least?

Put a plan in place to learn. First, meet with your general manager or club president to ask about topics such as club direction, objectives for this year and beyond, the decision-making strategy, and important metrics.

Second, spend time with your department heads. Ask questions. How does your business run? How do you measure success? What metrics drive your decisions? What’s going well and where are your pain points?

Third, gather information from boards and committees to better understand what’s important to the membership. Attend a board meeting, review board reports, understand the member survey results, and understand the long-term strategies and capital plans.

Finally, use the professional development resources available to you. Pushing outside your comfort zone and attending education events you know nothing about will make you a better HR leader.

The Club Management Association of America is a great place to start. Attend local CMAA chapter meetings and connect with colleagues from other clubs to better understand the club business. Read club business content from thought leaders on LinkedIn. Set a goal and action steps to enhance your club business knowledge.

Know the trends: HR leaders must stay ahead of trends affecting our business.

Anticipating changes in areas such as the labor market can help our clubs thrive when transition happens. It is no secret (at least, not in the HR world) that the labor pool has been shrinking. Although COVID-19 accelerated it, it’s been trending down for decades as birth rates decrease and Baby Boomers retire.

As such, HR leaders in tune with this trend should work with leaders to explore adjustments in the operation, incorporating more technology and self-service, and driving openness to creative/flexible staffing models. They should also work closely with department heads to create a proactive recruitment strategy to grow their own talent and connect in the community to create stronger talent pipelines.

Additionally, staying ahead of legal trends affecting our workplaces can pay dividends in the long term. Topics such as pay equity, workplace privacy, employee classifications, arbitration agreements, mental health, workplace violence, marijuana legalization, minimum wage updates, and leading multi-generational workforces are topics that have impacted our clubs or will impact them in the near future.

Other workplace trends to pay attention to are the relationship between inflation and compensation, remote work, sustainability, declining engagement, union resurgence, expedited hiring processes, and elimination of performance reviews. What else should be added to your list?

Make data-driven decisions: Too many times, HR decisions are based on “feeling” rather than data. And while we should always incorporate a human approach to everything we do, we also need business metrics to justify our decisions.

The most important HR metric we should be tracking is turnover. Much like our blood pressure and temperature, taken when we go to the doctor as indicators of our health, the turnover metric is an indicator of our business health. How many people are leaving our company? Are they leaving voluntarily or involuntarily (terminated)? Are there particular departments that have higher turnover than others (an indicator of poorly trained managers)? Is our turnover significant in the first 90 days of employment (an indicator of poor selection and/or onboarding)?

Additional important HR metrics include employee engagement survey data, competitive wage data, unemployment rates, benefit usage, exit interviews, days-to-hire statistics, training spend per employee, applicant flow and referral sources, offers made versus offers declined, and cost per hire. Armed with this data, we can drive decisions that will move our clubs forward.

Connect the dots: Data and trends are important, but if we want people to listen, we need to tell an impactful story. Communication that is flat and boring won’t cut it. In a world of endless streaming content, we must compete for attention. A compelling story can do just that.

As HR leaders, our job is to influence people to do what we need them to do. Connecting the dots between data and the ‘’why” can get us there. When you tell your story, keep it brief and compelling, connect it to your business strategy, and lay out the journey for your listener.

An effective HR leader can have a significant impact on your club’s success by balancing the perfect blend of tactical and strategic HR approaches.

Jodie J. Cunningham, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is a HR/Talent Strategist, Consultant and Search Executive with KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. She can be reached via email: jodie@kkandw.com.

THE BOARDROOM MAGAZINE – January/February 2023