Future of Work in the Club Industry

With the societal shift in how and why people work as a result of the pandemic, many business leaders are restructuring and reevaluating their organizational charts. As fewer people are willing to work long hours and sacrifice their work-life balance, and as Baby Boomer and Generation X managers retire, the hospitality industry as a whole is having a harder time finding people to fill vacant positions, especially in management. Club search firms are busier than ever and have to get creative in their recruiting practices to provide a strong pool of qualified candidates for open positions.

As the centralized leader, the GM/COO position can often be the most important for ensuring a sustainable and successful future of the club. During a panel discussion at a recent educational event for club executives, one industry professional questioned whether the GM/COO position was set up to fail. Due to the constant turnover of board members, the rising expectation for exceptional service, the labor shortage, the need for heightened business acumen (such as data collection and analytics), the requirement for managers to be visible and available to all members, and the increasing importance of coaching and mentoring employees, some argue there is an unrealistic expectation for what one person can successfully achieve. Couple this with the fact that most people are prioritizing work-life balance more than ever before, and it’s no wonder why the average lifespan of a GM/COO at a club is only four to six years.

What can clubs do to address this issue? According to Tom Wallace of Kopplin, Kuebler & Wallace (KK&W), education is the key to all of these obstacles. “As an industry, we have to do a better job of educating our members, boards and leadership teams about the realities of our industry and making sure everyone’s expectations are in line.” He notes that GMs/COOs and boards/club presidents need to have regular conversations around what visibility means to them, what their expectations are for the GM/COO and what boundaries need to be in place to ensure work-life synergy is possible.

“We can’t burn through managers and expect positive results. It is essential to set strong governance practices and then make certain open, honest communication happens regularly,” he said. The KK&W firm is seeing clubs (and the hospitality industry) trend toward hiring more assistant managers, more assistant golf pros and more managers throughout the operation and spreading the work load and hours between them. Where previously a club may have employed one assistant general manager working 70-80 hours per week and making upwards of $150,000, today and in the near future it may be more like two assistant general managers each making $80,000 and working 40-50 hours per week.

To ensure a positive future, according to Wallace, clubs should prioritize investing in assistant managers across all departments and build them up. “These people are our future GM/COOs,” he pointed out. “It is important we develop them and create positive work experiences so we can keep them.” He also urges clubs to start planning for all employees to have two days off each week and at least one weekend each month to provide balance and avoid employee burnout. “Investing in employees and recognizing that they are assets enhances the club culture and drives mutual loyalty, which is ultimately what all clubs desire,” Wallace concluded.

Private Club Advisor – February 2023