We often ask GMs how much time they spend on new employee orientation. If they reply, “None, I have an HR person for that,” it’s very indicative of the  culture of the club.

This question is reflective of the overall employee orientation process because if you go to great lengths to start everyone out on the right foot, you will very likely have a much better result in the end. Onboarding new employees is more than just teaching new employees the basics of service, like serving from the left and clearing from the right.

It’s a deeper and bigger picture perspective on the mission of every employee and how that perpetuates (hopefully) a strong and positive employee culture. You’ve got to explain the employee’s purpose and why they are really there.

Remind all employees that they are ambassadors of the club and perpetuators of the culture. This is true from the GM down to every line-level employee. Have a member, preferably the president, speak to new employees and share why they joined the club and why the club is important to their family. Have them list the reasons they love the club and its importance in the lives of their families.

These are the critical elements employees need to hear to understand why a private club is different from any other organization. Help employees recognize the reasons to be passionate about making the club special. Explain that it’s not a “members versus employees” environment, but that it’s a family working to create a place for everyone to enjoy, and that everyone has a responsibility to live it. One of the most important elements to new employee orientation is including a tour of the entire club and all facilities. Show employees the entire operation to ensure they are comfortable with their whereabouts and can perform their job at the highest level.

We can’t shout this loudly enough: “Do not assume a new employee knows!” Perhaps you’ve heard about the 11-year employee at a club who was asked to quickly run French fries to the beach house and she replied that she didn’t know where the beach house was? Or perhaps you’ve had a similar experience to the new club maintenance director who drove right across the green on his way out to the grounds building?

You’ve got to remember that your new employees may never have been on a golf course before. If you don’t teach them and tell them, you can’t expect them to know it. Orientation is also the perfect time to help employees meet and connect with one another. Camaraderie and team spirit is fueled from day one when employees are genuinely interested in meeting and getting to know one another. You can’t expect employees to drive proactive hospitality among the members if they don’t first drive the hospitality spirit among themselves.

Finally, new member orientation is also vital to club success. Inform new members how best to use the club, provide them with the information they need to feel comfortable with their membership and show them how to weave the club into their busy lives. Give new members a tour of the entire facility.

Let them see the bowels of the club and all the front and back of the house facilities regardless of their membership category. Giving them the behind the scenes tour helps shape their perspective and understanding, and hopefully gain confidence in how well the club is maintained behind the scenes as well as out front.

Introduce new members to the staff and talk about the club’s core values. Share with them “why we are here, what we stand for and who we are.” Involve line- level staff members in the process; you gain their further trust and commitment when they know you believe in them enough to be part of this important onboarding process.

Remember your job as the manager is not to just hand new members the manual and expect them to read it. It’s your job to ensure they understand how to use the club and are enthused to do so. Share stories, give examples and provide them with a sense of comfort.

At minimum, pick out the five most important things they need to know to be successful members and tell them who to contact with any questions so they land smoothly within the membership. Do everything you can to help them be successful and long-time members.

Generating “buy-in” through education is what stakeholder orientation is all about. It requires focus, time and attention and it must be a constant priority. Orientations should be regularly updated, constantly evolving and always on a path to constant improvement. As things change within the organization, so
should orientations. Educating stakeholders – board members, committee members, new members and employees – should be taken seriously, and remember the Syms clothing store chain slogan: “An educated consumer is our best customer.”

Contributed by Richard Kopplin, Kurt D. Kuebler, CCM & Thomas B. Wallace Ill, CCM, CCE, ECM

BoardRoom Magazine – November/December 2021