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Executive Search Process

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Finding and Keeping Qualified People
Written by Richard C. Day, Chairman & CEO, The Hospitality Resource Group International

Finding and keeping qualified people is one of the single biggest challenges facing the private club industry. Clubs are continuously facing high turnover, service issues and worsening Member perception as it pertains to the value of their membership. Some clubs are getting creative by initiating internship programs with hospitality schools. Others are turning to the foreign market. However, the core issue still remains. How do you find and keep good people.

After considerable research, I believe, as do several others in corporate America, that most organizations do not hire and train properly. There is data to support that 50% of hires are mis-hires. 90% of customer service programs fail within the first year. Right now, the average tenure of a private club manager is 2.7 years and there still is hire turnover of front line personnel. So, what’s the answer?

It begins with the hiring process. Since 50% of hires are mis-hires, somebody’s not getting it right. This includes executive search firms. Club boards face an even more daunting task. For every opening, there are at least 50 applicants and everyone looks good on paper. The time and effort spent on this process, alone, is daunting. The vetting process is the most significant area of executive search and is also the area most poorly executed. If it is done properly, you will end up with personnel that would be defined as in the top 10% of their industry.

With respect to service personnel, I believe you throw away the term “experienced”. Instead, I would look for “good” people, people that can be trained on how to set a table. Once you identify these people, invest in them. Everyone, hates to hear this, because it raises labor costs. Yet, these same good people are the ones that will build customer loyalty and then drive revenues and keep them there. It is a known fact that front line personnel are the lowest paid and least trained people in most organizations. Yet, they are the ones that have the most frequent and direct contact with your customers. Does this make sense? Hell no, if you’ll pardon my French.

Successful clubs should follow the lead of successful organizations (of which, there are not many) and empower their people. Make them part of the process. Allow them to participate in their goals and success. Let them make decisions that will directly affect them. Provide them with incentives that will reflect the results of their efforts. Make it known that you will support them and give them the necessary tools to successfully do their jobs. Don’t be afraid to bite the labor cost bullet. It will pay off for you in the long run.

And then there is training. As stated earlier, 90% of customer service programs fail within the first year. The reason is that they are poorly designed, they are not on-going and you are dealing with high employee turnover as described above. This, too, can be fixed with many of the initiatives described previously. Design an informative and fun program with the help of your people. Give them ownership so that they can directly participate, as opposed to being lectured to. A good training program will be one that employees participate in because they want to, not because they have to. Also, have a comprehensive and fun orientation program to introduce new employees to their total environment. Any employee, at any time, should be able to answer a question by a guest or member. If they do not know the answer, they should find out the answer and know where to go to get it. Have that “first contact” follow through with the member or guest.

This is not rocket science, yet very, very few organizations get it right.


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