golf course crew members in a staff meeting

Solving the Puzzle of Efficient Labor Planning Year-Round

Being agile and thinking ahead can work better for everybody.

As spring tiptoes its way around the country, some golf courses are still dealing with snow while others in year-round climates are dealing with rain—or lack of it. For most golf course maintenance operations, the busy time is looming as turf (and weeds and diseases) start to wake up.

It’s a good time to take stock of your year-round labor planning. Why? Because golf courses that retain all or a large part of their staff year-round spend between 10-25% more on their off-season golf course maintenance than courses who operate with an agile staffing plan. The difference is most dramatic in snow markets and most courses lay off staff accordingly. But even in year-round markets, an agile approach can reduce costs substantially. 

Granted, staff planning is a sensitive subject and keeping your key employees employed is important. The crux is that if you don’t operate efficiently, jobs are at stake and the golf course suffers. That’s why being agile and thinking ahead can work better for everybody. Here’s how.

two golf course crew members reviewing a blueprint
Golf courses with an agile staffing plan spend less on maintenance than their counterparts during the off-season.

Take a Seasonal Approach

When thinking about staffing up for the high season, consider those who prefer a seasonal work schedule. There are people in your community who fit this profile and would be ideal for the job. These people may prefer being away for the winter or have other commitments, such as school, during the off-season. Candidates include:

  • Retirees – Look for people who have run their own businesses or who have operated big machinery in the past. This kind of history makes for a conscientious, safety-oriented employee. 
  • Veterans – Recruit those who have experience in construction, landscaping and related fields. These people are often a subset of the retiree population. 
  • Students – This labor source is not in short supply and there are plenty of students who would love a summer job that’s outdoor-focused. 
  • Rehires – Obviously those who have already worked at the club are the best candidates to bring back onboard thanks to their knowledge base. Staff from previous season are often interested in coming back and in many cases proactively inquire about opportunities in the spring.

Keep the Core Crew & Add Specialists

In a year-round market, you have good reason to keep your core staff on board and may only need a few seasonal specialists. For golf courses with a winter season, it’s possible to function effectively through the winter with only your superintendent, assistant and mechanic and then re-hire the rest of the crew in the spring.

However, in both scenarios, bringing on part-time seasonal specialists when high season hits makes sense. The challenge is doing it in such a way that the hiring is streamlined and onboarding is well planned. To keep the annual transition as predictable and painless process, keep these tips in mind:

  • Go beyond the obvious for your job postings. Instead of Craig’s List and the local paper, what about posting on the job boards at your local Veteran’s Administration, retirement communities and colleges? 
  • Keep your ad copy simple. A short, simple ad will get more attention than a long job description. 
  • Create a checklist. Having checklists on hand will make onboarding more efficient. 
  • Use training videos. Videos are a quick watch and easy way to communicate simple information. At BrightView, we’ve created videos on everything from golf course maintenance to course etiquette and safety protocols. Also, check out manufacturers’ videos for detailed training on equipment. 
  • Take advantage of bad weather days. Plan to use this downtime by having your head mechanic do an equipment overview with the seasonal crew.

Maintain the Long View

Change is hard and transitioning to an agile labor force plan may take time. Many clubs have long-term relationships with their golf course maintenance crew employees and these people might depend on year-round work. If that’s the case, proceed slowly and thoughtfully, working seasonal specialists into the plan where and when it makes sense culturally and economically.

Above all, take the long view and consider being more agile with your hiring. Do this and you’ll be doing your key employees and your club a favor

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