Talent to burn? Or is it simply not attracted?

By Duncan Simpson
New Zealand PGA Chief Executive

Ask any major corporate or industry group to list the major challenges they face, and you can guarantee that a shortage of skilled and talented people will be at the top of the list, or close to it.
Curiously, the golf industry appears to be the exception. Judging by the high rate of turnover in many club manager and professional positions, you might well think that golf has a surplus of talent for clubs to draw on. If an appointment doesn’t work out first time around, there are plenty more fish in the sea, seems to be the attitude.
Because of the small size of most clubs and organisations in the industry, key positions tend to be multifunctional in nature, demanding a wide skill set and considerable experience.
For example, a golf club manager may be expected to have accounting and book keeping skills, maintain the club’s website and ensure regular newsletters and other communications are sent to members, perform the club’s marketing and public relation functions, police behaviour and dress codes, deal with complaints, arrange executive board and committee meetings and keep the minutes, hold a bar manager’s licence and so on.
In some cases these positions are not deemed to be full time, with committees –- often under financial pressure to come up with a workable budget – expecting this wide portfolio of duties to be carried out in 30 hours or less, a sort of “pay peanuts, get geniuses” philosophy.
The reality is that the working week is likely to stretch to 50 hours or more, meaning that even “full time” managers are effectively being short changed.
The end result is either a manager who doesn’t stick around for long (and 50 have resigned or left in New Zealand in recent years), or a lower quality candidate matching the remuneration on offer, but who doesn’t contribute very much.
Similarly in the club professional sector, rewards are not great, especially when calculated on an hourly rate. In both cases many roles are filled by older, semi-retired folk prepared to accept these conditions.
Equally critically, there are not enough options for those looking to build a career in the golf industry. That is driving better and younger candidates offshore or out of the industry entirely, and while this may not be unique to golf, it does reflect in the standard of governance and administration across clubs, as well as in their financial performance.
If this logjam is to be broken, two things need to happen. Firstly, remuneration levels need to rise by at least 30 percent in the medium term (i.e the next two to three years), and secondly career paths need to be built to allow people to create a long term career in golf, or as a secondary objective acquire skills that give them options beyond golf, hopefully to return to the industry at some future point.
How can these objectives be addressed in the current environment? Obviously, the cake has to be made bigger, and actions to achieve this could include:
A commitment by clubs to focus on value not discounting.
A similar resolve to generate surpluses and produce realistic budgets.
Revamping job descriptions to focus on revenue and relationship building, with incentives for managers and club professionals to be rewarded on results achieved.
Insisting that your PGA professional (if you have one) fully connects with the membership and has the prime objective of getting them to play better golf, more often.
Your PGA professional should also be alert to the “absent member”, or the member whose handicap is on the slide, and taking action before the inevitable resignation results.
NZ Golf and the PGA need to continue to develop and roll out industry education initiatives to build skills and motivation.
In fact, there is not a surplus of talent in the New Zealand golf industry, but there are enough talented and motivated people out there to make a real difference. They just need to be given the right environment and the encouragement to use the skills they trained and studied for so long to acquire.

Sarah HeadComment