“The quality of any club’s performance is directly related to how the employees are treated every day.” That’s Bill Brackman, Sports Manager of the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY, responding to a question posed recently on the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association’s (IHRSA) blog. The question? How do you let employees know they are valued?
It’s a crucial issue. If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes one to make a health club successful — you can’t do every job that needs to be done yourself, after all. But it doesn’t take just any village; it takes one that’s dedicated, caring, loyal, energetic, driven, self-motivated, and content (for starters). How do you ensure that your staff is all of those things? Small, fun rewards help. At Brackman’s club, employees and their guests were invited to an open-bar dinner party at the clubhouse when Golf World Magazine named theirs the “Best Private Club in the U.S.” Also, the club provides a couple annual staff appreciation events — a poolside barbeque, a holiday party.
But be careful. You have to already have thriving employees before you start offering such rewards; otherwise, you might end up with a disgruntled crew feeling like you’re trying to buy their happiness without paying attention to their real needs. Are your employees fairly compensated? Do you offer them the best benefits you can? Do you appreciate their lives outside of work, and let them know it? Do you praise their accomplishments publicly (both the work-related and the personal ones)? Perhaps most importantly, do your employees voice to you their concerns? (If they don’t, don’t fool yourself into believing it’s because they don’t have any; it’s impossible to be an employee without having them. But if you’re not hearing about them, that may be a sign that the staff doesn’t feel free to come to you with them.)
Darren Kanwisher, owner of the Fifth Avenue Club in Alberta, Canada, takes a pretty radical approach to ensuring employee satisfaction: “Our members don’t come first—our employees do,” he explains on the IHRSA blog. “…[E]mployees know—even before they’re hired—that they’re our priority in terms of time, attention, and care.” Putting staff before customers, and boldly declaring that you do so, might seem like a risk, but think about the trickle-down effect: If your employees know how important they are to management, they have a model for understanding how to let customers know how important they are to your employees. At Kanwischer’s club, the importance of staff members’ personal lives is placed above the importance of the business — there is a sense that they are humans before they are workers. This must work wonders for morale, and the day-to-day positive effects of a high morale cannot be underestimated.
In general, giving positive feedback, emphasizing the importance of each employee, letting staff know they can approach you at any time with any concern, making sure their basic needs are taken care of, and giving them small extras all go a long way toward creating an upbeat, fulfilling place to work — and that goes a long way toward creating a successful business.