Why is Training so Challenging for Clubs?

Recognizing that we work in a detail-intensive business, most club managers understand that comprehensive and systematic training for both subordinate managers and line employees is an imperative.  Yet, the sad fact is that training is an afterthought in many operations, left up to department heads or front line supervisors to conceive, design, and implement.

Why is this so often the case?  I offer the following as some of the factors that make training so difficult for all of us:

  • First, is the standalone nature of most clubs.  Busy managers have little time and, in some cases, lack the necessary skill set to design a comprehensive training curriculum for employees.
  • Complicating this is the fact that club operations span many disciplines, including accounting, human resources, marketing, member relations, golf operations, food and beverage, aquatics, golf course maintenance, and other areas. Few, managers have the detailed knowledge of all these disciplines to design the well-integrated systems, policies, and procedures that cover all areas of the operation.
  • The general manager and management staff have not formally defined the standards of quality and service they wish to provide the membership. Without formal standards, how do they determine their training needs?
  • Given the many positions inherent in club operations, there is the need to develop a curriculum for each position to provide employees the appropriate skill set.  This is a daunting task, though focusing on critical member-facing positions is the first step.
  • In addition to individual skills training, employees must be trained in the club culture and values; laws affecting the workplace; employee work rules and policies; liability abatement training such as safety, sanitation, and public health; human resource issues such as sexual harassment, discrimination, conduct, and performance criteria; accounting policies and procedures relating to their work such as point of sale training, inventory procedures, and timekeeping; and all the club’s various organizational systems that allow it to function efficiently.
  • Managers at all levels must be trained in a variety of disciplines including leadership; club culture and values; various laws affecting club operations; club systems; accounting standards, policies, and procedures; human resource standards, policies, and procedures — to name a few.
  • Few clubs have a comprehensive training plan that guides subordinate managers in training standards, responsibilities, budgets, resources, and necessary curricula.
  • There is no easy way for the general manager to monitor training execution due to the lack in most clubs of training administration software and training benchmarks. Short of attending each training session, how does the GM know who is training and meeting the ongoing requirements of a multi-faceted curriculum.
  • In times of tight budgets (and when is it ever not such a time?), the cost of every hour of training is multiplied by the number of employees being trained and their hourly wage — and this can have a significant impact on the bottom line.
  • The management staff does not have the will to make it happen given all the other management requirements, demands on their time, and competing priorities.
  • The club’s board, while demanding high service levels, does not understand the direct link between formal training and quality service or, even more importantly, the challenging task of designing and implementing an effective club-wide training program. In many cases, the general manager has not developed the training goals, assessments, plan, proposed budget, and “sold” the board on its necessity.

The bottom line on all these issues is that unless focused on and attended to religiously, they fall through the cracks.  While the training requirements of a well-run operation seem overwhelming, they can be effectively implemented with leadership, the “will to make it happen,” organizational structure, and management discipline.  Without these, quality and high levels of performance will be forever be an elusive dream.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking  hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

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