Archive for the ‘employee empowerment’ Category

Empowerment – Providing Frequent Feedback

Monday, April 11th, 2016

“Provide frequent feedback so that people know how they are doing. Sometimes, the purpose of feedback is reward and recognition. People deserve your constructive feedback, too, so they can continue to develop their knowledge and skills.”

                                                                                                                                                Susan M. Heathfield

Guidance to Leaders

Hospitality enterprises need to ensure that leaders provide frequent feedback by making such feedback part of their Organizational Values and Culture.

“(Employees) have a need and the right to know how their performance is contributing to the achievement of  . . . goals.  Continuous feedback is essential.”

“Recognition is important to all of us.  If we have the authority to correct, we also have the responsibility to praise.  We cannot have one without the other.”

                                                                                                                                                Principles of Employee Relations

“Unless you make a concerted effort to provide employees proper direction, feedback, and ongoing growth opportunities, delegating may alienate them.  In other words, don’t use them.  You need to put effort into their growth and make it worthwhile for them as well as for you.”

                                                                                                                                                Leadership on the Line, p. 53

“There are seldom opportunities for dramatic heroism in most businesses.  However, there are the daily, dedicated efforts of employees faced with monotonous routine, difficult situations inherent in customer service, and detail, detail, detail.  Employees should be recognized for the quiet, unprepossessing heroism that this involves.  Simply put, do not forget to thank your employees for the good things they do every day – it probably outweighs the bad 50 to 1.”

                                                                                                                                                Leadership on the Line, p. 59

“Once goals have been established, constantly reiterate them and provide feedback to employees regarding their efforts to achieve them.  Most people want to participate in a larger effort and know how their daily efforts are contributing.”

                                                                                                                                                Leadership on the Line, p. 64

Providing Feedback

When you turn your empowered employees loose to make their contribution to the team’s goals, you must continually monitor what they are doing and provide meaningful feedback so they know how they’re doing.

Like a sailor continually monitoring the sea and wind while trimming his sails and adjusting the rudder to most efficiently sail a course, the leader must monitor the team’s efforts and tell them what they are doing right and how they might improve performance.  This frequent feedback accomplishes two important things:

  1. t validates and reinforces what the team is doing right, and
  2. It modifies and enhances those things that could be improved.

The bottom line is that feedback will give them confidence in what they are doing and this confidence will promote even more empowered behaviors.

Excepted from The Power of Employee Empowerment, Hospitality Resources International

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.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

Freedom and Responsibility within a Framework

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Throughout my career I have struggled to balance the competing needs for entrepreneurial thinking, innovation, and initiative and the necessities of organization, structure, consistency, and control.  How does one create and sustain a nimble organization that can quickly respond to new technologies, changing member wants and desires, and the competition of the marketplace while maintaining an efficient operation and conscientiously meeting regulatory requirements?

No thinking business person wants to saddle their operation with a bureaucratic mindset, yet efficient operations need systems to function properly and avoid risk, liability, and regulatory problems.  The very word “bureaucracy” carries the negative connotation of inefficiency and stultifying processes where crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s become an organization’s reason for being.

In examining this never ending challenge for businesses, Jim Collins and his research team at Stanford University found that the good to great companies they examined gave people the freedom to do whatever was necessary to succeed within a highly developed system or framework.  Then their people were held strictly accountable for their results.

The analogy that he gave was a commercial airline pilot who works within rigid air traffic control and safety systems on the ground and in the air, but who has the ultimate responsibility for success – that is, the safe delivery of plane and passengers from location to location.  That singular responsibility allows a pilot, at his or her discretion, to remove unruly passengers, abort landings, fly to alternate airports, and take any other action deemed necessary for the safety of the flight.

But essential to bestowing such freedom and responsibility is the necessity of defining the system and clearly identifying constraints.  In the airline industry the Federal Aviation Administration establishes all standards, policies, and procedures for both commercial and private pilots and ensures their ongoing understanding of the system through licensure, certifications, simulator and cockpit training, as well as continual flight and safety bulletins.  To quote from the book:

“The good to great companies build a consistent system with clear constraints, but they also gave people the freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system.  They hired self-disciplined people who didn’t need to be managed, and then managed the system, not the people.”

As a club manager at any level of the organization, you cannot do it all yourself.  Holding the reins tightly creates a bottleneck where all decisions have to come through you, thereby stifling the initiative and creativity of your subordinates.  It also puts a tremendous burden on you to perform, requires you to be on property at all hours, and leads to burnout.

The only way to be truly successful in any complex enterprise is to empower those under you and give them the freedom and responsibility to succeed in their portion of the operation.  But to do this successfully you need to fully develop the framework for their empowerment and a means to hold them accountable.  This means you have to have well-defined organizational values and written standards, policies, and procedures.  Lastly, you need measurable accountabilities for performance.

With these in place you have started on the path to greatness in your enterprise, but it’s only the start – Collins offers much more proven guidance for those willing to invest the time in this well-researched and written, as well as entertaining, book.

The book is Good to Great – Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, Harper Business, New York, NY, 2001.

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.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

Providing Guidelines for Empowered Behavior

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Hospitality operations need to ensure that leaders provide guidelines and information for empowered behaviorHaving developed the necessary environment for empowerment by valuing and trusting employees, while communicating values and goals to them, the leader’s next step is to establish the framework for empowered action.

With the understanding that most hospitality employees have never experienced working in an empowered organization, the leader must plant the seeds of empowerment by suggesting ways in which employees can act in empowered ways.

1.   Develop a list of most frequent customer complaints or issues.  By enlisting your employees’ help in identifying problem areas or issues, you send a strong message to them that you value their opinions and input.  This is the first step in helping them realize that they can be empowered to solve the problems.

2.   Brainstorm empowerment opportunities.  Once your team has identified problem areas, brainstorm with them how these problems might be properly resolved.  In the give and take discussion while brainstorming, your team will gain deeper insights of how and why problems should be resolved in particular ways and what might be the best resolution of a particular issue.

3.   Establish standards or limits of empowerment.  As the leader, you should guide the discussion to the appropriate solutions.  Ultimately, while employees may make decisions and take empowered action, it is up to you to ensure that they take the appropriate action and understand the guidelines of their authority.  In other words, you’re responsible for establishing the standards and limits of their empowerment.

4.   Challenge your team to work on one or two of the identified problem areas.  Select the most pressing of the identified problem areas or those that represent easy-to-fix issues; then challenge your team to make decisions on their own and take action to resolve them.  Make sure they understand that they will not be punished for doing the wrong thing and that any errors will only be used as learning opportunities for everyone involved.

5.   Set up a schedule of ongoing meetings.  Meetings every week or so are opportunities to review how the team is doing, what problems they’ve encountered, how they might resolve such problems, and to encourage the team toward further empowerment.

Excepted from The Power of Employee Empowerment

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.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

It Ain’t the Employees

Monday, March 17th, 2014

If you want to improve quality and service at your operation, don’t start with your line employees.  According to the late W. Edwards Deming, one of the foremost authorities on quality improvement who helped transform Japan into a world-class industrial giant after World War II,

“The worker is not the problem.  The problem is at the top!  Management is the problem!” 

He further emphasizes the point by saying,

“There is much talk about how to get employees involved with quality.  The big problem is how to get management involved.” *

Among Deming’s many observations is that quality is achieved by a complex sequence of (manufacturing or service) processes and it is management that establishes those processes.  Until the barriers to quality inherent in ill-conceived and implemented processes (often created by management without a true understanding of what factors contribute to quality) are removed, the lack of quality or service is only the natural consequence of such poorly-designed, integrated, and applied processes.  Recognizing this, it is clear that quality improvement can come about only through the leadership and direction of management.

So what’s to be done about improving quality?

Leadership.  As usual, it all comes back to leadership – that often ill-defined quality that everyone talks about, but few truly understand.  Let us first of all be clear, leadership is not a position.  A position carries authority and responsibility, but as we say in Leadership on the Line,

“Exercising leadership involves building and sustaining relationships between leader and followers.  Without that bond or connection, there are no willing followers and, therefore, no true leaders.” 

In Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, we go on to say,

“The quality of your leadership is determined by the influence you have with your followers, which, in turn, is established by the quality of your relationships with them – and your relationships are built on a foundation of trust, of which integrity, competency, consistency, and common decency are primary ingredients.”

In speaking on the same topic, Roger Enrico, former Chairman at Pepsico, said,

“The soft stuff is always harder than the hard stuff.”

But what are we really talking about when we speak of the ‘soft stuff’?  As we say in The Quest for Remarkable Service,

“In short, it’s the people skills – those aptitudes and abilities used to get the best out of our human assets.  It encompasses all those things we talk about when discussing leadership – the highly nuanced interactions with a diverse workforce that result in motivation, morale, enthusiasm, focus, commitment, productivity, teamwork, organizational cohesiveness, and group success.”

Finally, a prime ingredient of leadership is example.  As Albert Einstein once said,

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.”

Without the disciplined direction and consistent example of management at all levels of the operation, quality and service will remain forever elusive.

Establishing Expectations.  You cannot expect that your line employees with their vastly different backgrounds, education, and life experiences will inherently understand what the quality and service expectations are for your operation.  These must be spelled out in great detail and reinforced continually.  The same is true for your management staff, but with far greater consequences.  Your management team sets the standard and the example for your entire operation.  Without consistent leadership, explicit communication of expectations, and reinforcement of well-defined values, expecting your employees to meet your standards of behavior and service is unrealistic in the extreme.

So the requirements must be to:

  1. Train both managers and employees thoroughly in your Organizational Values and Culture of Service, and
  2. Spell out in detail what your quality and service standards and expectations are for both managers and employees.

Employee Empowerment.  John Tschohl, founder of the Service Quality Institute, says,

“Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader. Empowerment is the most critical skill an employee can master and a company can drive in order to lure and keep customers.”

The major role that leaders make in empowering their employees is to create a culture where employees are valued and recognized as vital resources of the enterprise.  They must also understand that to be successful with employee empowerment, employees must fully sense the company’s commitment to such empowerment; simply saying that employees are empowered, does not make it so.  Leaders at all levels must do more than talk the talk.

While employee empowerment may be seen as a desirable practice by management, it ultimately comes about only with the recognition by employees that they are empowered.  This means that the focus of leaders must not be on what employees are doing to achieve empowerment, but on what they themselves are doing to promote and enable it.

Training.  All of us who work in the service business understand that operations are both people-intensive and detail-intensive.  It takes a lot of employees to provide the requisite levels of service and every aspect of service involves many details.  These two facts make detailed, ongoing training an absolute necessity for any successful operation.  For a list of those topics that must be covered in training for both managers and line employees, see the article entitled Training Requirements in Hospitality Operations.

Recognizing the high cost of training, Hospitality Resources International has created a number of On the Go Training resources for operators.

Your Employees.  How you treat your employees will have a great deal to do with their attitudes and dedication at work.  Read Give Them More Than Just a Paycheck for ways to increase their commitment to their place of employment and the quality of their service to your customers/guests/members.

Bottom Line.  None of the above is rocket science, but it does take a disciplined approach to your work.  At the end of the day, discipline is probably the most important ingredient for any efforts to improve quality and service.  As Jim Collins says in his groundbreaking book Good to Great,

“Much of the answer to the question of ‘good to great’ lies in the discipline to do whatever it takes to become the best within carefully selected arenas and then seek continual improvement in these.  It’s really just that simple.”

“A culture of discipline is not just about action.  It is about getting disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who then take disciplined action.”

So as you go about making your plans to improve quality and service, remember it starts and ends with your management team.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also train your employees in the finer points of service and your expectations for them, but without the active involvement of management at all levels, it ain’t gonna happen!

* For those interested in Deming’s logic in approaching quality improvement, read Improve Quality – Lower Costs

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

The Distinction between Empowerment and Discretion

Monday, June 10th, 2013

In discussing the need for written standards, policies, and procedures, we quoted Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt who said that “Discretion is the enemy of order, standardization, and quality.”  We have also talked about empowered employees being encouraged to think, act, and make decisions on their own based on guidance provided by the company.  We offer the following to clarify what might seem a contradiction.

An important distinction to make for employees is that there is a hierarchy of rules to guide their empowered actions.

1.      Legal and liability issues take precedence in that no employee may violate the law.  This applies to many employment and labor laws such as Equal Employment Opportunity, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and others.

2.      For private clubs and some non-profit organizations there are the policies based upon the by-laws and rules of the club or on tax laws.  Once again, no employee is authorized to modify or violate these rules which constitute the organizational or tax foundation of the enterprise.

3.      Beyond these are the organizational values that define the company’s culture of service and standards of behavior.  These may not be altered at the employee’s “discretion.”

4.      Next are the company’s operational policies relating to its operating systems, such as human resources, accounting and financial management, and departmental operations.

5.      Last are the operational procedures that describe how the routine things are done.

Since it’s impossible to foresee every operational contingency, employees are authorized to alter procedures, even operational policies, when common sense and necessity dictate so long as their actions are in alignment with the law, club or non-profit rules, and the organization’s values.  When they do this, they should alert their leaders of their decisions and actions.  It may well be that the employee’s on-the-spot decision will point the way to improved performance.  This is what makes employee empowerment so powerful.  The people who do the work and interface directly with the customers are in a position to influence and improve the company’s policies and procedures.

If leaders feel that an employee’s action was inappropriate, this should be communicated in a supportive and non-critical way to the work team, as well as to the individual employee, so that all can learn from the experience.

Ed Rehkopf, Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, Clarity Publications, 2009

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 hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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Providing Guidelines for Empowered Behavior

Monday, May 27th, 2013

“Make certain that you have given people, or made sure that they have access to, all of the information they need to make thoughtful decisions.”

Susan M. Heathfield

Guidance to Leaders

Hospitality operations need to ensure that leaders provide guidelines and information for empowered behavior as discussed in Leadership on the Line.

“. . . in addition to showing them what to do, you need to explain in depth the reasons behind various duties.  If they are to grow into broader responsibilities, they will need to have knowledge, not just technical experience.”

“When leaders become absorbed in their own sense of urgency about plans, projects, and priorities, it is easy to forget that employees lack this valuable information.  To foster this same sense of urgency in employees, communicate the details of such planning when appropriate.”

Providing Information

Having developed the necessary environment for empowerment by valuing and trusting employees, while communicating values and goals to them, the leader’s next step is to establish the framework for empowered action.

With the understanding that most hospitality employees have never experienced working in an empowered organization, the leader must plant the seeds of empowerment by suggesting ways in which employees can act in empowered ways.

1.   Develop a list of most frequent customer complaints or issues.  By enlisting your employees’ help in identifying problem areas or issues, you send a strong message to them that you value their opinions and input.  This is the first step in helping them realize that they can be empowered to solve the problems.

2.   Brainstorm empowerment opportunities.  Once your team has identified problem areas, brainstorm with them how these problems might be properly resolved.  In the give and take discussion while brainstorming, your team will gain deeper insights of how and why problems should be resolved in particular ways and what might be the best resolution of a particular issue.

3.   Establish standards or limits of empowerment.  As the leader, you should guide the discussion to the appropriate solutions.  Ultimately, while employees may make decisions and take empowered action, it is up to you to ensure that they take the appropriate action and understand the guidelines of their authority.  In other words, you’re responsible for establishing the standards and limits of their empowerment.

4.   Challenge your team to work on one or two of the identified problem areas.  Select the most pressing of the identified problem areas or those that represent easy-to-fix issues; then challenge your team to make decisions on their own and take action to resolve them.  Make sure they understand that they will not be punished for doing the wrong thing and that any errors will only be used as learning opportunities for everyone involved.

5.   Set up a schedule of ongoing meetings.  Meetings every week or so are opportunities to review how the team is doing, what problems they’ve encountered, how they might resolve such problems, and to encourage the team toward further empowerment.

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 hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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The Necessities for Employee Empowerment

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Having discussed again and again the benefits of empowering employees, what is necessary for a club to provide this empowerment.

First and foremost, strong leadership is an absolute necessity.  Leaders must:

  • Embrace the principles of service-based leadership.
  • Be open with their employees.
  • Be trusting and trusted.
  • Be secure in themselves, their position, and their knowledge; not threatened by knowledgeable employees or those who show initiative.
  • Be willing to share praise and shoulder blame.
  • Be good communicators.
  • Intrinsically understand and value the important role of line employees in the organization.
  • Place a positive emphasis on problem discovery and solution.
  • Allow their employees to demonstrate initiative and innovation, while giving them the “freedom to fail” without repercussions.

Secondly, the necessary disciplines and systems must be established to continually review work processes while involving employees.  It’s also important that procedures be in place to keep the General Manager and other Department Heads fully informed of any resulting changes.

Next, the club must be committed to and deliver extensive, ongoing training to its employees.  Untrained employees cause confusion and the resulting chaos will drive good employees away.

Employees must also be recognized for their accomplishments and contributions.  This recognition will further cement the partnership.

There must be opportunities for employees to grow personally and professionally.  When employees know that the club is also committed to their advancement, they will more willingly participate in making it successful.

Lastly, employees must respect their leaders and willingly follow them.  They will only do this when they see their leaders’ passion for excellence and personal commitment to success.  There can be no substitute for this example.

Summary

Empowering employees is a requirement in any effort to provide remarkable service.  Busy managers cannot do it all and need the help of their willing, committed, and empowered employees.  While it takes time and effort to establish a culture of empowerment at a club, the resulting improvement in operations, efficiency, and service levels make it well worth the effort.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Get Your Employees to Think Like the General Manager

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Imagine a club operation where all the employees think like the General Manager.  Imagine what the operation would be like when 100% of the staff is focused on the details of the operation.  Imagine the impact on the bottom line if the entire management and service team are dedicated to maximizing revenues and controlling costs.

Most club managers would scoff and say that such an operation can never exist – that it’s as unlikely as Mideast peace.  Yet the path to that dream is based on one simple premise – getting all employees to view their club through the eyes of the General Manager – that is to think and act like the General Manager in all they do.

Since the “dream” is to get employees to think and act like the General Manager, they must be trained intensively to understand the full dimensions of their jobs, including the nuances of service as well as the techniques of their position.  They must understand how their daily functioning impacts and impresses members; that they must think outside the limits of their job descriptions to recognize that service entails an all-encompassing responsibility regardless of position or function.  They must know that they can take the initiative to solve problems knowing that they’ll have the support of their leaders.

The military has long recognized the importance of soldiers taking the initiative to exploit battlefield opportunities.  In the flux of combat, commanders know that their initial orders cannot cover all possibilities.  To overcome this deficiency and to imbue their fighters with the confidence to act as the situation dictates, the military includes a statement of “the commander’s intent” in its field orders.

Professor Milan Vego of the U.S. Naval War College says, “The main purpose of the intent is to provide a framework for freedom to act.”  He goes on to say, “The intent should allow the subordinate . . . to exercise the highest degree of initiative in case the original order no longer applies or unexpected opportunities arise.”

In the highly fluid world of club operations, managers can take a lesson from the military and ensure that their employees fully understand their “intent” – the desired outcome in all service situations.  The way to do it is to empower your employees.  Willing, committed, and empowered employees will make a world of difference in delivering remarkable service levels to your members.  Recalling the words of John Tschohl, founder of the Service Quality Institute, “Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader.  Empowerment is the most critical skill an employee can master and a company can drive in order to lure and keep customers.”

But just how do you go about empowering employees?  Management consultant Susan M. Heathfield in an article on the principles of employee empowerment listed the following:

  • Value your people
  • Share your vision
  • Share your goals
  • Trust you people
  • Provide guidelines and information for empowered behavior
  • Provide frequent feedback
  • Focus on problem solution; not placing blame
  • Recognize and reward empowered behavior

In a white paper entitled Employee Empowerment this author laid out the necessities for empowerment:

First and foremost, strong leadership is an absolute necessity.  Leaders must:

  • Be open with their employees.
  • Be trusting and trusted.
  • Be secure in themselves, their position, and their knowledge; not threatened by knowledgeable employees or those who show initiative.
  • Be willing to share praise and shoulder blame.
  • Be good communicators.
  • Place a positive emphasis on problem discovery and solution.
  • Allow their employees to demonstrate initiative and innovation, while giving them the “freedom to fail” without repercussions.

Secondly, the necessary disciplines and systems must be established to continually review work processes while involving employees.  It’s also important that procedures be in place to keep the General Manager and other department heads fully informed of any resulting changes.

Next, the club must be committed to and deliver extensive, ongoing training to its employees.  Untrained employees cause confusion and the resulting chaos will drive good employees away.  Employees must also be recognized for their accomplishments and contributions.  This recognition will further cement the partnership.

Lastly, employees must respect their leaders and willingly follow them.  They will only do this when they see their leaders’ passion for excellence and personal commitment to success.  There can be no substitute for this example.

The dream of employees thinking and acting like the General Manager is one that can be realized, but only through a commitment to employee empowerment and all that it entails.  When employees understand their “manager’s intent” in all situations and know that the exercise of initiative will be valued and supported, the dream can become a reality.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Guest Blog: The Future of Club Programming

Monday, June 6th, 2011

There is a tremendous population shift underway in our country with the various age and cultural demographic changes that will modify the way we do business in our private clubs well into the future. Studies have shown that our 65 year old age group will double from 40 million to 89 million and from 13 percent of the population to 20 percent by the year 2050. While this seems like a long way off, the impact that this means to our economic outlook, and how we do business in our clubs will be impacting and must be dealt with today.

A recent study from Stanford University on the longevity of Americans living longer in our society states that Americans will continue to “Age Up” for decades into the future. With medicine and wellness practices, Americans are living much longer. With this change, there will be a transformation of organizational psychology and club programming concepts that will have a major impact not only with government policies and programs like Social Security benefits and Medicare but us as club managers and CEOs of our organizations with how we conduct business.

The realization of what this means to the business of private clubs is significant. Our entire market is changing clubs across the country. As we experience continued growth of our “Waiting to Resign Lists” with members wanting to get out of the club, for various reasons, we must begin to pay attention to how we deal with this problem. As we all know, our clubs operate with dues as our primary source of income. Without this revenue stream, we will not be able to operate. Last year alone, over 400 clubs closed their doors for various reasons. This is an alarming rate of closures in which we need to be concerned about.

The aging demographics of our membership coupled with the current global financial crisis, along with our member’s investment portfolios shrinking by 25 percent or more is causing a major transformation of the wealth distribution in our clubs. The way we are conducting business today will be outdated in the very near future. Our senior members are living longer and are spending more time at our clubs, but they are spending less money.

Several clubs have discounted their dues for seniors in an attempt to keep this age group active at their clubs and off the waiting to resign list. The reasoning is that this membership group has already paid their dues so to speak, but as younger members soon realize that the senior group is using the club more than they are, there begins to be resentment among the membership creating different factions. The younger members are feeling like they are paying the way for the senior member.

We need to ask ourselves if discounting the dues for senior members is the business practice or not or are there other measures we can take to better deal with this concern. What programs do you have in place to meet the needs and demands of this aging group? Are these programs sufficient and do they add value to the lives of our senior members, giving them a reason to continue being members of your club? A term “Productive Aging” is becoming the buzz word amongst our aging members 50 years and older.

Many clubs are being proactive and are already planning for the next few decades and how to better serve their aging membership, while still recruiting younger members, which are the future of our clubs. There is no doubt that we have age and cultural differences in our clubs. Our senior members do not desire to dine or be near the younger members and their young children, so we must develop seating areas or dedicate specific dining rooms in our clubs to accommodate this need.

What other programs are we developing to better serve our aging membership? Below are several programming ideas for you to consider implementing in your clubs for this age group.

  • Investment groups made up of members
  • Book clubs – many clubs are creating their own personal libraries that are situated in unused areas of their clubs, which has become popular with members
  • Wine clubs
  • Travel clubs
  • Hiking or outdoor recreation and fitness programs
  • Cooking classes – heart healthy cuisine
  • Organic gardening – several clubs are providing areas on club grounds for those members to have their own personal garden that they maintain
  • Self-defense training – how to avoid an attack in the mall parking lot (hopefully not your club parking lot)
  • Writing and poetry groups
  • Member focus groups – to share cultural and local lore
  • Hobbies and craft groups
  • Health, nutrition and wellness classes
  • Classes on how to retrofit your home to prepare for aging
  • Outdoor stargazing events
  • Fly fishing classes
  • Cycling groups
  • Card groups (besides bridge)
  • Storytelling and oral history presentations – lecture series
  • Mental exercise groups – crossword puzzle competitions
  • Philanthropy groups – big brother and big sister groups
  • Community outreach groups
  • Volunteer groups – to clean up neighborhoods a side streets and waterways around your club
  • Club historical preservation societies to gather your club’s history / archives
  • Technology – computer classes
  • Mystery theme dinners
  • Comedy night
  • Movie nights for families
  • Pet grooming classes
  • Pet obedience training (along with member’s and their kids as well)
  • Care giver programs
  • Club concierge services
  • Car wash – on site to wash, wax and detail members cars
  • Relationship building programs – (matching single members together)
  • Etiquette and formal dining classes
  • Retrofit your club with handicap accessibility
  • Sport shooting – clays events
  • Kayak and canoe clubs
  • Bus trips to local museums, art exhibits and sporting activities
  • Coffee shops – Wi-Fi Internet access in your clubs
  • Music lessons – how many members would like to learn how to play the piano but feel they are too old to learn but are capable?
  • Discovery nature center in your club
  • Nature walks on club property – with signs marking plants and trees along with a nature walk book to identify foliage
  • Natural healing and wellness classes
  • Business center to include access to a club computer, fax machine, photo copy machine and so forth
  • Genealogy research classes
  • Recipe book – your club members personal recipes
  • Club history book
  • Club member personal history book – let your members tell their stories
  • Shopping trips
  • Photography clubs

Adding these types of programs for your entire membership to enjoy will support their need to remain as members ensuring the future of your club.

Don Vance, CCM, Master Club Advisors, Club Leadership Digest

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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So You Want Your Club to Be a Service Leader

Monday, January 31st, 2011

What’s the first step?  Teaching employees service skills, techniques, and attitudes?  Nope!  This approach will have only a limited, short-term effect on some of your staff . . . and even these will give up pretty soon if they don’t see a consistent service ethic and example from their leaders.

Becoming a service leader requires a long-term, sustained effort from a management team committed to a consistent service-based approach to leading their service teams.  The ultimate goal of such an approach is to empower employees to think and act like managers — to take the initiative and ownership to resolve service issues wherever encountered with the sure knowledge of their leaders’ backing and support.

Simply put, the requirements and priorities for becoming a service leader are:

  • Establishing a consistent, club-wide service-based leadership style with its emphasis on serving employees by providing all the necessary tools, training, resources, support, and example to provide high levels of service.
  • Establishing a consistent, club-wide culture of service continually reinforced by all managers.
  • Creating a highly organized operation where expectations and standards are understood by all, and managers and employees are held strictly accountable for conduct and performance.
  • Ensuring that managers at all levels of the organization understand and consistently employ the many disciplines and best practices of operating a well-organized club.  This requires that all managers are trained to common standards and performance expectations.
  • Hiring well and training thoroughly so that the club employs the best people with the right personalities for the positions they hold and that every employee is trained in the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes for the jobs they perform.
  • Providing personalized service to your members, requiring that you and your employees know what your members want and their names, interests, and preferences.  This requires the system and organization to discover, organize, and disseminate such information to your employees so they can use it in their daily interactions with members.
  • Empowering your employees to take the initiative, make decisions, and take actions to “wow” members and resolve any and all service issues.  Such empowerment requires that employees are well-trained not just in the how’s of service, but also the why’s.  Finally, you must carefully define the parameters of employee empowerment and decision-making and create a supportive environment that never blames employees for their decisions and actions, only looks for better ways of doing things.

As can be seen from the above requirements, becoming a service leader is not an easy undertaking or one to be approached lightly.  On the contrary, it requires the management “will to make it happen” and the service-based leadership to create the environment that naturally promotes service.

But regardless of the effort involved, the bottom line is, as John Tschohl, president of the Service Quality Institute, says — “Without empowerment, an organization will never be a service leader.”

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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