Effective incentive programs that put teeth into your training messages and form the backbone of your service culture are the best way to keep staff members motivated, and your property moving forward.
A few years ago, I helped to open a Greg Norman Signature Design golf course and club in a master-planned, gated community. The initial cost of marketing a new property is higher than for an established one, and in this case, we calculated the cost of gaining a single member, in terms of marketing dollars, at $37,000 per membership.
We established this figure based on our “lead to tour” and “tour to sale” ratios. We called this “filling the funnel”—establishing a qualified database that would generate prospective customers, convincing those prospects to tour our property, and then getting them to purchase a membership. This process became our marketing model for our success. The $37,000 per capita that we spent on marketing dollars added up to a sizeable investment that we of course took very seriously.
THREE STEPS TO A GREAT STAFF
In today’s economic climate, success in the club and resort industry hinges more than ever on first assembling, and then directing, a top-notch staff that can maximize operating efficiencies while providing the great service that assures members and guests they’re getting proper value for their money.This means that club managers, even if their properties are currently in a hiring freeze or perhaps reducing staff, must not ignore the critical “three Rs” of staff management—recruiting, rewarding, and retaining.
In this three-part series, Don Vance draws on his nearly 40 years of experience as a top manager at leading clubs and resorts to offer valuable tips on how to get, motivate and keep the best people needed to keep a property in a leadership position.
The first installment, “Priming the Pump,” appeared in the June 2009 issue of Club & Resort Business and focused on recruiting. The final installment, on retention, will appear in the December 2009 issue.
As part of the same review process, we also came to realize there was an equally significant cost of losing both existing and prospective members. And we knew that, no matter how great we could make our community and facilities look, these losses could come about easily, and quickly, if we ever lessened our focus on exceeding customers’ expectations in all areas of service.
We shared all of this information with our employees as part of our training culture. As I often like to say, “everything impacts everything,” and we drilled this home through intensive employee training. Just as importantly, we backed it up with incentive and reward programs that not only acknowledged, but recognized with tangible benefits, those staff members who showed they were applying the training messages as an integral, everyday part of carrying out their job duties.
This incentive and reward program proved to be one of our most important tools for “filling the funnel” and avoid failing to get our money’s worth from all that we were investing in trying to attract new members and keep existing ones. The clear value provided by the incentive program in this high-cost environment is something I make sure to recall during today’s challenging times—when I’ve been faced, at my club, with the same tough choices you have no doubt been facing at yours.
Passing the True Tests
With the budget squeezes we’ve all been facing, it’s very tempting to slash anything that doesn’t directly relate to generating revenue. But a clear line can be drawn from training dollars, and the incentive and reward funds that reinforce them, to a property’s income—and this line should never be cut, or even blurred. Effective training and incentive programs remain critical to maintaining member and customer loyalty, and that’s something no one can afford to lose, or jeopardize.
Even temporary cutbacks in these areas can cause irrevocable damage to your organization. Just as advertising in a down economy is critical to maintaining the strength of a brand and its position, continuing to invest in employee training and development dollars will pay big dividends in the battle to retain existing customers and attract new ones. And when things turn around, your staff will recall what you continued to invest in them, and return the favor with strong service and loyalty.
The costs involved become relatively inexpensive, once you do the math and compare your training expenditures to the costs of losing a customer or member and what it will take to regain them.
Take a look around and study those businesses that are still doing well in your marketplace during this economy. Why, and how, are they continuing to thrive? In almost every case, no matter what their business or product, the answer lies in how they provide value that is considered essential by their customers. And if you look deeper, you will almost always find the roots of this value in well-trained, loyal and motivated employees who are dedicated to providing quality work and service.
|Managers from the Concord Golf Resort & Spa in Charlotte, N.C., recently earned top standing in a “Wings of Victory” incentive promotion conducted by John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts. As part of the recognition, General Manager Terry Crawford (seated, right) and other team members were flown via Lear jet to Chateau on the Lake Resort & Spa in Branson, Mo., for a weekend getaway that included a private meeting with Hammons himself (seated, center).|
Payoffs from Happiness
There are many approaches that can be taken to create and implement effective employee development and incentive programs. Over the years, I have developed a number of employee training and reward programs of my own, or drawn freely from others I’ve heard about from colleagues that have proved successful at their properties.
There is certainly not a “one-stop shop” for incentive programs. They can be as elaborate, or as simple, as you feel they need to be. They can be competitive among departments (or properties, if your club or resort is part of a management group), or customized around individual goals and needs. They can be highly quantifiable in terms of how they’re measured, or as simple as just giving out gift cards or movie tickets in exchange for employees’ time and thoughts. And in all cases, even the most successful incentive programs must be continually updated, refreshed and evaluated, to make sure they retain effective appeal to all employees.
One incentive program caught my eye recently, not only because it involved a property in my market (Charlotte, N.C.), but also because it was focused on sales and catering efforts in the upscale resort side of the business. I’ve worked in this side of the business and know how tough it can be to keep people motivated—especially in the past year or so, after corporate meetings in resort settings (unfairly) got such a bad name.
But rather than just hunker down and wait for the storm to pass, John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts launched a “Wings of Victory” incentive promotion among the 82 upscale hotels and resorts that it operates in 24 states. The recognition program was based on a full set of performance measurements that included year-to-year RevPAR (revenue per available room) index growth; the largest percentage variance in a team productivity goal; percentage increase in definite actual revenue growth; actual dollar revenue growth; and measurements of teams’ effort and professionalism.
The sales and catering team of Concord Golf Resort & Spa emerged as the winning property, and they were rewarded by being flown, via John Q. Hammons’ private Lear jet, to the company’s signature property, Chateau on the Lake in Branson, Mo., for a weekend getaway that included a VIP welcome reception, golf, spa treatments, jet-skiing, nature tours, a sunset catamaran cruise, and a private meeting and luncheon with Hammons himself.
That’s just one example of how an incentive program can be structured to help spur performance, even in the most challenging times. Another example, from a single, private club perspective, is the “Employee Experience Team Training” program we recently developed at The Club at Longview.
Our focus for this program was based on a simple premise: If our employees were happy and motivated, their service attitudes would create a higher customer satisfaction level, ensuring customer loyalty and retention. In turn, that would mean members who are satisfied with the club would be more inclined to bring their families and guests to the property, providing further momentum to our sales and marketing efforts.
We shared this concept with our employees; they got it, and liked it, because it started with them. We then gave them an opportunity to contribute to a thorough review of all of the “Moments of Truth” that they can be involved with, and have an impact on, every time a member or guest comes to a club.
Eventually, this produced a list of over 1,500 different moments—everything from rust on the iron gate at the front entrance to the property (which is now painted, by the way), to loose cobblestones in the circular drive leading to the clubhouse, or fountains that aren’t always working.
After we created the list, we found that many items on it wouldn’t cost a thing to correct, if we would just do a better job of training to improve everyone’s awareness about all of these “moments.” That led us to seek to develop new standards and practices, based on the performance of the most exemplary employees in each department. This created a “buzz” throughout the staff, with many coming forward to say they wanted to participate. Ultimately we decided to include everyone, through a series of breakfasts (a nice perk) followed by classroom sessions that included an employee from each department. This was a great way to get employees who otherwise didn’t know each other to meet, and it helped to create a better sense of overall belonging and common mission through the staff.
For participating in the program and helping to bring ideas and solutions forward, employees could also earn small rewards, in the form of gift cards, movie tickets or cash awards. Once they “graduated,” they earned awards certificates.
This program was very simple, fluid and interactive, and didn’t involve significant costs. But by taking the time to create and implement the concept, we found many new ways to further improve member experiences at the club. It also helped us, as managers, to identify those on our staffs who could—and couldn’t—help us move forward as we needed to. Through this program we actually learned where some personnel-related problems were based, and that led to some changes that greatly improved the makeup and performance of our entire team.
As these two examples illustrate, there is a bottomless pool of potential incentive and reward programs that can work for a property or service organization. In all cases, a successful program will create a focused team effort that includes all employee groups. Also, it’s not really the size of the rewards that matter, but rather the fact that they exist, in any form.
To keep your organization at the head of the pack in these challenging times, it’s more critical than ever to task department heads and managers with creating new employee-based motivational and incentive ideas. In almost all cases, the talent is already within your organization—it’s up to you and your team to find ways to get the most out of it. If you can, the minimal costs involved with ongoing employee development, training, reward and incentive programs will clearly be justified, even in the tightest budgetary settings.