Monday, June 21, 2010

Where Does All the Labor Go?

Labor Cost

Managing a golf course involves many expenses. Essentially, you incur labor costs whenever you have employees working to maintain the course, landscape and equipment. It is not uncommon for the golf course labor budget to be upwards of 60% of the golf courses total budget. Labor is a valuable and large operational expense at all golf courses, large private clubs to small mom and pop operations. The labor line item is considered “Low Hanging Fruit” for many decision makers at the course. Being proactive with how you manage labor can increase your chances at success.

It is the superintendent’s job to fairly treat all employees equally and pay a wage that is commensurate with the job. However, all too often superintendents treat employees like family or friends and have feelings that overtime and extra hours will make-up for low wages or other preferential treatments will keep employees happy. When the line between employer and employee get blurred the superintendent can be committing an injustice to the employer by spending labor budget dollars that do not belong to the superintendent. Monies that are controlled by the superintendent should be used as wisely as possible, that is the trust between the club and the superintendent.

Labor Cost Awareness

Labor costs are typically understood in most businesses as a percentage of sales. I have several ways to compare how labor dollars should be applied to a golf course situation. No single method can accomplish this goal and a separate lengthy article can be written on this subject alone.

In the golf course business it’s difficult to have a standard metric for comparison of wages because of the differences of golf course size, geographic location, standards of maintenance and how to allocate golf course revenue against golf course income. In many businesses it’s easy to arrive at a percentage of sales that would be allocated to labor; manufacturing, restaurants and retail all come to mine, these businesses are easy enough to place an operating metric on appropriate labor. So the conundrum continues when trying to apply a labor metric to golf course maintenance. The following might help in arriving at some sense to this labor puzzle in the golf course business.

Control Your Labor Costs with Improved Worker Productivity

Increasing productivity improves your overall operation by building employee skills and confidence. Take time to provide your staff with sufficient training and communication.

Cross-Train Your Staff

Cross-training is beneficial to both the employee and the business, since the worker will have a wider range of skills and be able to help in multiple areas of the golf course. This allows the superintendent to schedule fewer workers while still being able to achieve the same production and maintenance standards. Some suggestions for cross-training include:
  • Train greens mowers to move cups and set tee markers 
  • Train tee and rough mowers to set traffic signage and stakes 
  • Train mechanic or mechanics’ assistant to mow fairways and rough 
  • Allow set-up staff to combine as many jobs as practical
Conduct Frequent Staff Audits and Reviews

Another great way to help improve productivity is to perform regular labor audits. Take the time to watch and assess your employees’ performances. If you find that a large portion of your employees’ work days includes inordinately long breaks or downtime, it might be wise to revise your schedule. Conducting face-to-face reviews with each member of the staff will help communicate your thoughts and concerns.

Control Labor Cost With Precise Scheduling

Make sure you have constructed a budget to help keep track of your expenses like labor; it is also advisable to know what income levels the golf course has. Through your budget, you will be able to adjust to a percentage of your sales to compare with labor expenses (a good business model even for private clubs). Then, after a period of time you will be able to create a staffing schedule to reflect your budgeted allowance for labor expenses. The following tips elaborate these guidelines:

Break down your annual budget. Break down your annual budget into weekly budgets to help divide the money into sections. This will give you a weekly labor budget, from which you can determine labor costs and make an appropriate staffing schedules.

Design a new weekly schedule for all employees. Relying on a fixed schedule week after week fails to acknowledge shifts in projected sales, changes in the weather or other factors that can affect your business. Adjust the number of staff scheduled each week to keep compliant with weekly budget constraints. The golf course is a seven day per week operation, utilize:
  • Late day shifts
  • Morning only shifts
  • Weekdays off to compensate for weekend shifts
  • Use less busy daylight hours for rough mowing 
  • Utilize more part-time workers
  • Start players off back nine during slow weekdays to keep rough mowers moving with player delays
  • Have employees take morning break in field without traveling back to maintenance shop 
  • Plan work schedules at least one week in advance and post for all employees to review
  • Hire enough people and train to eliminate all overtime

 Monitor clock in/clock out times.
At the end of each day, make sure that all employees have punched in and punched out exactly according to the schedule. Early and late punches can add-up significantly over the course of a season. Your states labor laws may force to pay for the closest quarter of an hour.

Discuss all schedule change requests in advance. Switching shifts can create problems when people start to work overtime, working more hours than the budget allows and potentially breaking a law, if the workers are youths. Be sure a manager is constantly aware of any proposed changes in the schedule.

Avoid Over-Staffing

It is often tempting to schedule more people than necessary in order to ensure that the business runs without any kinks. The reality is, however, that there will always be a few kinks in the golf course business. Scheduling too many employees will increase your labor costs, hurting your business overall. If you find that you have over-scheduled, you can send staff members home early. Train your people to work quickly, accurately and efficiently while also treating players with respect and care. This allows you to operate at a high standard while still hitting your target labor allocation.

Send me your email address with your golf course affiliation and I’ll send you a weekly staffing tool, you’ll be surprised how much time and labor resources you have. Most superintendents find they can accomplish more maintenance tasks with the same labor dollars when a refined scheduled is implemented.


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