Most club owners use a variety of communications tools to keep their members and employees informed. However, many of them still do not communicate well because they impart information in an inconsistent and untimely manner. Developing a communication plan for staff and members is essential to prevent problems.
You plan for members will vary slightly from your plan for staff. Implement the following suggestions when making your communication plan for members:
- Send a weekly electronic bulletin on the same day and at the same time each week. The bulletin should be short and to the point with bulleted headlines and brief descriptions for each topic. E-newsletters should include information about upcoming events and activities, member photos and interesting content about club programs. They also are an excellent tool for internal sales and marketing that promotes club products and services.
- The club website should have a public section for nonmembers and a password-protected section for members to access pertinent schedules, their member statement, reservations, etc.
- Social networking for clubs is still in its infancy, but many progressive clubs are retaining full- or part-time staff that focus on spreading the club’s messages through the most popular networks, including Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Electronic signs, posters and fliers are a good way to promote upcoming events.
- E-mail can reach individual members or smaller groups with specific and pertinent information.
- Letters from the general manager about important topics, such as capital improvement plans and explanations about dues increases, can have a tremendous impact.
- Word-of-mouth is still the best form of communication. Every day, club managers should tell their service teams what messages they want passed on to members. Staff have literally thousands of touch points each day with members, and each is an opportunity to promote something that will benefit the club.
- Annual calendars and a member appreciation party help you share upcoming special events with your most valued and connected members, who will then help you promote club activities throughout the year.
Lack of communication is probably the No. 1 reason employees feel demotivated. Remember these items when communicating with staff:
- During employee orientations, offer a full explanation of the club’s vision, mission, values and objectives, a thorough property tour and introductions. These all help ensure your new employee shares the company’s common goals.
- Weekly management meetings reinforce company culture, continue educational efforts and allow for sharing information about all aspects of club operations.
- Regular departmental meetings reinforce company culture and allow for sharing pertinent, team-specific information as well as passing along important news from other areas.
- Quarterly or semi-annual full staff meetings bring together all employees so the club manager or owner can share information about the state of the club and its long-term prospects.
- E-mail is an excellent tool for informational announcements but a terrible method of communication for sensitive or emotional issues.
- Payroll stuffers and employee bulletin boards are a good way to get important messages to those staff members who do not use company e-mail as part of their job.
- Word-of-mouth communication is often how employees receive their company information. Managers must accept this reality and embrace it as an effective way to spread accurate information instead of uninformed rumors.
- There is no substitute for personal, informal visits between managers and staff to gain deeper insight into what people think.
Club managers may have no more important responsibility than to effectively communicate with members and staff. Take some time to carefully consider the way communication functions at your club and address weaknesses as quickly as possible.
Herb Lipsman is chief operating officer of Houston Oaks Country Club & Family Sports Retreat in Hockley, TX. He also has been a consultant in the industry, specializing in design, development and operation of upscale facilities.