Sports turf managers, regardless of location or job type, face many different challenges on any given day. There’s Mother Nature, turfgrass issues, management issues and increasing expectations from field users and administrators — just to name a few.

But how about hiring good, quality people at your facility? How many of you are dealing with/have dealt with this challenge? I’d bet a lot of you. We’ve seen this issue becoming a rising trend . It’s very worrisome to a lot of the sports turf managers we’ve talked to recently.

The data from our third-annual State of the Industry Survey shows that many around the country are having trouble finding reliable help at their facilities. Also, dealing with staff/personnel issues causes our survey respondents the most stress, even stacked up against field conditions, increasing expectations and trying to maintain a balanced work/home life.

At the 2017 Sports Turf Managers Association Conference & Exhibition, held in January in Orlando, Florida, we sat down with a diverse group of 12 field managers in a private, invitation-only setting to talk about topical industry subjects and issues. Hiring and finding good employees came up immediately in our discussion. Several participants explained that they’ve found it extremely difficult lately to find good people for full-time, part-time and seasonal work.

“Some of the Minor League Baseball groundskeepers met [at the STMA conference] and one of the big discussions we got into was about hiring qualified candidates,” one sports turf manager for a MiLB facility said. “We talked about how there seems to be a major downswing in how kids interview, how they network, how they’re not prepared for interviews, how their résumés are poorly written and how their cover letters stink.”

He then added, “There’s been such a shift in the quality of [prospective employees] presenting themselves to us, which makes it tougher for us to hire them.”

Sound familiar? Have you seen these occurrences when trying to hire people?

“I get résumés on my desk with so many misspellings,” a municipal field manager explained during the discussion. “I get people who don’t fill out entire forms. Those résumés go right in the trash. It’s terrible – these are the people who are applying for full-time jobs.”

We’ve also heard several say that in their locales, jobs in other segments are more plentiful and often pay better. Many sports turf managers are competing with golf courses, landscape companies and others for quality people, making it even tougher to fill out their crews with qualified applicants.

Others told us that it’s hard to get part-time and seasonal employees to care. In other words, these people don’t envision a long-term stay in the sports turf industry, or they don’t consider it a viable career.

How do you combat this?

“For the right [people], show them that this is viable career path with diverse opportunities,” Ryan DeMay, sports field manager for the city of Columbus, Ohio, Recreation and Parks Department, told us as part of our State of the Industry survey report. “Along with you, connecting them with others who can provide perspective on [turf] management can provide a tremendous level of focus and buy-in. Being a trusted advisor and someone who genuinely cares about an employee’s individual aspirations provides credibility, loyalty and commitment.

“If you have seasonal workers that won’t be turf industry professionals, do your absolute best to connect your goals for the facility to their career/life aspirations,” DeMay added. “Our companies, agencies and communities are a vast network of professionals from all walks of life. Connecting these folks in our companies, agencies and communities with a seasonal employee who has interests in a particular field goes a long way for all involved. By simply reaching out and connecting two people, the seasonal employee builds their network, as do you.”

We’ll be keeping an eye on this trend of the seemingly dwindling quality labor pool. If you’ve successfully found ways to hire good people recently, share it with us. Tweet at us @SFM_Magazine or email me. We’ll pass along your tips and advice to others.

We can work together to solve this problem and get you the quality help you want, and need, at your facilities.