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Properly trained employees are key to a successful facility

This is an excerpt from Managing Sport Facilities 4th Edition With Web Study Guide by Gil B. Fried & Matthew Kastel.

Proper training of employees is key to the successful operation of a sport facility, and it can be tricky given the varied job types and the diversified skill set among employees. Certain training for some jobs in a sport facility is required by either state or federal law. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal agency that holds employers accountable for providing a workplace free from serious recognized hazards, has many training rules in place that employers must follow (U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2018). For example, it has several training requirements for heavy equipment operators, such as forklift drivers who move product at sport facilities, and if the sport facility uses propane to cook in the kitchens, food service workers need to be trained on the proper storage of propane.

Many employee trainings can be done universally and apply to all employees. Trainings that fit this category would include the following:

  • Sexual harassment and diversity training. Teaching employees to properly interact with one another applies to all employees and can be taught as a group no matter what the employees' work type or job responsibilities.
  • Generic safety training. What are employees to do in case of a bomb threat, extreme weather or active shooter? If the sport facility is to be evacuated, what are the employees' roles in getting customers out, and where do they evacuate to? How can work site accidents be prevented? What steps are to be taken if a customer or employee gets hurt while in the sport facility? It is crucial that all employees receive this type of training.
  • Customer service training. Because sport facilities are public buildings, all employees will interact with the public. Because of this, sport facility employees have to have minimum basic customer service skills, so they are treating guests properly and guests receive uniform customer service no matter what employee they interact with.

Some training is job specific and does not apply to all. Managers often are required to go to leadership training, while nonmanagers may not be required to participate in such trainings. Positions like plumber or electrician may have certain trainings and certificates that only apply to their trades.

Training can be a costly investment but one that will pay dividends if done well. Some of the benefits training provides include lower turnover, higher employee morale, better customer service, lower workplace injuries, and sharpened job skills.

Human Resources Scenario

What If: Allegation of Sexual Harassment

There are two types of sexual harassment. Quid Pro Quo harassment occurs when a superior demands sexual favors to obtain, keep, or be promoted into a job. Hostile work environment harassment occurs when a person at work makes unwanted sexual comments, jokes, or other actions that make the work environment so difficult that the employee being harassed cannot do his or her job. What if you are a sport facility manager and a part-time female concessions worker comes to you with an allegation that her male supervisor has been sexually harassing her by making lewd comments about her physical appearance in front of her coworkers. How would you handle this?

Answer

As a manager, when an allegation of sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, or violence is brought to your attention, you must treat it with a sense of immediacy and importance and not prejudge the situation based on who is bringing forth the allegation.

The first step the facility manager should take is to contact the human resources department immediately. Remember, a claim of sexual harassment has legal implications, and a manager should not try to handle or resolve the situation on his own. By doing so he can misstep and make the situation far worse by unintentionally doing or saying the wrong thing. Human resources is best suited to give guidance on how to manage the situation and to conduct an investigation into the allegation.

In a situation like this, the human resources department would conduct an investigation by speaking separately to both the accused and the accuser and then verify the information both parties have given them, by conducting private interviews with potential witnesses and reviewing the facility's security footage to see if it captured anything that could help corroborate what happened.

As the sport facility manager, human resources may ask you to help with the investigation by lining up witnesses, helping to secure old video footage, and adding background, such as if you are aware of the manager in question having issues with female employees in the past.

One of the important caveats to remember about a situation like this is both parties deserve the right of privacy in the matter, and you should not be discussing the ongoing investigation with anyone other than human resources.

Once the human resources department has made a conclusion on the matter, as sport facility manager, you may be brought back into the situation to help with or conduct the termination or discipline of the party in question, if warranted. At that point it is still important to defer to expertise of human resources on the matter, so you feel confident that you are handling it in both a legal and responsible way.

Other Labor Issues

Labor issues are always evolving, and managers need to be aware of both cultural and legal changes that affect how managers interact with their employees. Some of the current issues that managers must be aware of include both the living wage and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Living Wage

A living wage, by definition, means a wage high enough to maintain a normal standard of living. Many sport facility managers and owners are increasingly under pressure to pay more than minimum wage, because some contend a minimum wage is not enough for an employee to live on.

Increasingly, many municipalities are instituting living wage laws that mandate hourly wages higher than the United States' and individual states' minimum wage. It is important that sport facility managers are mindful of this, so they do not violate local and state wage laws.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act was passed by Congress and became law in 1993. FMLA allows employees to take unpaid but protected leave for the employee's medical issues, or those of their specified family members. According to the Department of Labor, FMLA allows employees to take time off for an extended period for the following reasons (U. S. Department of Labor, 2018a)

  • Illness
  • Caring for a qualifying sick family member
  • The birth or adoption of a child
  • Military caregiving or other emergencies related to a family member's active duty service

Sport facility managers need to be aware of FMLA because it is an employee right, and they cannot retaliate against an eligible employee who uses FMLA time.

Workers' Rights

Sport facility managers also need to be aware of workers' general rights in the workplace. Some of these rights include (U.S. Department of Labor 2018b)

  • To be trained in a language that the employee understands
  • To be provided with the necessary safety equipment
  • To report injury or illness
  • To voice concerns over unsafe working conditions without fear of retaliation

Evaluation

The employment process starts with hiring the right employees and training them. Personnel management does not end there. Employees need to be evaluated, and if they do well, they should be given the opportunity to advance when such opportunities are available. In contrast, if an employee is not doing well and the deficiencies cannot be corrected (whether he does not have the skills to do the job effectively, refuses to change his behavior, violated a major policy or procedure, or violated the law), he would need to be reprimanded or terminated. During this process, the manager earns her stripes by vigilantly monitoring employees and giving appropriate feedback (the progressive disciplinary process in action). One of the keys for a facility manager is to resolve workplace conflicts, as highlighted by the “Resolving Conflict” sidebar.

Resolving Conflict

Matthew Kastel, Stadium Manager, Oriole Park

I have had the opportunity of being a manager in several sport facilities across many different regions of the United States. One of the truisms that is universal for managing employees no matter where you are or what you do is that when two or more employees are working together, the potential for conflict is there. Because humans are unique individuals, there is no one perfect answer for how to resolve disagreements among employees. That being said, I found the following techniques helpful in keeping conflict to a minimum.

  1. It starts with hiring. Each organization has its own unique culture. When hiring employees, it is helpful to hire employees that have a personality that fits the organization's culture. For example, a place like Disney World hires happy and helpful people for customer service work. Hiring someone outside that mold could lead to tension among the workers on how best to do the job.
  2. Give clear instructions. Most employee conflicts and disagreements begin over something small, like a group of workers having different ideas on how to get a task done. As manager, if you give clear instructions on work assignments, it reduces the possibility of employees having an argument on who is doing what, because you have already made that information clear.
  3. You need to be the adult in the room. When two employees are squabbling, it is important as a manager that you step in and make clear that this is a workplace, and this type of behavior is not tolerated at work. Once you settle the situation down, speak to each employee individually, and if a resolution is simple, get both employees together and tell them how you are resolving the issue. If the conflict is something serious, be sure to bring it to human resources to get their input and advice. Personalities sometimes do not match up, so there may not be a resolution to each conflict. In cases like this, it is important to impress upon employees that they do not have to like each other, but they need to work like they do.
  4. It is all about the team. As a manager, it is crucial to stress to employees that work is a team endeavor, and that all employees are in this together. This helps send a strong philosophical message to the workforce that they need to leave their petty personal grievances behind when they are at work.
  5. Be honest. Often conflict arises when there is a great deal of stress on the job, such as when there is a tight deadline, and everyone is on edge. On days like this, I am honest with my workers, acknowledging the elephant in the room. I tell the workers that we all know that the next few days are going to be rough, but if we work hard and take a deep breath every now and again, we will get through the situation fine. When the deadline passes and the mission has been accomplished, be sure to thank the workers. Sometimes this acknowledgment, both before and after the deadline, allows the workers to understand that management knows and appreciates what they are going through.
  6. Be firm. As boss there are situations you cannot tolerate when employees are having a conflict. Two examples of this are if, during a disagreement, an employee swears or threatens physical violence. As manager, you must step in right away and report the incident to human resources. Doing so may prevent workplace violence or employees' perception that they are working in an unsafe work environment.
  7. Have fun. Instead of focusing on the negative, which can turn into a cancer through a workplace, focus on the positive and the fun times. Many employees enjoy work and those they work with, so you have to accentuate the positive and remind employees of the good times when things are tough.
  8. Don't allow bullying. A toxic work environment can exist if people in the workplace are abusive. Calling people names, withholding opportunities, or just being mean are issues that often happen in a workplace. Of course, a manager should not engage in such conduct and should always try to prevent playing favorites. Just as important, a manager needs to know the temperament of her employees and workplace culture. When abuse or bullying is identified, a great manager finds a solution. A poor manager allows it to continue while hoping it will go away.
  9. Know when to praise or reprimand. A great manager knows he has to thank employees when they do a good job. Just showing up is not doing a good job. An inattentive employee during a changeover can injure others and cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage in a second. That is why it is so important to immediately acknowledge great work and immediately discuss poor performance. The failure to properly praise or reprimand can lead to significant conflict.