Is the sports industry facing a hiring / retention crisis?
In short, YES. The number of opportunities outside of sport, the impact of COVID on lifestyle choices, and the industry’s inability to scale and compete in terms of pay and expectations have made employee retention more difficult as well as the recruitment of new employees. While the effects and implications of the post-COVID era have been felt over the past year (and there have been some concessions – remote work, hybrid schedules, and new opportunities to retain the best and the brighter), wages and expectations have neither changed nor kept pace. It’s the failure of sports executives not to address pay and workload and it’s especially shocking given the myriad examples of Silicon Valley giants like Apple, Google, etc. the challenge of hiring not only through better wages, but also through creative and meaningful perks, including student loan relief, tuition credit and child care reimbursement.
In the case of the highly competitive Silicon Valley job market, which existed long before COVID, the benefits and incentives included: generous maternity (6 months) and paternity (3 months) leave; share allocations; fertility treatment allowances; on-site wellness courses and training facilities; tuition reimbursement programs; charitable contribution matches; concierge services (dry cleaning, car charging, trip planning); transportation to and from work; and food and drink provided on site.
Competition is fierce, especially in the service sector. You can’t blame recent graduates for doing the math.
At a trip to Seattle last month, I took this recruiting photo (right) posted to Dick’s Drive-in. That’s just under $ 40,000 per year for a 40-hour week plus perks, as opposed to an entry-level varsity track position – which can pay $ 32,000 in total and require significantly more time than 40 hours. per week. While I’m not saying people leave varsity athletics to work in a higher paying QSR (unless it’s Chick-fil-A), I’m saying at $ 32,000 and student debt they don’t not stay very long and that is a problem for the institution in question and the industry as a whole.
Candidates graduates with sports management and other business degrees who planned to work in sports choose to retire to pursue other opportunities that are less structured, better paid, and have lower expectations. Students have been told for years that the workweek in the sports industry can often exceed 60+ hours without overtime pay. Lower base salaries that often lead to monthly financial hardship and early exits from the sports industry are tied to the promise of upcoming commissions and bonuses. It is very common to work twice, most often as a waiter or bartender, as evening tips help alleviate the lack of cash. But the negatives I mentioned have always been there. So what has changed? A hot job market with little competition, and the likelihood of rapid promotion and attractive remuneration which can also allow remote working several days a week.
What can we do to attract entry-level talent and retain these talents as they develop and become even more desirable?
1. First, basic salaries must increase. Perhaps this is done for the sales staff by reducing commissions and providing more upfront income. An audit of wages in the market for comparable jobs in other industries could prove useful. Remember that after COVID, applicants must be convinced to work in sports. The days of accepting lower wages for the “privilege” of working in sport are fading away.
2. Significant benefits – maternity / paternity leave, assistance with student loans, and contributions to help offset childcare costs – are not only attractive for recruiting employees, but are also valuable assets for retaining employees.
3. Work schedules that are realistic and don’t humiliate employees who don’t come before the start of the day or who stay after the end. The problem here is that managers who “arrived” in this type of system must understand that these rules and expectations no longer apply and are in fact detrimental to today’s workforce.
4. Realistic expectations for work game nights. EVERYONE doesn’t have to be every game. Create a rotation to make sure everything is covered on game night and allow people who worked a game night to start later the next day.
5. Create a personal development plan that clearly articulates a career path and the expectations to promote. These young employees are criticized for wanting to progress too quickly. Maybe their expectations are unrealistic because they don’t have a roadmap.
In in the 1950s, Bill Veeck had a daycare in the stadium with the idea that parents would come to the stadium with young children. Fast forward 70 years and pioneered the idea of providing onsite child care for employees during the work day and also during games. Childcare authorization is much more restrictive than in the past, but wouldn’t it be worth considering and studying? Working parents attest that child care costs are a big expense and that the search for quality child care can be maddening. Consider: An on-site daycare eliminates the need to drop off and pick up before and after work; parents can watch their children during the work day, and quality, convenient and affordable care can be a huge draw in recruitment and retention. If the saying is true that the path to adulthood is through the child, that would be a perfect benefit for employees today.