Magazine article Workforce

Teeing off with the Right Employees

Magazine article Workforce

Teeing off with the Right Employees

Article excerpt

People are the most important asset, making HR the most important function no matter what the business. Find out the unique challenges faced by this HR leader and some strategies for handling universal HR issues.

Most of us only dream of an ideal job in an ideal setting. If we can get one of the two, we consider ourselves lucky. As human resources director at Pebble Beach Co. in Northern California, Susan Merfeld has found both. She enjoys applying her people skills at the renowned golf resort area.

What is your HR background?

I've always been in the resort industries. I was previously with Northstar Resort at Tahoe in Lake Tahoe, California as its director of HR. Northstar is a yearround destination resort on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. But my formal education is in elementary education; I studied to be a kindergarten teacher. When my husband took a part-time job as the editor of a local paper in Tahoe, we moved to that area. But teaching positions at that time were scarce. First I landed a job at Northstar as a payroll clerk. As the company added staff, I joined HR and have been in the field ever since.

How did you end up with this particular job?

I've been with the company for eight years. How it came about is that my husband was on a golfing vacation with his buddies at Pebble Beach. He saw a job posting and told me about it when he got home. I wasn't looking for a job then, but I made one phone call, and one thing led to another.

I first joined the company as its employee relations manager. Then I was given the opportunity to be promoted to employment manager, then human resources manager and most recently, as director of HR.

What are the biggest challenges of your industry?

Presently, for me, it's hiring and selection-although harnessing technology is a close second. Overall, we're very fortunate because our turnover is very low for the industry-around 18 percent. I would like to see it get even lower. My philosophy is that right hiring is the key to a company's success. It's important to hire individuals with the passion and energy to be in the hospitality, resort industry. Pebble Beach Co.'s jobs are pretty diverse in that we have employees in our two hotels, retail stores, restaurants, ecology department and forestry areas.

How is human resources viewed In your organization?

When I first joined the company, the department was very much a record keeper. HR planned the company picnics. The department has reached, thank goodness, to the point of reporting directly to the president, John Chadwell. He has given a lot of support to employee training and development. He was a former Disney Co. executive and strongly believes in training. So advocating training and development is a battle I didn't have to fight. In fact, Pebble Beach Co. was fortunate to receive an Employment Training Program (ETP) grant from the state of California. It's a generous program that supports and funds training for private employers. The company received a grant of more than a half-million dollars. It allowed HR to open Pebble Beach University (PBL) and focus on skills training and competencies, and develop future jobs.

Can you tell me more about PBU?

The university provides an opportunity for managers and hourly employees to receive training. All managers, for example, go through a core leadership program. They're given a chance to select electives that enhance their skills, developing them for future opportunities. Hourly employees also can take a variety of classes on topics such as company culture, values and traditions, teambuilding, conflict resolution and computer training. …

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