1 Keeping your job

It has never been easier to lose your job and, surely, there is nothing you can do to dodge the redundancy bullet if it has your name on it?

Trainer and Conference Speaker Frank Newberry has been researching the criteria some turfcare sector employers seem to be using to determine who they might make redundant.

His conclusion? Well, Frank suggests that if you strip away the five biggest factors, i.e. job performance, skills, qualifications, conduct and discipline, you are left with what underpins the development of these attributes, which is your attitude and disposition.

Your positive attitude and willingness to be flexible, and to help out and support others, is valued highly when skills and abilities are equal amongst candidates for redundancy.

Frank's research reinforces the advice he gives to his clients that both self-motivation and self-discipline are needed for success at work. One without the other is just not enough. Both need to be in place. Check out the facts (and the feelings) and see for yourself.


I was inspired to research this piece by Mike Gash's article 'Why Me?' on page 122 of the June-July 2009 edition of this magazine. Understandably, Mike found it very hard going through the process of redundancy, hence his comment "losing a job is traumatic" and his choice of title: "Why Me?".

FrankNewberry.jpgMike's words got me thinking about the processes recession-hit employers might be tempted to use to decide who they will keep and who they will let go. I started my research by texting a very difficult question to a number of turfcare professionals in management positions. I also spoke to people in the industry who have been made redundant. I was pleased and gratified by the many and varied responses I received*.

What criteria might you use to decide who to make redundant?

My difficult question was: If you had to make one of two equally skilled groundsmen or greenkeepers redundant, who were on the same wage, were the same age, had been working for you for the same period and had identical future prospects - what criteria might you use to decide who to make redundant?'

Now, as was pointed out to me immediately, in reality, no two people are the same, but comparisons will always be an option to help inform a redundancy decision and, digressing for a moment, as Sir John Fortescue said over five hundred years ago: 'Comparisons are odious'.

Comparisons continue, to this day, to cause strong, negative feelings within people. Why? Because someone usually ends up in a bad light compared to someone else. When one person loses his/her job and another does not, no end of reassuring words can change just how rejected one person will be feeling for maybe a long time to come.

75% of men think that they are 'better than' 75% of other men

Digressing a little further, let me insert another issue that could have some impact in this currently male-dominated profession. There has been recent research that suggests that 75% of men think that they are 'better than' 75% of other men. Oh really? Yes, it is strange, but it could well be true.

Now, as we all know, only 25% can ever be better than 75% of any total, but what if most males have a natural feeling of superiority over other males? What will happen when their tranquility is disturbed by the prospect of a redundancy procedure?

Well, I would expect fragile egos to crack, anxiety levels to rise and confidence and work performance to suffer. It could be enough to make anyone the prime candidate for the redundancy!

Responses to my tricky question were prompt and varied

Returning to the research; responses to my tricky question were prompt and varied, ranging from the blunt instrument of 'toss a coin' to the sharper edge of the dreaded assessments, calculations and consultations.

Here then is a rundown of the criteria some turfcare employers are using to determine who goes and who stays in their job. These are divided into:

• Twenty-four criteria that groundsmen and greenkeepers can influence positively in the workplace;

• Four criteria that would be harder to influence;

• Four criteria that are plainly random, plus one to help those who just want to 'get it over with'.

List 1: The ones we can influence to some extent (in alphabetical order)

1. Attendance Record**
2. Ambition (Evidence of)
3. Communication Skills ***
4. Conduct /Disciplinary Record**
5. Enthusiasm/Keenness/ Passion
6. Eye for detail and presentation
7. Family to support, wife and children, mortgage to pay
8. Flexibility (Evidence of)
9. Health Record**
10. Honesty and Trustworthiness (Evidence of)
11. How well they fit into the team/team player
12. Ideas they have to save money
13. Initiative (Evidence of)
14. Job Performance**
15. Man-management Skills***
16. Mechanical Skills e.g. vehicle or irrigation system maintenance, can operate grinder***
17. Positive attitude to the work/ Self Motivation/Commitment (Evidence of)
18. Punctuality/Timekeeping Record**
19. Relevant Experience**
20. Reliability (Evidence of)
21. Skills/qualifications/training**
22. Supportive of others (Evidence of)
23. Versatility (Evidence of)
24. Willingness to do overtime/put themselves out/go the extra mile
**Numbers 1, 4, 9, 14, 18, 19 and 21 seem to be the most likely to be looked at first when considering groundsmen and greenkeepers at all levels for retention or redundancy.
***Numbers 3, 15 and 16 could be considered next although, arguably, number 3 should be in the previous group for consideration.

List 2: The ones we have less influence over

1. Boss's preferred candidate
2. Cost of keeping the individual
3. Employment prospects elsewhere
4. Length of service i.e. "last in - first out"

List 3: The Random Approach - these four were actually suggested! Chelsea.jpg

1. Game of scissors, paper, rock
2. Toss a coin
3. Turn a playing card
4. Which football team they support (apparently Chelsea and Man Utd fans are at risk)

List 4: The 'Let's Get This Over With' Approach

1. A willingness to volunteer for redundancy (a short list this one!)

Please note that these lists do not necessarily include criteria contained in pre-existing formal agreements, negotiated between staff and management in many larger organisations.

Such criteria would be well known to the people who have secured such agreements, and it might well be something for you to consider when negotiating your package at the job offer stage with a smaller enterprise like a golf club or a leisure centre. You might also want to make redundancy criteria a feature of your next pay settlement, perhaps immediately or when the economy is starting to recover.

Processes and Procedures for You

A couple of my respondents were generous enough to send me procedural documents that include a schedule showing the stages of their redundancy process as well as the criteria they use and the weight or significance given to each one, e.g. Job Performance 30%, Initiative 10% and so on.

My respondents have kindly agreed to let me distribute copies to interested parties. If you are interested just visit my personal website which is: www.franknewberry.com, click first on the 'Contact' tab and then the 'Request Information' tab to make your request.

Action You Might Take

It can be clearly seen that there are a wide range of reasons employers can pick from in order to make the case for a redundancy. Some of these you can do something about, if you act quickly and preventatively. Others you are perhaps powerless to influence. We can all, at least, recognise the things we can do something about and take steps to try and secure our futures at this difficult time. Here are some of the suggestions that my research yielded:

1. Do some preventative work
If you have not already done so, consider checking what your employer is required to do by law when making people redundant - Pitchcare's and the Association's Legal Helplines, and the ACAS office, should be able to help you to get clarity.

2. Be suspicious
Look and listen carefully for hidden clues when your employer says things like 'your job is safe', or anything else that is relevant to your job security.

3. Ask for it in writing
If statements sound dodgy to you then ask your employer to put it in writing for you

4. Be Prepared
If your skills and abilities are in question, be prepared to back up your assertions with evidence that you meet the criteria to be retained. Again the Legal Helplines should help you to be prepared

5. Exchange Perceptions and Expectations
Consider having a 'heart-to-heart' with your boss or your employer, at which you share perceptions and expectations of each other at this difficult time. Make a record of what was shared and give your boss/employer a copy for approval. Make sure it gets approved!

6. Get yourself onto the Board
Make a case to get yourself on to the Board, or whatever body makes key decisions in your organisation (in some or any capacity). This will enable you to get an early warning of the potential for redundancies. You could then be in a position to ensure that the right decisions are made.

7. Build Better Relationships
Get off your backside (if you need to) and start getting to know your organisation's decision makers really well. Take an interest in their lives and become a friend to them. It is harder to make a friend redundant than someone who never speaks to you or does not seem to care about anything that is important to you.

8. Look for ways to bolster the 'Bottom Line'
Keep in touch with commercial developments in the turf care sector and suggest to management ways that income can be increased and savings made. Talk to your contacts and suppliers in the trade and ask them for ideas. Get everyone thinking the 'Kaizen' way i.e. 'Quality can never be too high and costs can never be too low'. Sooner or later someone will offer something better than your organisation for less money. Let that someone be you.

Good luck keeping your job!

*I am very grateful to the following people who kindly sent me information and/or gave me encouraging responses: Kerran Daly MG, Martin Forrester, Mike Gash, David Golding, Marcus Hamon, Tony Hawes, Peter Jones, Rosie McGilvray, Billy McMillan, Gordon Moir, Clive Osgood, Laurence Pithie MG, John R Ross, Lee Strutt MG, Paul Woodham and Paul Worster.

Frank has been coaching and training groundsmen and greenkeepers for over twenty years. If you need further help with communicating difficult decisions you can reach Frank through Pitchcare.com or via the contact tab on his personal website www.franknewberry.com

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