Most people would agree that success at the workplace is just as much or more about relationships as it is about a person’s ability to get the job done. Just as it has been documented that our society is less involved in community based activities, it could be argued that a similar trend has occurred at the workplace. You are as likely to know as much about a fellow cubicle worker as you are about the person that lives in the apartment across the hall or the neighbor down the street. Getting to know your fellow workers can lead to better communication at work which, in turn, results in greater productivity and job satisfaction. You win, your co-workers win and your company wins. It’s a win-win-win situation. With this in mind, it makes sense that companies might also be interested in encouraging or even leading the charge when it comes to setting up a corporate golf league.
Why golf? Golf is a unique activity in that it combines so many benefits. In addition to answering why you might consider golf to be a useful corporate tool, let’s also look at the Who, Where, What, When and How aspects of golf.
- Who can play golf? In my mind, one of the best things about golf is that it is inclusive in nature. It’s for everyone. In the corporate context, that means that corporate golf leagues can easily be made up of males and females, pros and amateurs, and can include workers from every rung of the corporate ladder. Golf lends itself to big groups, as well as small. Furthermore, even if a particular corporate golf league is rather large, you still play and interact with a small group of people as you play your round. A golf league can also be structured so that those pairings change and rotate from round to round which encourages a wider interaction among co-workers. Golf is the great equalizer. Status means little when you tee it up.
- Where – the great outdoors. Since most corporate workers spend their days couped up indoors, what could be better than to get outside to enjoy a round of golf. Golf courses are often some of the most scenic outdoor locations with beautiful landscaping, as well as groomed fairways and putting greens. While carts are always an option, I prefer walking since I, like many others, sit on my rump for most of the day.
- What – the mysterious game of golf. Just when you think you’ve mastered it, the joke’s on you. How many times have you shot a wonderful round of golf (or even just a couple of good holes) and started to think to yourself – this isn’t so difficult just to turn around the next time out and seemly hit every tree on the course. Even though golf can be maddening at times, it is a game that requires focus, strategy and lots of practice to become even an average player. That being said, it does not preclude those of us hackers (me included) from having a blast even if that means hitting more trees than fairways. There are also so many different variations of golf that it can be tailored to best meet the requirements of any particular league. For example, leagues with a wide range of skill levels may want to play a version such as Scramble or Best Ball which focuses more on the team than on the play of each individual golfer.
- When – Needless to say, golf can be played from dusk till dawn and, in some places, even at night. Some golfers are even crazy enough to play polar golf during the winter months. Even if you’re not that crazy, you can enjoy a round of golf during the colder months by using simulators that have become popular at numerous indoor locations.
- How do you go about creating and managing a corporate golf league. This first place to go would be to the U.S. Golf Association’s website (www.usga.org). Managing a golf league can be a lot of work and can take some of the fun out of playing golf. There are services online that can do most of the heavy lifting for you. One such service that attracts many corporate, as well as other golf leagues is netGolfLeague (www.netgolfleague.com).
What benefits can this unique activity bring to the corporate world?
- Breaks down barriers and builds trust and communication – Being inclusive, golf gives co-workers a context in which to level the field. Workers (men and women) from top management down can share in the golf experience which promises to include much fun, laughter, and inevitable heartache. Shared emotional experiences can lead to greater and better communication among co-workers; they aren’t as hesitant to contact each other to work issues out. Greater communication and cooperation can lead to tremendous gains in productivity, especially as it can often affect the greater corporate culture by increasing energy and team building across the company. The other important factor that is strengthened is the trust factor. As Charles Handy stated in The Hungry Spirit, “There is no such thing as blind trust. You tend to trust those whom you know well” (The Hungry Spirit).
- Greater Job Retention – Based on research done by the Gallup organization, people are less likely to leave a job where they have lots of friends. According to Susan Heathfield, a management consultant, “People leave managers and supervisors more often than they leave companies or jobs” (The Bottom Line for Employee Retention <http://humanresources.about.com/od/retention/a/manager_role.htm>). The conclusion is that relationships matter whether they are between employees and managers or among employees. Better relationships lead to happier employees. Happy employees are more productive and creative and can ultimately lead to a boost in the bottom line.
- Health benefits – Being an activity that takes place outdoors over long distances, golfing encourages exercise. Of course, the benefits are much greater if you walk instead of using a cart. It has been proved that walking is a great and low impact way of staying in shape and maintaining one’s health. Beyond the physical benefits, getting out of the office/cubicle and into a beautiful outdoor setting can help you re-energize mentally. Moreover, the strengthening of relationships at work can lower stress levels during the day. Needless to say, healthier employees mean less sick days and lower health care costs for both employees and their company.
- Knowledge sharing and problem-solving – The golf course is an environment that is conducive to solving workplace issues. Leaving the stressful environment of the office and getting outside to do some physical activity can get the creative and problem-solving juices flowing. Just as people have some of their best ideas in the shower or on the road, the golf course can also be fertile ground for the germination of ideas. The act of focusing on something other than work can oftentimes allow the mind to counter-intuitively work on work.
- Boost in the Bottom Line – Happy + Healthy + Motivated + Experienced Employees = Better Bottom Line.
Much of the success of a business rests on the quality of people that are employed there along with how well those people work with one another. The nature of golf encourages relationship building which leads to a myriad of benefits at work – greater communication, trust and motivation along with healthier employees both physically and mentally. By taking the lead in creating a corporate golf league, a company can create a situation that is beneficial to everyone involved. The company ends up with happier, healthier and more productive employees that work better together, are less likely to leave and feel like they are part of a team. Employees that participate have a chance to get to know their co-workers better in a less stressful and fun environment that can make daily work more rewarding and enjoyable.