Written by Dan Barker at Momentum Business Development
What is a gym without its people? As the manager/owner, you might be the driver, steering the car where it needs to go. But the people you bring onboard are the engine—they do the work to get your business from A to B and beyond. To drive fast and true, you need to invest in your team because excellent customer service and a quality in-person product will always be what sets gyms apart from the competition.
The risk of failing to invest in your people
Failing to invest in your employees does not necessarily mean your business will fall apart overnight and it is understandable that business owners or managers are looking hard at their books to get the greatest ROI in these present times. However, putting all the emphasis on the short-term return at the expense of long-term investment in their people will add additional stress and cost. Here is what you are in for if you don’t make that investment:
Decreased member confidence
When team members leave, they take the relationships they have built with your members with them. Rebuilding these relationships takes time and can lead to reducing member confidence if they see disengaged staff and a revolving door with comments like ’here’s another new trainer’.
A talent exodus
You want to hire and retain the best people for your gym. Disengaged team members are more likely to leave, taking institutional knowledge with them and you will incur costs replacing them. With engaged employees, not only are they more likely to stay but they will help recruit other top talent as well.
Increased hiring and onboarding costs
In addition to recruiting and training efforts, there are significant costs associated with turnover. For example, other staff having to pick up the slack and extra hours when an employee leaves. This can lead to greater stress, longer workdays/weekends, and eventual unhappiness if their efforts are not rewarded.
So, what does good look like?
See People as an asset
Your gym functions because it possesses several assets including the physical building, the gym kit, your brand, and the members. At the top you should put you and your team first in that list of assets and all your abilities to perform your roles successfully. This means that just like doing maintenance on your premises or investing in quality kit, you also need to look after your people as an essential component of the business. If something happens to the gym like broken kit, you wouldn’t ignore it, you would repair it. Likewise, if you or your team have needs, you need to make sure they are met which is good for the entire business.
Recruitment and onboarding
Proactively create a talent pipeline so you have the personnel available and up to speed by the time you need them in the business. In a competitive recruitment market being proactive here reduces the chances of you rushing the recruitment and on-boarding process and bringing someone in that does not fit your brand. If you do this then you have no right get frustrated if they don’t hit the ground running.
Understand how to attract the right people by establishing yourself with a credible employee brand and communicate the opportunity in the right places to the right audience.
Also, a welcoming systematic on-boarding process is critical in ensuring the new starter is set up to succeed, doesn’t feel overwhelmed and is engaged even before they start with you.
Offer productive feedback
While recognition bonuses and the occasional “great job” are important, regular constructive and developmental feedback can help your people grow. Feedback can be delivered both informally as situations arise and/or in a more structured manner, such as in regular one-on-ones and annual reviews.
However, feedback should not be all one way. Creating a feedback culture where your team can give you (the owner or manager) feedback puts you and your team members on an upward trajectory when it comes to development and performance. A culture that values high-quality conversations and makes communication and transparency part of your day-to-day functioning.
Receiving great feedback, both positive and constructive, will help you and your staff engage with their work and reinforce what they should be doing. Think about catching people doing things right!
Very few people are content to go into a job and stay in it without progressing, year after year. The best people are likely to be ambitious, enjoy a challenge, and will need to see a journey laid out for them. Professional development opportunities, an increase in responsibility over time, and the chance to progress into more senior positions are all part of this. Mapping out a personalised development pathway for your team is a great way to systemise this progress. Again, do not forget yourself here. You are arguably your business’ biggest asset and need ongoing investment to bring the highest return over time.
Emphasise work-life balance
Even when employees love their jobs, they need some time away to prevent burn out. A fair staff rota that allows your team some free time, holiday allowance, and a sense of community at work are all necessary to get high staff satisfaction and retention.
Marketing, sales and your sites are important. But none of this will amount to anything if you cannot give your members a top-notch training experience and excellent customer service that keeps them coming back.
Your staff are the foundation of making this a reality. Invest in your people, and great things will happen.