Do your staff feel appreciated? How to Improve retention with Employee Appreciation Week.

Do your staff feel appreciated? How to Improve retention with Employee Appreciation Week.

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Like many entrepreneurs, boutique fitness and gym owners are facing a staffing shortage. We've noticed an influx of staffing questions from our studio community, so whether you're just beginning to build your staffing culture or you've had your studio for years, it's time to prioritize retention and staff appreciation.

While big gestures won't make up for more significant work woes like underpayment or irregular scheduling, occasional surprises showing your employees you are committed to celebrating them contribute to a more positive culture. 

What is Employee Appreciation Week?

Employee appreciation week for your boutique fitness studio's trainers, teachers, and staff will look different than a neighboring studio based on your specific culture. Still, the premise is the same: dedicate an entire week to demonstrating that your staff is valued and essential to your gym. If this is your first appreciation week, pick and choose from the components below and fine-tune the following years based on feedback.

The Details:

When:

Usually, events take place Monday-Friday or Saturday, but you may start with an appreciation weekend if you're a small studio. Employee appreciation week can be whenever your schedule permits. Plan ahead to find a time when all your staff is present, and your studio calendar is quiet. An off-peak time will allow you to focus entirely on your employees, so you probably won't want to choose January or September if your studio follows an industry-typical cycle. 

Where:

Like any campaign, this event will take place across multiple platforms in a multi-faceted approach. The goal is to share your appreciation with the world, so use your studio, email list, and social media to spread your message. 

How: 

Let's break down events and activities based on location and platform. 

Social Media: 

Teacher Takeover

True, this involves some work on your staff's part, but it boosts engagement, excitement, and (bonus) your algorithm. Here's how we've implemented takeover in the past:

  1. Send out a staff signup sheet so each teacher can sign up for a day to take over your studio's Instagram stories. 
  2. The night before, post a baby photo of your teacher and let your clients guess who they'll spend the day with. 
  3. The next morning, introduce the teacher of the day with a current photo and a quick Q&A caption such as:
  • Favorite modality to teach and take?
  • Favorite song to teach to?
  • What athleisure wear brand are you addicted to?
  • What do you love about teaching at X studio?
  • What's your funniest/most embarrassing/most memorable moment while teaching?
  • Any other questions that will interest your clients 

4. Once they're revealed, your teacher can share as much or as little as they'd like. Common client favorites are:

  • Meals (it's surprisingly requested- what do your teachers eat to fuel for classes?)
  • Pets and family members
  • Personal workout routines
  • Class curriculum planning process
  • Day-to-day activities show behind-the-scenes for clients to feel like a fly on the wall. 

You may have teachers who don't feel comfortable sharing much about their personal life, and that's okay. The more they share, the more clients will connect with them, but in the end, this is meant to build studio member-to-teacher relationships, not embarrass your staff. 

Each instructor's takeover day can also be their digital share day. Using your social media or your email account, that may include:

  • “Five things we love about ____teacher X ___” 
  • Testimonials and quotes about that teacher from the clients
  • The number of classes taught/taken by that instructor

You can double-dip each social media post by copying them into Canva to post on the studio walls or bulletin board. If you're not doing a teacher takeover or prefer to post all of your teachers on the same day, that's fine too. Try not to get bogged down in the particulars at the expense of the implementation.

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In Studio:

Here is why it's important to know each teacher's individual appreciation language because what one teacher finds flattering may make another anxious. Choose activities and gestures based on what makes each instructor feel valued, and try to spread events out each day so you can fill a week.

Teacher Treats: Their favorite coffee and muffin after class or a smoothie beforehand are both easy but caring ways to kick off appreciation week. 

Goodie Bags: Get creative with your sponsors. Ask local business partners if they would be willing to donate discount cards if your budget is tight. Otherwise, collect hair ties, grip socks, a massage certificate, water bottles, etc., that you know your teachers will use and like. 

Studio Swag: Rather than picking something that hasn't sold off your retail racks, plan ahead and order special teacher-only tanks or sweatshirts that your teachers will want to wear. 

PDA: Shout it from the rafters (literally). Hang a "we love our teachers" banner outside, put up a poster, or tape up individual 8.5" x 11" cardstock or small blank canvases on the wall for each gym staff member so clients can write what they love about that instructor. 

Thank You Note: Save a heartfelt thank you written by you to close out the week, but don't forget one from your clients. If you have a desk, leave a card for each instructor and ask clients to sign or write a short thank you note. Your teachers likely choose fitness instruction because they want to make a difference; this is the perfect opportunity to show them they do. 

Out of the Studio:

If your budget and schedule allow, an out-of-studio bonding experience goes a long way toward forging community among your staff. Your field trip will depend on the time of year, expense, and the size of your gym's staff. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Movie night: put a projector up on your lawn, take over your living room, or rent out a theater. The objective is more than the movie, however. You want your staff mingling beforehand, sharing treats, and getting to know each other. 
  • Nail salons allow for communication, won't cost you an absolute fortune, and are usually appreciated (but make sure your staff is into it). 
  • Swap grip socks for heels and go out to dinner. This one will cost you more, so you'll need to budget for it. It's a popular gesture since dressing up often denotes a "special event," and it's overtly appreciative.
  • If a formal dinner isn't in the cards or doesn't fit your studio vibe, consider a picnic (catered or informal), a hike, or a day at the beach.

When planning your teacher appreciation week for your gym or boutique studio, remember that the most important part is that your staff feel noticed and valued. Have fun appreciating your studio VIPs, and don't forget to share each component on social media to spread the culture of appreciation. 

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About the author:

Niki Riga
Industry Expert
Limitless Studio

Niki has been a client, a studio owner, and a coach in boutique fitness for over a decade, and she can’t think of an industry she'd rather be in. Her favorite part about coaching and studio ownership are the same: she loves supporting clients as they push past their limits and achieve their goals. Niki became a coach because she was regularly asked, “how did you do that!?” by other studio owners who were drowning in the day-to-day responsibilities of business ownership but didn’t have the support to grow their studio to its potential. She created Limitless Studio to partner with owners who have a vision for their business and are ready to implement systems to build the studio of their dreams.