Seven Questions to Keep Your Gym Staff Happy and Engaged

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Seven Questions to Keep Your Gym Staff Happy and Engaged

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Boutique fitness and gym owners have their hands full heading into fall. If it was a long summer for your business, you're probably looking forward to the return of school, which marks the return of busy parents to your gym. There's a lot to do to prepare for an influx of clients, but while planning your challenges, open houses, and schedule, don't forget about intentionally retaining your staff.

We've been receiving a lot of questions about staff engagement lately, and it's no surprise. With phrases like "quiet quitting" and "the great resignation/reorganization" blaring through news channels, keeping your staff happy and committed is a topic no studio is ignoring. 

As a service provider, your gym is only as strong as your teachers and desk team- which includes your own buy-in and burnout, as well. Whether your studio employs 20+ people or you're a one-(wo)man show, it's a great time to check in to your studio's culture to ensure sure it encourages engagement and longevity. 

What makes employees stay?

If you Google that question, nearly two billion articles come up. There is no magic formula that guarantees an employee will stay happily committed at your gym for years to come, but there are ways you can increase your chances of a long-term team. 

Survey Your Staff

Your first step for any new initiative is almost always to start with a survey. "Don't guess, ask" is an excellent quote to remember that it's much more effective to ask your intended audience what they need rather than guess and risk spending effort and money ineffectively. Begin your culture of engagement by asking your staff the following questions:

  1. What makes you feel appreciated?
  2. What motivates you to come to work each day?
  3. What is your favorite part about working at our studio?
  4. What could we do better?
  5. What do you hope to achieve in your fitness career? How can we help you?
  6. What activities would you like to do as a team?
  7. What are your tee shirt size and coffee order?

Let's break each question to illustrate why they're necessary.

"What makes you feel appreciated?"

Knowing each employee's language of appreciation makes everyone's job easier and more enjoyable- yours included. One teacher may love a public display if you brought treats into class on their work anniversary and celebrated with a round of applause. That may be another teacher's nightmare- she may prefer a personal hand-written note and a raise. 

Let's say you give an instructor a raise, but she teaches fitness as a hobby in addition to her full-time job. Now you're spending more on payroll, but she still doesn't feel admired. If you show recognition in a way that doesn't resonate with each individual staff member, you could be speaking an entirely different language, which eventually leads to disconnect and mutual frustration. 

Don't guess. Ask your employee what makes them feel valued so you can speak their language. Need more on this topic? This book is an incredible resource. 

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"What motivates you to come to work each day?"

It's true that work isn't always fun, but if you know what motivates your employees, you can help foster an environment that provides the right kind of inspiration. Sure, the paycheck is a big reason why most of us clock in, but what else do they hope to get out of the job? Do they love interacting with the clients? Working out? The freedom to design their class? This question is important for new hires, but it's never too late to ask if you don't know your current teachers' motivations.

"What is your favorite part about working at our studio?" and "what could we do better?"

Both questions are crucial in any survey since you want to accentuate what your employees like about your studio culture and improve the parts they don't. You'll want to include your clients; their feedback is also valuable and should be implemented to shape your company's atmosphere. Once you collect answers, try to take action right away to show your staff that you value their feedback.

"What do you hope to achieve in your fitness career? How can we help you?"

Surveys have shown that continued education is essential for job satisfaction, especially if you have a Gen Z or Millenial staff. Training is an investment, and it's one you can make in your employees to improve both their buy-in and their long-term retention in your studio. Certifications, ACE credits, expert-led workshops, and sales trainings are all learning opportunities your staff benefit from while improving your studio's competitiveness. Ask what interests your staff so you can bring pros or offer scholarships for their continued education.

"What activities would you like to do as a team?"

We often hear, "how do you encourage teachers to sub for each other?" and the truth is, it starts with camaraderie. If you hope your staff will cover for each other, they first need to know (and hopefully like) each other. There are limited opportunities for teachers to spend quality time together during scheduled classes, so build it into your culture. Ask your staff what they'd like to do as a team, but here are a few ideas to start you off:

  • BBQ/picnics/pool parties/beach parties
  • Catered dinner at the studio or dinner out at a restaurant. If that's not in the budget, plan a potluck at your house where everyone brings their favorite dish
  • Apple, pumpkin, or berry picking, depending on the season.
  • Movie night at someone's house or an apartment clubhouse (or a projector at the studio, BYO yoga bolster)
  • Take a fitness class together. You can teach, split it into sections where everyone teaches their favorite part, or go to a class outside everyone's routine
  • Pumpkin carving, gift-wrapping, or cookie decorating parties
  • Head to a winery or brewery and play (fun) get-to-know-you games
  • Paint nights- some companies will even come to your studio
  • Museum tours
  • Escape parties, axe throwing, or similar team-building activities

"What is your tee shirt size and coffee order?"

Most people love surprise gifts, and it's a nice gesture that won't cost you much. Knowing your employees' coffee preferences is an easy way to make someone's day when you spontaneously drop their favorite drink at the desk for your teacher to find on their way out of class. It's effortless and promotes a culture of appreciation. 

Build Your Foundation First

At the end of the day, building a culture that celebrates your staff is more than just perks. When surveyed, most employees look for:

  1. Effective communication- Do you deliver clear upfront expectations and feedback 
  2. Reliable, consistent scheduling 
  3. Compensation that reflects their skill and commitment. A surprise coffee won't make up for a wage that doesn't pay rent. 
  4. Flexibility- many of your staff members are likely part-time employees with other commitments. A little flexibility goes a long way toward maintaining staff relationships.
  5. Positive work environment. Do you look for the good and share it with others? If you're struggling with challenging employees, pointing out the good you see can lift morale and improve collaboration. 
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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.