Six Ways to Improve Staff Effectiveness and Retention in your Gym

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Six Ways to Improve Staff Effectiveness and Retention in your Gym

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You have clear goals for your boutique fitness studio, and you’ve already put the work in to grow your gym into your dream business. Maybe you’ve been building your procedures solo until now to make them perfect, or you’ve been struggling to hire and retain quality employees. If you’re ready for your staff to buy-in to your vision and happily stay long term, you’ll need to share your goals, expectations, and plans with them to take your boutique gym to the next level. 

Set Clear Expectations

You’ve likely held a job where you weren’t sure what the role was. Surveys show that ambiguity decreases job satisfaction, so while you want to leave plenty of room for employees to be creative, it’s essential that you give them the tools to be successful. 

When you hire a new staff member, ensure their contract and handbook state their specific job requirements, including:

  • When should they arrive to teach classes?
  • What steps do they follow to prepare the studio for clients (i.e. prepare a 60-minute playlist with clean music at 135BPM, set the temperature to 70 degrees, etc.)
  • Do they perform client sales, or is there a desk staff? If it’s the teacher, how do they perform basic functions?
  • How do they submit their hours, and when can they expect to be paid each month?

It may seem like overkill, but a comprehensive handbook can mitigate future misunderstandings and help your teacher meet your expectations. 

Train Your Employees

As a fitness owner, you’ll need to go beyond describing the expectation to standardize gym operations; you’ll also need to teach your staff how to fulfill their duties. Proactively build your employee training program so that you don’t need to recreate your procedure each time. 

Your program can be as simple as a checklist that you print out and go walkthrough or as high-tech as an online training module with homework. As long as your employee is comfortable with the training method and can learn how to do their job effectively, you can format your specific type of training however best fits your studio.

Check-In and Offer Feedback

If you want your staff to buy into a company culture that encourages striving and reciprocal feedback, you’ll need to embody both. Ask your team how you can support them and be open to receiving feedback from others. Take their classes regularly and invite them to take yours. Offer actionable suggestions so they can improve while also praising progress.

Seventy-five percent of surveyed employees reported that their managers didn’t meet their feedback expectations. Your training program doesn’t end when the checklist is completed. Pre-schedule 30, 60, or 90-day increments to check in and offer feedback and ensure your employees feel supported and know where to turn if they need help.

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Invest in Your Staff

It is significantly easier to create a culture of committed improvement if you’re also investing in your staff’s personal and career development. It doesn’t need to be expensive. Although you’ll want some of your training to be fitness-related (like workshops that count for ACE continuing education hours), think outside the fitness industry to build a robust training program for your staff. 

Find local partners who will share about topics that matter to your staff like journaling and meditation, goal achievement, nutrition, meal planning, sleep improvement, rock taping, and public speaking- the options are limitless. Survey your staff to learn what they’d like to learn and consider tacking your team training onto a continuing education workshop.   

No budget for outside partners? You can still create a fun training opportunity that your staff will actually want to attend. “Potluck and Practice” or order snacks and drinks to show your team you care about creating a positive learning experience, not just mandatory training compliance.

Role-Play to Buy-In

You’ve laid out the information, set the tone, and prepared your staff. It’s time to take the material from theory to application. Role-playing is no one’s favorite activity, but studies show that role-playing increases employee self-confidence and efficacy when done effectively. Ensure your staff has the skills and practice to tackle tricky topics such as:

  • Sell a membership
  • Conduct a new client tour
  • Deal with a difficult cancelation request
  • Conduct your studio’s ideal client flow
  • Perform hands-on adjustments while teaching if applicable
  • Anything that sets your fitness studio apart from the competition

Diligently plan for your staff role-plays, especially if your business is new to interactive practicing. In order to guide your team, work yourself through the following: 

  • Pre-plan- choose scenarios that your staff will need to master and think through any additional props or information you’ll need to provide so they can be successful.
  • Go first- No one wants to feel silly, so take the edge off by going first and showing what a successful role-play looks like.
  • Switch roles- Break your staff into two groups and take turns being the client and the teacher, so everyone has a chance to learn and observe.
  • Pause and replay- Build in a panic button, so your staff can get help instead of stumbling through to the end. If it’s not working, pause, reset and try again.

Incentivize What You Want to Optimize

Show your staff what you would like them to focus on by offering incentives, so they feel the compensation matches your handbook. For example, if you would like your employees to bring their friends to class and share on their personal social media, offer a commission for each client who converts. If you require your staff to attend trainings, compensate them for their time. 

Incentives can be more than cash. Days off, complimentary workshops or continuing education, coffee gift cards, and shoutouts in the newsletter can all show your instructors that you noticed they rose to the expectation and you value their effort.  

Remember that your goal is to cultivate a growth mindset in your business, not squash individuality. If your employees feel like you have their interests at heart in addition to your studio’s, they will be more likely to give their best and stay long-term.

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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.