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The importance of recruiting and retaining talent in the fitness sector

He gives his advice on the importance of recruiting and retaining talent in the fitness sector and provides some tips on how to do it effectively.

What’s the big deal?

Businesses in the fitness sector often find themselves struggling for staff and desperate to find a long-term solution to recruitment. It is a widespread problem that has reached all corners of the sector, with many operators having been forced to either reduce their opening hours or, in some cases, close sites. And because staff members are the people who represent your values, deliver your customer experience and define the quality of your business to the outside world, for gyms and fitness clubs, where your team is directly engaging with clients and shaping their experience, hiring and retaining the right staff is crucial.

Recruiting gym staff can present several challenges. Without the right environment or incentives, staff turnover can be high, ultimately negatively impacting membership turnover. However, having a good team of instructors is essential for creating a positive atmosphere and community within a gym. At our gyms, we hope instructors stay for at least six months because the longer they are with us, the better for building a strong and stable team. Retaining staff can also be difficult, with reduced availability of casual workers due to the impact of Brexit and Covid-19. In fact, CIMSPA suggested 86 per cent of operators were forced to shut or partially shut facilities and suspend services in 2021 due to staff shortages, creating a cycle of poor staff retention and service for customers.

Tips for recruiting the right staff

Your staff are the face of your gym. They interact with your members and keep the gym in the best condition. Having good trainers on hand will create a good community and atmosphere. However, having bad ones can have a detrimental effect on your business. Here are three tips on what to look for in the recruitment process.

1. Look for passion

Recruiting gym staff who are passionate about their job can have numerous benefits for the gyms. Staff who are passionate about their work are more likely to provide a positive and engaging experience for gym members. They are also more likely to be knowledgeable about fitness and nutrition, which can provide useful advice and support to members.

Passionate staff are more likely to stay with an organisation for a longer period, reducing the cost and time associated with recruiting and training new staff. They are also more likely to perform well, take ownership of their responsibilities and take pride in the success of the gym. Passionate staff can bring positive and enthusiastic energy to the gym, creating a more enjoyable and motivating environment for members and other staff.

2. Focus on soft skills

For community-focused gyms like BFT, recruiting gym staff with good soft skills is just as important as considering their technical skills. These are personal attributes that enable individuals to interact effectively with others, such as communication, empathy, teamwork and problem-solving. There are several reasons why good soft skills are essential when recruiting gym staff.

Staff with excellent soft skills are more likely to create a positive member experience because they can communicate effectively with members, make them feel welcomed and valued, and provide personalised support and assistance. Hiring employees with good soft skills can also lead to better teamwork and collaboration among gym staff because they can communicate effectively, work through conflicts and support each other, leading to a more cohesive and productive team. Staff with positive relationships with their colleagues and managers will have higher job satisfaction.

3. Encourage employee referrals

Employee referrals can be an effective way to find qualified and motivated candidates. Encouraging your current staff to refer their friends and colleagues can help to create a pool of candidates who are already familiar with your gym’s culture and values. To incentivise referrals, consider offering bonuses or other rewards to employees whose referrals are hired and remain with the gym for a certain period of time. This can help to create a more engaged and loyal team while also filling job vacancies more quickly and efficiently.

Top tips for retaining staff

Once you have recruited the right staff, the next step is to keep them. High staff turnover rates can lead to a loss of expertise, lower productivity and increased recruitment costs. In the competitive gym industry, it is essential to prioritise staff retention to ensure the success and growth of the business. Here is my advice on how to retain your staff:

1. Provide opportunities for career growth

Providing opportunities for career growth is important for retaining staff, particularly those who are ambitious and looking to advance their careers. This includes offering career development plans, mentorship opportunities and the chance to take on new challenges and responsibilities. Why not set a list of KPIs for them to work towards and arrange a meeting every 90 days to set targets and discuss their progression? By investing your time and money into the growth and development of your staff, you can create a more engaged and motivated team while also building a stronger and more competitive community-focused business.

2. Create a positive work environment

Creating a positive work environment is a sure-fire way to boost staff retention. As the old saying goes, if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. So, I suggest making it your goal to instil a supportive and welcoming culture, offer ongoing training and development opportunities, and recognise and reward employee achievements to ensure your staff are happy to stick around. Why not create an employee of the month scheme or highlight your staff’s achievements on your gym’s social media? These may sound like small things, but they all go towards fostering a positive work environment which allows staff to feel valued and motivated, ultimately leading to increased job satisfaction and reduced staff turnover.

3. Listen to employee feedback

Your staff are on the front line every day, so listening to what they have to say is essential for retaining gym staff. By listening to employee feedback, you can demonstrate your commitment to creating a supportive and collaborative work environment while identifying improvement areas and enhancing employee satisfaction and engagement.

Having a team of skilled and motivated staff can create a positive member experience, foster a supportive work environment and drive business growth. So, by prioritising the recruitment and retention of talented staff, gym owners and managers will improve their business’ performance and reputation in the competitive fitness industry.

Header image: Cameron Falloon Founder and Joint CEO of Body Fit Training.

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