Retain staff through clear expectations and regular systems.
How do you maintain a team of trainers who are hardworking, client-focused, loyal and in sync with you and each other? Part of the answer lies in devising well-defined hiring and evaluation protocols and applying them consistently.
For over 14 years I have hired and reviewed employees, and 90% of the time it’s been great. Here are the hiring and evaluation systems that have worked for me. See how you can adapt them for your own needs.
I consider hiring and training to actually be phase one of the evaluation process. How do I figure out the starting salaries of new trainers? The same way I decide on raises during review time—using a point system. I base this point system on personal qualities, education, hands-on experience, continuing education and overall productivity. Extra incentives, such as a 401k or continuing education reimbursement, do not kick in until trainers have been with my company for 1 year. I ask new trainers to complete an hours and compensation form based on our interviews so I know they are clear about the hours they will work and how much I will pay them.
Once I hire new trainers, they go through phase two. This phase is a rigorous office training program that’s a full workday long. They must observe 6–10 sessions of their new co-workers and train all of these trainers. (I have a staff of eight; you might need to adjust this process if you manage a larger organization.) Once the new hires have been through the office training and the observation and training hours, they have one last session with me and then they’re ready to take on their own clientele. Assuming everything is going well, they know that we will meet in 3 months to evaluate performance, client satisfaction and feedback from co-workers. If they make it through the 3-month evaluation, they become official team players and are then in the maintenance phase, which is phase three.
With the solid systems we have in place, every trainer knows what to expect at review time. I conduct annual reviews, usually in August. Typically our summers slow down, and I like to get my staff excited about our fall rush. The way I lay out my review system turns out to be about a 3-week process.
Week 1: Observation. During the first week, I observe each trainer with one client or sometimes more clients, depending on the trainer. For the detailed form I use, see “Personal Trainer Evaluation Form” on page 8.
Week 2: Evaluation Forms. During the second week, I ask every trainer to evaluate both my performance and his own performance. (See “Trainer Self-Evaluation Form” on page 9.) I then go through the client files to make sure documentation is up-to-date and clear, client retention is high and feedback from clients is positive. For client retention numbers, I track new clients each month and at the end of the year to see how many are still with each trainer and how many have left. I track cancellations as well. Low retention or high cancellation numbers are a red flag for me.
Week 3: Actual One-on-One Review. I put the information I have gathered from the first 2 weeks into the trainers’ review files. I total the points based on observations, general performance questions and my survey of client files. From there, I refer back to the paperwork we filled out during hiring to help evaluate overall performance. Again, using my point system for evaluations will help determine the appropriate pay increase. How I pay my staff is determined by current market trends, and my pay raises average about 3%–5% annually.
One week after reviews, I enclose review confirmation forms along with payroll and ask the trainers to verify the changes made at their reviews. This process ensures that any pay changes, additional responsibilities and job updates are clearly understood. Trainers sign and date the forms and return them to me within a week. I then put them in the employee files.
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