Guiding New Instructors
Generation Group XYZ: Maureen Hagan, PT, 2006 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year, has the finer points of mentor program administration down to a science.
As vice president of GoodLife Fitness clubs in Canada, Maureen “Mo” Hagan, PT, still teaches group fitness, inspiring 200 participants per week in her classes. She also travels to several new club openings a year, introducing hundreds of members to group fitness programs. She combines her passion for group exercise and her interest in growing the fitness industry with her business savvy to create successful mentor programs that serve as a feeder system for GoodLife.
Please share some details about your mentor program.
The GoodLife Fitness mentorship program (also know as the “buddy system”) runs at the club level, is overseen by a “cluster” manager and is designed to support both new and (newly trained) veteran instructors. This buddy system helps orientate or “induct” instructors to the club within their first 2–4 weeks. Instructors who are brand-new to teaching and who have recently completed a fitness instructor certification with Can-Fit-Pro may remain with a buddy longer than the 2- to 4-week orientation process until they successfully complete their practical assessments.
Was your program created out of need or was it more entrepreneurial? What have been the biggest challenges?
We created it out of need to help support instructors in their orientation process and to fill a gap that exists within our management structure. A regional manager may oversee up to eight clubs and 150 instructors. This makes it difficult for the manager to spend quality time with a new hire or newly trained instructor. We boast a 94%–95% instructor retention rate, which we believe is significant and relative to an effective orientation and training system.
The biggest challenge we face is standardizing the quality of mentorship. We have more than 150 official team leaders who oversee specific instructor teams within a region. They act as the “head mentors” for those programs, and their role is to ensure that each newly trained instructor (novice or veteran) is assigned a buddy and is held accountable for meeting teaching and training expectations.
Do you offer any type of compensation for mentorees? What about mentors?
Mentors receive branded-program clothing and “team leader” apparel, a complimentary registration to the Can-Fit-Pro conference, rebates on their Les Mills quarterly releases (about a $250 value per year) and reward dollars throughout the year for completing specific goals and objectives. It is an investment of between $250 and $500 per year per team leader.
Instructors who are assigned new hires or trainees also receive recognition—they have the opportunity to be selected instructor of the month. Their effectiveness as mentors (among other criteria) also makes them eligible for “Instructor of the Year.” Most mentor instructors, including myself, enjoy assisting, educating, guiding and training others to become solid instructors. I describe mentoring as “paying it forward” to the up-and-coming instructors.
Mentorees do not receive compensation during their orientation process, nor are they paid for team-teaching with their mentor. They are paid a flat hourly rate for attending team or staff meetings and program practices. This pertains to all instructors, and the amount is $10 per hour for a maximum of 2 hours per meeting or practice.
Do you require some sort of financial or time commitment from mentorees? What about exclusivity or long-term loyalty?
Mentorees sign an employment contract before they begin any aspect of a mentoring or orientation process. All instructors are hired exclusively to GoodLife and agree to teach a minimum of two classes per week as a new hire. All new employees are hired on a 3-month probationary period and are not guaranteed classes until they meet expectations.
Veteran instructors who train in a new program are required to work under a mentor for a specific period of time (or number of classes) following training until they are ready to be assessed by video submission. These instructors, who may be regularly scheduled and paid instructors on the staff, are not compensated for being mentored in this new program. Mentorees are not guaranteed a class or long-term commitment. They must perform well and meet all expectations. Once mentorees achieve key performance indicators, they may be rewarded with a raise or other incentives.
If your mentoring program focuses mainly on new instructors, is there a component that focuses on class design and format?
Since our mentoring program focuses on both new hires and prechoreographed or GoodLife-branded programs, we focus on outcome-related training and evaluation-related objectives that are specifically outlined from the start. New hires receive an orientation manual with checklists and assignments to complete within specified periods of time during the first 4–6 weeks of the mentorship. Instructors who are learning to teach a new program receive similar training. Both groups receive evaluations (verbal and written).
Mentorees are therefore required to learn to teach specific programs, to reach certain expectations that qualify them for certification and to meet GoodLife standards as an exclusive associate. For example, mentorees learn how to meet and greet members and visitors and how to ask members about specific needs and goals. Instructors who are already teaching on the schedule have the opportunity to choose the program(s) they wish to teach.
Do you offer help (financial or otherwise) with certification training? Why or why not?
We pay about 75% of all costs associated with training. If an instructor is a new hire and has not yet completed the 3-month probationary period, we do not pay. The instructor pays and receives a rebate on the training only after successfully passing the training, becoming certified and teaching regularly on the schedule (at least once per week). We believe this demonstrates commitment to our instructors in exchange for their exclusive commitment to GoodLife. We also reward all instructors with a rebate on the training tools they purchase throughout the year, and we provide additional discounts to attend conferences. Instructors have the opportunity to be re-evaluated once a year for a financial raise based on achieving additional certifications.
What advice can you offer for other group exercise managers who are thinking about starting a mentorship program?
Do not select mentors for their seniority or number of years they’ve been teaching. This does not guarantee or qualify them as good or effective mentors. Ensure that mentors uphold the company culture and core values and follow all company policies and procedures. A mentor is not just your best or most popular instructor. In fact, some of our best mentors and team leaders are newer, less experienced instructors who possess the coaching, mentoring, leadership and organizational skills it takes to be effective.
Reward mentors for the quality of their mentorship, not for the time they invest. This includes incentives for helping a mentoree achieve certain outcomes (e.g., becoming a successful new hire, completing the orientation process ahead of deadline, etc.). This reward can be many things other than money. Ask mentors how they would like to be recognized.
SIDEBAR: What Is a Mentor?
Sandy Gribbon, regional “Group EXercise” manager for GoodLife Fitness Clubs, used the following acronym in her team training:
A M.E.N.T.O.R. is someone who
Educates and inspires
Trainee instructors to take
Ownership of their own
Role as educators and leaders.
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