B Y H E L E N VA N D E R B U R G
How to Obtain and Retain Group Fitness Instructors
Instructors are the key when it comes to delivering successful group exercise programs. What are you doing to hire and retain the best instructors?
Quality group fitness programming fulfills members' motivational needs and has proven itself time and again in clubs through high memberretention rates. What's the secret to offering classes that keep members coming back? Select and nurture the best group fitness instructors around--because in this way you control the quality of your product. In today's marketplace, the shortage of qualified instructors makes it difficult to fill a group exercise schedule. You want the most dynamic, innovative and qualified instructors, but how do you find them? It's not an easy task. But the time you invest in hiring quality instructors and the resources you spend on continued training will come back to you tenfold. If you develop a strategic plan and a clear hiring procedure to establish quality and decrease the risk of hiring under duress, you'll watch your group exercise programming become dynamic and profitable.
July-August 2001 IDEA HEALTH & FITNESS SOURCE
Picking Your Team: The Hiring Process
It is time to take control of your group exercise program! The process starts by hiring the right instructors. The following four steps will get you started.
Step One: Create a Mission Statement
Before you select your team, you need to determine the goals and objectives of your group exercise program. Is it your goal to have the most innovative classes, the most time-efficient sessions or the greatest variety of classes? Your program goals will be unique to your organization and must be communicated to and understood by existing staff and everyone you hire. Your club may have a mission statement, but does your group exercise department have one of its own? If not, develop one by asking your current instructors for their input, demonstrating that they are an important part of the team. Your instructors will feel a sense of ownership if asked to assist in creating the department's mission statement. To be effective, it should be clear and direct. For example, the group exercise mission statement at Heavens Fitness Limited in Calgary, Alberta, is "to provide cutting-edge programs and excellent customer service through a committed team of fitness professionals." Share your department's philosophy and mission statement with all potential instructors so they clearly understand your club's vision before they consider joining your team of instructors.
ers) who regularly participate in fitness classes are highly encouraged to become instructors by completing the Can-Fit-Pro certification. Like GoodLife, The Fitness Group does not pay for certification; however, the club does reward new instructors with free personal training sessions after they have completed the certification program. "We believe that employees who work for you in other capacities do so because they believe in the organization's vision, mission and motto," says Popowych. Be creative in your search for new instructors. For example, advertise open positions at dance studios, local colleges and universities; also target athletic teams and theater groups. To get the best instructors for your club, you must build a reputation for having high standards in management and product delivery. People are attracted to a winning team and will support a leader with a strong vision. Before you begin your search, know what type of instructors you want. Determine the minimum job requirements, such as certifications and experience, and the personality traits you are looking for. Then be ready to sell yourself. Share your vision and get the potential new instructors excited about joining your organization. Clear expectations and guidelines will also assist you during the interviewing process. Explain the audition procedure and train-
Step Two: Recruit Instructors
What "talent" will you scout? Where will you find new instructors? The toughest part of hiring today is finding great candidates. "Word-of-mouth advertising and a strong reputation for job satisfaction has led to our success in recruiting [and retaining] the best instructors," says Maureen Hagan, 1998 IDEA Program Director of the Year and director of fitness for the GoodLife Clubs, headquartered in London, Ontario. Adding new clubs and programs over the years has made it difficult for Hagan to keep up with staffing needs, but she hasn't had to look far for new instructors. "In order to meet our needs, we have recruited and trained some of our best instructors from our membership," explains Hagan. She recruits talented students from a variety of classes and encourages them to complete Can-Fit-Pro's base certification. GoodLife does not pay for this, but once the new instructors are certified, further in-house training is provided at no charge. Krista Popowych, program director at The Fitness Group in Vancouver, British Columbia, finds great instructors by hiring from within the company. For example, current staff members (front-desk employees, weight room attendants, personal train-
The fitness industry at large needs to find innovative ways to retain group fitness instructors. Staff retention, like member retention, should be a priority in every organization.
ing protocol to all candidates. Provide them with a copy of your class descriptions, dress code, music policies, performance review procedures and compensation criteria. To avoid conflicts and misunderstandings, be sure to share this information before you begin the training process.
Step Three: Hold Tryouts
Before you bring in potential instructors for a movement audition, invite them to experience your club's environment. Encourage
July-August 2001 IDEA HEALTH & FITNESS SOURCE
The Top 5 CostEffective Rewards
Julie McNeney, vice president of marketing at The Fitness Group in Vancouver, British Columbia, offers some creative, inexpensive rewards to recognize instructors: 1. complimentary accredited CECs for attending staff meetings 2. a 30 percent discount on pro shop items 3. complimentary club memberships for the instructors and their significant others 4. complimentary child care 5. discounts at various local stores
them to attend a variety of classes at different times of the day so they have a sense of what you look for from your instructors. At Heavens Fitness, we give candidates a free pass card, which allows them to attend 10 different classes on our group exercise schedule. We also ask candidates to record their observations and share these when they meet with the program director. Auditions at Heavens Fitness may be held one-on-one, or we may use a group format, depending on our needs. In a group audition, all potential candidates take part, and each person is asked to teach a portion of the workout. Two people--the program director and another staff member--evaluate the candidates. We use a standard checklist to evaluate each instructor's experience, class presentation, teaching skills, personality attributes, physical presence and class quality. We then provide feedback. The group format also allows us to view each candidate's interpersonal skills. At GoodLife Clubs, Hagan's hiring process consists of an interview and a practical demonstration, allowing prospective hires both to share their knowledge and to demonstrate their practical skills. "The majority of our hires are done one-on-one. [All candidates are asked] a set of interview questions that help the coordinator to identify the candidates' strengths and weaknesses and assess how their personal goals will work with our core values and company mission statement," explains Hagan. With a group exercise staff, as with any team, you need to have personnel ready to meet expected and unexpected staffing needs. Recruiting and collecting r
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