Part-Time Staff Hard to Manage? Learn How!

by Laura Williams on Oct 25, 2012

One of the most challenging aspects of fitness management is inspiring part-time staff to remain focused and invested. Many part-time fitness jobs are mundane, and even the most motivated staff member can feel unappreciated after folding endless stacks of towels or repeating the facility rules yet again. To avoid burnout and turnover—or even worse, dissension among the ranks—take the time to truly inspire your part-time staff. You won’t need to do much to see a difference, but it will require some planning and effort. Check out these tried-and-true methods.

Be Present and In Touch

My management career has landed me at four different facilities over the past 8 years. Each time, I’ve made an effort to “check in” with every single staff member. The number-one complaint I’ve heard about prior management is that the manager was out of touch. I’ve regularly heard, “He didn’t know what I did. He couldn’t have done my job if he tried. Then, he would make decisions that negatively affected my work or undermined the decisions I made based on the circumstances I was facing.” Ouch. Who wants to be that guy?

The fact is, you’re busy. You have much more on your plate as a manager than your front-line people know, but it’s not their job to understand what you’re dealing with. It’s their job to staff the floor, excel at customer service and help keep the facility clean. One of your primary duties is to make sure they feel supported. If they never see you, or if they feel that you’re out of touch with the reality of their jobs, it’s only a matter of time before their motivation fizzles.

So what’s the solution? Be present.

Even if the facility hours are long, plan your days so that you can physically interact with each member of your staff at least every few weeks. This may mean rolling out of bed at 5:00 AM some days, or staying up late so you can hang out with the night crew, but the effort will be worth it. Do not spend these extra hours holed up in your office. Get out on the floor, or work the front desk. Fold a few towels, wipe down machines and offer to answer the phones. Not only will your staff appreciate the fact that you’re pitching in; you’ll also model the behavior you expect from them, and they’ll learn to respect your knowledge.

Take an Interest

Depending on your facility, you may have two part-timers or 100 part-timers, but you can bet that all of of them want to feel that they’re important and they’re known to management. Here are some simple ways to make it easier:

  1. Before walking through your facility, review the staff schedule to see which employees are working so that you can call them by their names.
  2. Take just a few minutes with every staff member, and ask the following:
    • How is work going?
    • Have you run into any problems I can help with?
    • How are things with your (school, sports leagues, family, etc.)?
  3. Finish by telling employees how much you appreciate their work and that they can always stop by your office if they have ideas for improving the workplace.

In 5 minutes or less, you’ve shown that you know them, you’re interested in them and you appreciate their work and ideas. Isn’t that what every employee wants from a manager? When your employees feel that you care, they’ll be more likely to invest in their jobs and less likely to jump ship at the first hint of an opportunity elsewhere.

Delegate Wisely

Believe it or not, delegating more work to your part-time crew is an excellent way to inspire them. When you delegate an important task, you intimate that you trust the person’s judgment and ability to do a good job, which promotes confidence and pride. The problem is that managers often delegate tasks without considering employees’ strengths. For instance, if you delegate statistics reporting to someone who hates numbers, both you and your employee are bound to end up feeling frustrated. Truly successful managers match tasks with skills in a way that promotes success and inspiration. One of the benefits of being present and taking an interest in your part-time staff is that you start to see where they thrive.

For other strategies, please see “Inspiring Your Part-Time Staff” in the online IDEA Library or in the October 2012 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager.

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About the Author

Laura Williams IDEA Author/Presenter