Performance management offers a great opportunity to tell your fitness staff how much you appreciate their work—and to show them areas where they can become even better.

The anchor of performance management is a credible performance review. Your people need to be able to trust that your review of them accurately summarizes their skills, talents and opportunities for improvement. To build that trust, a performance review needs metrics that tell people how they are doing in each phase of their job.

Metrics have two parts: a score and a skill area. If you identify all the most important tasks your people do and score them (say, on a scale of 1–5) on each task, you can add up their scores to get data that quantifies the qualities of your staff.

It’s a cinch to create metrics in your own area of expertise; if you rose to management out of the group trainer ranks, you know how to assess your group trainers. But what about the mind-body experts on your staff? How do you assess somebody’s skill at yoga or tai chi if you’re new to management or you have very little mind-body training? How can you create realistic and fair metrics for all your staff?

This two-part series is designed to help you with this task. With a little research and a good grounding in the fundamentals of creating effective performance reviews, you can tailor your reviews to the needs of all the specialists on your staff. Part One of this series explains how to get started.

Recognize the Value of Effective Performance Reviews

Reviews are a critical component of performance management, and they can play a key role in your company’s success. A review that is done well helps you accomplish the following:

  1. Increase employee motivation, self-esteem and morale. Recognizing people’s successes stimulates their motivation and improves their productivity. Giving instructors high ratings for creative, challenging workouts will encourage them to keep up the good work. An employee recognition survey conducted by Globoforce (2012) found that “82% of employees said being recognized actually motivated them in their jobs.”
  2. Improve communication between manager and instructors. Most managers don’t see every instructor regularly. Performance meetings are a great way to reconnect with instructors and maintain constructive, trusting relationships. The review can reveal job satisfaction levels and job-related likes, challenges, aspirations, wants and needs. In addition, your employees will better understand your expectations for job performance.
  3. Clarify understanding of job descriptions and roles. Depending on facility size, you may manage anywhere from five to 40 instructors. Reviews let you observe, ask questions and clearly define the exact role of each instructor.
  4. Differentiate good from average. Reviewing several instructors helps you separate the great performers from the good and the average. When your instructors were hired, they all looked good on paper and performed a nice interview—or they wouldn’t be on your staff. However, great instructing is so much more than a lengthy list of certifications. When an instructor’s performance isn’t consistently up to par, you should address the problem in a timely manner for the good of the entire program.

How to Review Areas Outside Your Expertise

It’s nearly impossible for multipurpose facility managers or even program directors to have in-depth knowledge of every program and class they support. Mind-body staff can be the most difficult to review, because each mind-body format requires instructors to obtain a specialty certification. A manager’s background in yoga, for instance, won’t make her an expert in Pilates, Nia® or tai chi.

A review of an instructor’s performance typically consists of a hands-on, in-studio evaluation followed by a discussion of job performance. Ideally, the manager is able to professionally communicate how well the instructor performed. But how can such a meeting be effective if you don’t have prior knowledge of what you’re reviewing? Your performance management system will not accomplish much if the employee doesn’t find value in the process. Here’s an idea on where to start.

Do your research. Before heading to the studio, make every effort to understand exactly what you’re measuring. This may require a little homework. Read a few articles, possibly a manual, and sit down with a veteran instructor who can enrich your knowledge base.

Establish priorities. Formulate a checklist of preferred performance variables you’d like to see the instructor demonstrate during class. Divide the evaluation variables into two groups: common assessment variables that would be appropriate for any staff member and specific mind-body variables. Start with common assessment variables:

  • ambition
  • attendance/punctuality
  • attitude
  • overall communication skills
  • ability to be a team player

Getting Specific on Mind-Body Training Styles

Mind-body training has specific variables unique to the format you’re evaluating. Most mind-body classes demand the following:

  • defined muscular movement patterns
  • precise breathing techniques
  • precise focus on form and spinal alignment
  • overall strong mental focus

As you observe and assess your instructors, pay close attention to these qualities.

A Sample Pilates Checklist

Each mind-body format needs an exclusive checklist. For example, an evaluation for a Pilates instructor would rate the quality of the following:

Start of Class

  1. Proper Introductions
    1. introduces self and class format
    2. greets and welcomes members
    3. inquires about participant limitations
  2. Preparation
    1. is organized and ready for class
    2. starts at proper time
  3. Class Goals
    1. announces class focus or goal

Teaching Technique/Exercise Programming

  1. Class-Specific Communication Skills
    1. cuing skills
    2. exercise descriptions
    3. member understanding
    4. visual imagery
    5. positive tone
    6. use of praise and encouragement
  2. Flow/Pace
    1. effortless flow
    2. appropriate pace for audience and class level
  3. Exercise Selection
    1. balanced selection of exercises, including supine, prone, sitting and standing activities
    2. participant engagement
    3. consistency of class content with description on schedule
  4. Proper Progressions/Modifications
    1. appropriate exercise progressions for the audience and class level
    2. appropriate modifications when necessary
  5. Verbal and Physical Corrections
    1. use of verbal and physical corrections
  6. Achievement of Class Goals

Spinal Alignment

  1. Instructor Competence
    1. demonstrates a strong understanding of spinal positions
  2. Proper Warm-Up
    1. reviews neutral spine during warm-up
    2. includes warm-up neutral and imprint spine positions
  3. Focus During Class
    1. focuses on spine position
    2. uses spinal cues


  1. Instructor Competence
    1. demonstrates a strong understanding of Pilates breathing
  2. Proper Warm-Up
    1. reviews proper breathing techniques
  3. Focus During Class
    1. focuses on breathing
    2. encourages coordination of movement and breath at an individual pace

End of Class

  1. Class Closure
    1. incorporates a proper cool-down
    2. ends class on a positive note and on time
    3. thanks participants and encourages them to return

The above outline is thorough and specific to Pilates. Evaluation of a Pilates–yoga instructor will require further research and a separate checklist. Your list may look slightly different from the above, depending on what you value as a manager. The more formats you support, the more time-consuming this task becomes. However, if you continue the same review process year after year, preparation time will decrease.

Getting It Right

Your team of instructors can make or break your program. That’s why properly assessing instructors at least once a year is mandatory for keeping your program heading in the right direction. As a manager, you’re ultimately responsible for the bottom line.

With proper management preparation, seek to implement a structured performance management process that employees recognize and understand; this will make reviews much more manageable for everyone involved. And most importantly, the information acquired (and the process itself) can be incredibly valuable for you, for the employee and for your business.

In the next and final installment of this series, we’ll take a look at self-reviews, mentoring and participant feedback.

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