Have you ever wondered how to offer your personal training staff effective, ongoing quality education that will meet your departmental goals and their professional growth desires without crippling your budget? A Quarterly Education Program (QEP) is an educational syllabus offered in-house on an annual basis that addresses those needs and more!
A QEP is an invaluable tool for you as department director, as well as for your personal training staff and your facility. With only a moderate investment of time for initial planning and ongoing execution, the rewards will be numerous for all involved.
Structured by you, with your staffing and facility needs as the driver, the QEP can be used as a tool for marketing, new-trainer recruitment and staff retention. Having in-house education planned for the entire year shows your staff members that you value them and are willing to invest in their professional and personal growth. Other potential benefits include the following:
- cross-training of staff in “specialty” areas
- launch pad for new programs or equipment-based skills
- increased staff knowledge and respect for co-workers’ skills
- opportunities for “star” trainers to present topics as educators
- chance to mentor newer and less-knowledgeable trainers
- team-building oppportunities
- increased staff professionalism
- higher employee retention rates
- positive effect on the bottom line
- excited, motivated and passionate trainers
Set Your Dates
The first step in planning is to evaluate your annual calendar and pinpoint any “hot” times that would adversely affect the QEP’s success. What are the busiest times at your facility, when it wouldn’t make sense to put “one more thing” on the calendar? For example, perhaps in your club the ever-dreaded January rush, a weeklong community festival in July and holiday commitments in December rank as your busiest, most stressful times. Plan your QEP calendar to reflect that. For example:
Quarter 1: February 1 to mid-April (January off)
Quarter 2: Mid-April to June 30 (July off)
Quarter 3: August 1 to September 30
Quarter 4: October 1 to November 30 (December off)
Two to three months is a good duration for each educational topic. It allows time for the basic material to be taught, progressions or layers to be added, observation of the topic (classes, client sessions), practical teaching experience with feedback and a final test with a celebration.
Next, evaluate your staffing model and find times for the educational sessions to take place. If you have mostly full-time trainers, chances are that midafternoon is a downtime within the facility and would be a good time to schedule the 1- to 2-hour educational sessions. If you have a large mix of part-time and full-time trainers, with many trainers also teaching group classes, you have more of a challenge. Get creative, and combine one or two Saturday trainings (perhaps longer in duration) with some shorter late-evening and/or early-morning trainings, as these time frames might be the best fit for the varied staff schedules.
Consider the scheduling when deciding if the QEP will be mandatory, strongly suggested or optional. I have had great success with requiring participation in three out of four annual QEPs, as this allows some accommodation of personal schedules. Alternatively, I have also found it beneficial to strongly suggest participation or to make it optional but offer pay (perhaps a meeting rate versus personal training rate) for attending educational sessions. However, time spent doing homework, observing or practicing with a co-worker is unpaid time. These two approaches show staff that you are investing in their continuing education but also expect an investment from them.
Selecting the topics for the year is an exciting process. You will want to evaluate your facility’s needs as well as your trainers’ desires. For your facility, consider your target demographic and the desired programs that meet their needs and are attractive to potential members. You will also want to evaluate any specialty niches that are currently being carried by only one or two trainers with experience in that area. These are both great places to start when selecting topics. Next, poll all of your training staff and ask the following two questions regarding what they need and want to learn:
Question 1: Rate your skill set, 1–10, with 1 being your greatest strength and 10 being your weakest area.
(List either 10 skills that you want your staff to have or 10 areas that you are considering adding to your programming; see the sidebar “Suggested Skills/Program Ideas” for examples).
Question 2: Rate the areas, 1–, you want to learn more about, with 1 being most interested and 10 being least interested. (List the same 10 skill areas, and allow a line for “other.”).
You will use these questions to help you decide on QEP topics for the year and to select the most appropriate trainer (or two) to help run the sessions. Select a trainer who has rated him- or herself highly in an area you want to target, and you have a winning combination. This trainer can teach some (or all) of the educational content and be a resource for questions as well as a great trainer for observation sessions. This takes the burden of all the content preparation and presentation off your plate and also gives one of your “stars” a chance to shine. Remember to reward the presenting trainer with acknowledgement in front of the team and an appropriate token of appreciation at the end of the QEP. You can also use this as an evaluation platform for top staff when new positions open up internally.
Create an Outline
The last step is to create an outline that can be loosely followed for any topic, by any in-house educator. Allow for some individuality and input from your educator, but before the program begins, be sure to review the content and the educator’s intentions regarding presentation of the material. This will help maintain the quality of the program and ensure that you are aware of the expected outcomes from each QEP. As the personal training director, you can certainly present an entire QEP by yourself if you prefer; just ensure that you truly have the time to prepare and present the material. Presenting a QEP yourself gives you the opportunity to show your staff the quality you expect for the program. For example, you may integrate a PowerPoint® presentation with your lecture, include partner or small-group brainstorming activities or add role-playing or other learning activities to demonstrate that your expectations for teaching within the program encompass multiple educational tools and address different learning styles. This sets the bar high for subsequent QEP leaders. Plus, it’s a chance for you to observe and experience your staff as they learn and implement new skills.
Certainly, a QEP is a win-win for all involved and an investment that your clients will notice and appreciate. As you grab a piece of paper to write down your QEP plans, know that you have now planted a seed that is sure to grow your trainers, programs and business.
When you are deciding what skills your trainers need or the best programs to add to your facility, start with this list of topics and choose those that best fit.
- Program Design
- One-on-One Exercise Coaching
- Lifestyle-Change Coaching
- Core Training/Pilates
- Assisted Stretching/Yoga
- Personal Training Sales Skills
- Sports Conditioning
- Small-Group Training
- Boot Camp Programming
- Specialty Equipment (BOSU® Balance Trainer, medicine balls, etc.)
- Older-Adult Exercises and Adaptations
- Clinical Exercise Coaching (working with diabetes, hypertension, postcardiac patients, etc.)
- Myofascial Release and Applications
- Group Fitness Skills for Personal Trainers
- Launch the QEP with an intensive 4- to 8-hour training in a targeted topic.
- Assign homework each week, but vary the type of homework (written quiz, observation hours, practice with co-worker, etc.).
- Have a “case study” client, and each week add layers to the client’s history (such as “knee hurt after last session” or “client tires after first 15 minutes of session”) to see how your staff would adapt the program.
- Seek out guest speakers in the topic area, and offer membership perks in exchange for their services.
- Bring in volunteer members to be “guinea pigs” (offer membership perks for participation, as necessary).
- Offer something special to the staff participating in each QEP; for example, a T-shirt with a catchy phrase, credit in the club caf├®, gift cards, club perks, etc.
- Midsession, personally thank each staff member for participating.
- Schedule time throughout the QEP to touch base with participants to see if they have any questions.
- End each QEP with a celebration–group workout, special snacks, team-building activity, etc.
- Offer a nice certificate of completion for each participant.
- Gain valuable feedback by including a course evaluation in the last session.
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