Have you ever noticed that the most successful facilities are full of enthusiastic employees who radiate happiness? How does that happen? It starts from the top down, with leadership. I firmly believe that people work for people, not for companies. A work associate once told me that the best managers are “avisable,” a word he created that means “available and visible.”
This viewpoint shaped my opinion on how to connect in three critical areas: recruitment, communication and retention. Many managers are in charge of multiple locations; this multiplies their need for a superlative skill set and perhaps makes that need a little more complex.
How do you become an “avisable” manager? The following guidance is culled from the experiences of some of the best and brightest group fitness managers currently overseeing multiple locations.
The staff you hire defines your facilities. A talented group fitness staff is the heart of your club, and their ability to provide amazing experiences is paramount. Effective recruitment will ensure high quality at all your locations.
Consider these two recruitment tips:
- Word of mouth is one of the best ways to recruit talent. Ask your top staff who they think should be on your schedule, and then ask them to help you recruit those people. Use email and social media to make initial contact, and then invite the cream of the crop to a regional audition or meeting.
- Is finding nationally certified instructors a challenge? Save time by visiting key websites such as www.ideafit.com. Select the “FitnessConnect” tab, key in your preferences and view an abundance of talent. The site offers many options to help you narrow your search, specify desired skills and determine distance from your facilities—so you can find the perfect candidates.
If you need someone who teaches a specific format, especially one that is branded, visit that company’s website. Many times there will be a directory that you’re free to peruse. Melodye Wintemute, group fitness supervisor for Total Woman Gym & Day Spa, Los Angeles, hosts trainings at her facility and considers this her secret weapon. She sees firsthand who the most talented and qualified instructors are in her area. She might not meet these fitness professionals if she didn’t host the trainings.
Remember to post openings at college campuses. After all, what college student doesn’t want to get paid to work out?
It’s easy to become disconnected from staff when you oversee multiple locations. Strive to counter this possibility with another one: proactive interaction. This will ultimately trickle down to a positive member experience, so it is worth the investment. These three tips are proven to help any manager avoid the disconnection dilemma.
- Be highly visible. This style of leadership happens face to face, not from behind a desk. Be at the facilities when staff and members are there. Work the front desk and greet instructors and clients there. Teach during primetime slots, and take classes not only to evaluate staff, but also to interact with members. Give instructors pep talks before classes. Team-teach on occasion, and create special themed classes. Invite other departments to participate as well; sometimes the rest of the staff needs an invitation or an accountability partner.
If possible, work at a different club every day so you can be seen frequently at all locations. Send staff a weekly email, and let them know which day you’ll be at their location. Open your door to face-to-face meetings before or after classes. Staff will bring their “A” games that day because you’re in the house.
- Use email effectively. John Halsey, fitness and facilities manager for the University of California, Irvine, prefers to use email as a written record of his conversations. Halsey’s messages to staff provide intelligent insight and humor. However, you can’t always be sure who’s going to receive your messages or how they’re going to be interpreted. When you send an email, make sure it’s specific to the addressee. Avoid blanket emails that cover all locations or all formats.
In addition, ask employees to respond to something in your email. Kimmel Yeager, group fitness manager for Equinox® in Irvine, California, likes to place a hidden question somewhere in her message—one that includes a call to action. For example, she may ask staff to respond with their favorite 1980s rock star or movie quotation, or she may simply ask for feedback on a company policy. This makes the email interactive, and it shows Kimmel which staff are reading the entire message.
- Be active with social media on a daily basis, and interact with both staff and members. This will enable you to connect with staff even if you’re not going to be there in person on a particular day. Many managers discover that staff reply more quickly to queries sent through social media.
Employee turnover is a huge expenditure of time and energy (which translates to money), especially if you oversee multiple locations. Here are five surefire ways to retain a happy staff.
- Value your staff! Micki Stary, 24 Hour Fitness regional group exercise manager for Texas, strongly believes in staff recognition and care. “We need to see them even when we are too busy,” Stary says. “This is an emotional business, and we need to take care of our employees’ emotions or we will be dead in the water.”
This requires being creative and finding time to make staff feel they are a part of your team. Use heartfelt words of encouragement, and recognize people for jobs well done. Reach out in the facility, before classes, on social media, etc. Be specific about new certifications, birthdays, anniversaries, fitness goals and the like. Show appreciation for years of service, top sub of the quarter, best class attendance, the most CECs in a year, and other accomplishments.
If you’re lucky enough to have the budget, give tokens of appreciation such as flowers, belt packs or gift cards. If you don’t have a budget, a small token of appreciation displayed on a large scale does wonders for morale.
- Make sure meetings provide value. Create interactive meetings that cover the necessary business while offering additional value. For example, new choreography jam sessions or CEC opportunities equip your staff for success. Be fair to your traveling staff by rotating the meeting sites.
Stary made the drive worth it at one of her regional meetings last year. She covered her business agenda and followed it with a jam session. The meeting was then topped off with a raffle. Every operation manager in her region offered a valuable prize; all were gift-wrapped and placed against the walls of the room. Everyone was so excited when they walked in and realized they had an opportunity to receive a gift. More important, they felt appreciated.
- Go to as many fitness conferences and get as many certifications as possible. Conferences are fantastic forums for interacting with highly motivated staff from all your facilities in one convenient location. They also provide opportunities for to get trained collectively. Even if you do not plan on personally teaching a particular format, getting trained gives you credibility and connects you with your staff. Also, be involved in outside activities, such as fundraisers, races and charity events that support the local community.
- Be consistent, and make sure your employees know you’ve “got their back.” They will rise to any occasion when they believe in and trust your leadership.
- Be your own best retention tool. Wintemute is proud that her company offers a competitive pay scale and amazing discounts on spa services, which staff can use for themselves or can share with friends and family. However, if you ask her what her best retention tool is, she says, “Me! I am totally approachable, and the staff feels comfortable with me as their supervisor.”
There’s a lot of value in being an “avisable” manager, and it can have a powerful impact on your success. Being both available and visible will pay dividends in recruitment, communication and retention at all the locations you manage.
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