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High Trainer Turnover? Solutions

Many personal trainers are promoted to manager or director solely on the basis of their success as a trainer and not necessarily because of their management skills. Now it’s your turn: You are the new personal training manager. You’re finding out how different being the manager is from working with clients on the floor. Let’s take a look at the real-world costs and consequences of turnover, and learn how to break the cycle!

Business Impact

Keeping a good trainer is cheaper than hiring a new one. High turnover is a profit killer! There are two costs associated with turnover in a personal training department: hard and soft. Hard costs are easily quantified, direct expenses. Examples include cost of advertising and recruiting and dollars spent training a new employee. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find even more hard costs connected to a trainer’s departure; for example:

  • staff overtime to cover the departed trainer’s work
  • interview time
  • reference checking, done externally or internally
  • drug testing fees
  • new trainer orientation and on-the-job training

There are also soft (indirect) costs, which can be more difficult to quantify but need to be addressed. Soft costs include the following:

  • lost productivity from turnover
  • coworkers’ lost productivity (time spent gossiping, additional work)
  • you—the manager—taking up the slack
  • loss of potential revenue

Five Steps to Retention

Following are 5 steps for creating a culture of trainer retention.

1. Hire Right

Improve the selection process by using thorough behavior and personality-based testing and competency screenings (such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® test). Another key factor in hiring today is that many trainers are 20-somethings. Educate yourself about generational differences—you’ll need to motivate a 20-year-old differently than you would a 30-year-old.

2. Create a Career, Not a Job
Launch career tracks for both personal training and management. Staff must see that there is a career path within a personal training department. Create professional tiers such as “master trainer,” which can be obtained through certification, additional education and experience. Provide upward-mobility opportunities and incentives, and you will retain staff.

3. Offer Strategic Compensation Packages
Think outside the box and beyond the hourly training rate. Compensation does impact a trainer’s perceived value and worth. A $3 raise won’t necessarily encourage trainers to stay put, but the following ideas might:

  • Offer tuition reimbursement for conferences, workshops and online courses.
  • Provide paid sick leave and vacation hours for meeting monthly training goals.
  • Partner with online education platforms and certifying organizations for discounted memberships and group discounts.
  • Create quarterly in-house professional development sessions to explore innovative training techniques, client management and exercise programming.
  • Roll out new equipment every quarter.
  • Give employee discounts on services and products within the facility, such as food, beverages, clothing, equipment, spa services and yoga, Pilates or fitness training.
  • Reward staff with team dinners, events and functions for meeting annual and monthly goals.

4. Take Responsibility!
Don’t point the finger at external organizational issues when it comes to trainer attrition. Instead, take personal responsibility for retaining top trainers. This should be a priority. Consider every interaction with your trainers as an opportunity to reinforce their commitment and motivation.

5. Remember: Prevention Is the Best Medicine

Keeping in mind the high cost of turnover, be proactive and dedicate time and energy to prevention. All too often, managers are caught by surprise when a trainer resigns, though open dialogue could have prevented the resignation in the first place. Regular communication is key. The decision to resign is not usually a spur-of-the-moment act. Schedule bimonthly, one-on-one meetings with each trainer.

Acknowledge the value of each personal trainer, and accept responsibility for retaining top trainers. Hire with precision, and create a career path so your trainers know that they are valued.

For more information, please refer to the complete article, “Don’t Be That Manager: High Turnover” in the online IDEA Library or in the July 2011 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager.

Looking for a job in the fitness industry? Use the IDEA Job Board to find the perfect job for you. Want to post a job? Click here.

Lance Breger, MS

Lance J. Breger, MS, is a fitness and wellness consultant and a 2010 IDEA Program Director of the Year finalist. He is the president of Infinity Wellness Foundation, a nonprofit organization that delivers its WELLKIDS program to students and teachers in the Washington, DC, public school system. Breger is also the head private trainer at MINT in Washington, DC.

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