Business of FitnessFitness Professionals

4 Tips for Stress-Free Fitness Staffing

Studio goers expect top-notch programming, superior customer service, and results. Therefore, the cornerstone of your studio’s success is providing each of these items consistently. While you may start out with a small but mighty team of fitness professionals making it easy to control the product you promise, expanding to include additional instructors or trainers will occur as your business grows. Before you start your ‘star search,’ consider the following tips to ensure the ‘secret sauce’ of your studio stays intact.

#1 – Create your Superstar Avatar

Before you begin your search, take the time to articulate what attributes will make the perfect hire. If you have a solid team now, look for the commonalities. If you’re starting from the ground up, what do you hold most near and dear to your heart?

You’ll want to include:

  • Pre-Requisites – pre-requisites include the core competencies you are looking for, as well as any employment characteristics you believe are necessary. For example, you may require a particular certification, a minimum number of years in the industry, or a certain amount of relevant experience with the format or demographic.
  • Technical Skills – what technical skills are required to service your clientele. Technical expertise could include proficiency in a certain format, with a piece of equipment, or knowledge about a particular type of client.
  • Soft Skills – often overlooked, you’ll want to include your wish list for soft skills which might include communication style, demeanor, personality, and customer service.

Be as specific as you can knowing that not everyone that applies will tick every box. But, when you’re clear about what makes the perfect team member, you will be able to advertise, screen, interview, and train even better. Review your list one more time and star the ‘must have’ criteria.

#2 – Screen to be Lean

Hiring takes an immense amount of time; wherever you can, you should avoid hiring from a place of desperation and weed out anyone that does not meet your ‘must have’ criteria identified above.

First, if you follow these tips for hiring and onboarding your team, you should have a close-knit group that is aligned and well-functioning, eliminating the need to hire all the time. Of course, life happens, and you will lose people now and again due to schedules or life circumstances. You should always be collecting and screening applications, as well as ‘scouting’ talent.

  • The Reality Check – you should create a comprehensive job description that explains what you are looking for, the core competencies of the job, the roles and responsibilities of the position, internal onboarding and staff training that is required, and your expectation for commitment. Be specific about the number of hours/classes you expect someone to teach, if they can or can’t teach at other facilities, the responsibility the trainer has for marketing and helping grow the business and compensation ranges.
  • The Application – you should have an electronic application on hand that asks the best questions to check how the applicant’s responses compare with the Avatar you created earlier. Be sure to request copies of certifications, references, and, if necessary, sample classes/training sessions (video submission).

When someone expresses interest in working at your studio, provide the reality check and direct them to the application. Let the applicant know you review applications once a month and schedule phone screens. You’ll be in touch with candidates of interest. Set a date on your calendar to review monthly and schedule phone screens with those applicants that line up with your ‘must have’ list.

A phone screen is a great first step. The time is minimal (set a timer for 20 minutes), but the screen allows you to listen without distraction or assumptions. Take note of promptness (a phone screen should be treated just like a face-to-face interview), consideration of location (are they in a noisy cafe or have they found a place to talk that is quiet), the tone of voice, communication acumen, and preparedness. Review the application and ask a few key questions that will help you determine if there would be value in a face-to-face interview.

#3 – Team Teach

During the face-to-face, your studio’s culture should be front of mind. The phone screen ensures the technical components are up to snuff; now you must turn your attention to soft skills and determine if they will ‘fit in’ with your participants and your staff! Square pegs do not fit into round holes; even if the trainer meets all of the requirements, but the personality is the opposite of your culture, they are not your ideal candidate.

Start with a sit-down interview and include at least one additional team member so you can both ask questions and compare notes after. Then, if possible, have the applicant teach your team. You should sit back and watch. Observe how they interact with the team as they are setting up, how do they take command a room of folks that know each other, and, of course, are they competent in delivering similar content to what your team does on a day to day basis.

#4 – Own the Onboarding

Beyond anything we’ve discussed, onboarding is what will make or break your studio. Ensuring every staff member understands how to deliver the experience you promise is not something to leave to chance, regardless of how carefully you’ve chosen your team members.

You will need to create a training process that teaches the following:

  • Backend Procedures – what are the trainers’ responsibilities from a business perspective? For example, recording hours, numbers, checking people in at front desk, emergency procedures, and the like. An employee handbook, shadowing the ‘business’ part of the studio, and confirmation of competency in the ‘backend’ part of your business should be step 1.
  • Programming – you will need to create an internal education schedule for your new hire. Technical training can be as simple as taking a class from the lead trainer before teaching their first class or more involved, such as shadowing various mentors for a week, delivering pieces of the class, and receiving feedback. The more precise you can make this part of the on the job training, the more consistent your product.
  • Culture – the new hire should be immersed in your studio’s culture. Setting expectations regarding customer service, communication, and engagement (member facing, as well as with their colleagues), is important. Often, members frequent studios for the intangible. Sure, they herald the workouts and the results, but, frequently you hear members spreading the good word about a studio because of the community. Your team is responsible for creating this feeling; training new hires to step right in and contribute on the same level will be substantial.

Expanding your studio shouldn’t be a daunting task. Creating a streamlined, repeatable, and stress-free process is possible as long as you establish standards, protocols, and specific guidelines now. Don’t wait until you are in dire need for a new team member; be proactive, never settle, and ensure your legacy continues with a comprehensive onboarding process.

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The Author

Shannon Fable

Shannon Fable

Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is a fitness business and programming consultant who has helped impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn®, Power Systems, and BOSU® over the last 20 years. Shannon also serves on the Association of Fitness Studios Advisory Council.
As an experienced educator and certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach, she helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. She has starred in over 25 fitness and management DVDs, written for a wide variety of industry publications, presented on 6 continents, and owns Balletone®, Sunshine Fitness Resources, and GroupEx PRO®. www.shannonfable.com