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Operations: How to Stop Instructor Turnover


Limit instructor turnover by creating a good company culture.“My instructors always leave. How do I stop instructor turnover”?

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

Actually, it probably is you.

We’ve all heard that line amidst a breakup, haven’t we? The other person doesn’t really want to say what is going on, so they blame themselves to avoid sharing the uncomfortable truth of their feelings. If you can relate to this type of breakup, let’s use it as an example to examine group fitness instructor turnover.

Some of you probably just cringed, but please hang in there with me. It can be agony when amazing instructors leave clubs for other clubs, and at the exit interview, they say how they want to explore a new opportunity. It’s not personal; you did nothing wrong.

I travel all over the U.S. engaging with group fitness instructors, managers, group fitness directors and owners. Over the years, I’ve collected a lot of opinions on this subject, and they all boil down to a few key points. The three reasons instructor turnover is a problem for clubs are compensation, culture and appreciation.

Compensation can be a slippery slope and one that must be handled with care. Staying competitive while also having a reliable scale to evaluate enhanced performance over time is very important. The best method I know of is a sliding scale evaluating multiple criteria. This gives room for performance evaluations and a yearly pay increase while staying competitive at the base entry point. Be sure to do your homework and keep yourself in alignment with what instructors can earn outside of your gym. Base the scale on their professional credentials, who they are certified through and how many of their trained formats match your formats offered. Also consider how long they have been teaching and the member following they have in your area.

Once you are sure they are being compensated appropriately, look at your culture. Culture is such a buzzword, but what does it actually mean? Ask yourself what it feels like inside your club. What is the vibe, the pecking order, the tone and feeling you get? Culture also pertains to how your departments interact. Often, group fitness instructors are the first staff members to fall out of the cultural equation. This is fascinating, because multiple times per day these professionals have a captive audience of thirty or more of your members! They have a tremendous impact on your members’ experience.

To begin a quality evaluation of your culture, start by evaluating how your instructors are being included in your overall club operation. Do you know them as much as you know your other staff, or are they acting as independent contractors popping in and out to teach, but neither you nor them feel connected to each other? A great idea is to take their classes. Invite your other sales and front desk staff to participate. Find a way to bridge your departments so that everyone can work together as a team.

Culture and appreciation go hand-in-hand. If your instructors feel part of the culture as a whole, they will also feel appreciated. An easy way to do this is to simply notice what they are doing. Make a point to take a class at prime time at least once a week so you can experience what your members are experiencing. As an owner or manager, it will serve you well to interact with your members on that level. After class, notice something about the class you can appreciate: “It’s awesome that sixty of our members got moving together because of your leadership.” Those words, your noticing and your support will be incredibly valuable to the instructor. Appreciation is nurturing for the soul, and when we genuinely appreciate one another, the effects are endless. The world looks brighter when we are appreciated.

The next time you have an instructor leave, evaluate the three reasons you might be experiencing the turnover. Could it be compensation, culture or a lack of appreciation? It’s not easy to look in the mirror and contemplate that you might actually be the reason they are leaving. The environment you create is a reflection of you, so by asking yourself a few basic questions, it can open up a very insightful journey to improvements and positive changes. Our industry is moving and shaking as we speak. Our world is ever evolving. Let’s be part of the change we want to see by beginning with ourselves.

The next time they leave, ask yourself, “Was it me, or was it them?”

Thank you for reading. Follow me @lindseyrainh2o on Twitter!


Lindsey Rainwater is an experienced consultant and coach to the fitness and wellness industry. Currently she is working with the Fitmarc Team helping club owners all over the south central region of the United States propel their business forward via group exercise solutions. For more information about Lindsey, follow her on Twitter @lindseyrainh2o. 

Lindsey Rainwater

Lindsey Rainwater is an experienced business advisor, executive coach and the founder of The Women in Fitness Association (WIFA). WIFA is the global association supporting women in their career trajectory helping them rise to their fullest potential in business and life.

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