Why it’s Important to Evaluate Instructors
When Gainesville Health and Fitness in Gainesville, Florida, interviews potential Group X instructors, it looks for a few key indicators. “They must be highly energetic, incredibly committed to helping other people, humble, down to earth and caring,” said Sheila Gardner, the club’s group fitness director. “Most importantly, they need to be a cultural fit.”
Once those criteria are met and an instructor is hired, how does one determine whether the right choice was made? According to Pam Harrison, a group fitness evaluation team leader for Gainesville, this is where the importance of evaluating instructors comes into play. In May 2013, the club launched a new evaluation program that vets hired instructors in a “secret shop” fashion at least twice per year.
According to Gardner, the results have been eye opening. “We didn’t evaluate [instructors] for a long time, and the difference I’ve seen is amazing, just to know what’s really happening,” she said. “As a director, you can’t be everywhere at every time. The evaluations help keep people accountable.”
Instructors can expect another Gainesville instructor to randomly take their class around every six months, at which time they’ll be graded on a number of criteria. “We came up with five categories for criteria, and look at factors such as, did they introduce themselves at the start of class? Did they start the class on time?” explained Harrison. “There are things that you’re looking for that are very black and white. Others are based more on judgments, but we trust our evaluation team to be unbiased.”
In each category, instructors can receive a score up to five, with five being the best possible. If they don’t get a five in a specific category, the evaluator would have to explain why they deducted points. “Going through the process hits on all bases and you can really get a good feel that everything is going the way we’d like,” said Harrison.
If an instructor’s score is unsatisfactory, Harrison explained that the instructor would then be evaluated again in 30 days. “Maybe they were just having a bad day,” she said. “However, if after the next evaluation their score is still unsatisfactory, we’d have a face-to-face meeting with Sheila and I, and we’d go over what they need to improve.”
Typically, Harrison said the evaluations are well received. Since starting the evaluation program, “We’ve only lost one instructor,” she said. “The evaluations are great for every instructor, no matter how long they’ve been teaching, to help them grow and not become complacent.”
According to Harrison, the club is able to keep the anonymity of instructors “shopping” another instructor’s class, because of how many instructors Gainesville employs. “We’re able to be very anonymous because instructors just don’t cross paths often,” she said. “We protect the identity of the evaluators so there is no animosity.”
Harrison explained the key to the evaluation program is that instructors know how they’re being graded. “All of the instructors have seen the criteria form, so they know the criteria of the evaluations, they just don’t know when they’re being evaluated,” she said.
There’s an added benefit to the evaluation program as well. “Before, we didn’t have a place to give good feedback either, and this allows for that,” said Harrison. “Most of the time, they love the feedback.”
For a copy of Gainesville Health and Fitness’ evaluation form, click here.
By Rachel Zabonick