The Perfect Fit

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Photo courtesy of GHFC.

The game Perfection is simple: place all 25 pieces into their matching-shaped hole on the board before the clock runs out.

Hiring for a cultural fit at your club is like Perfection: an employee-sized gap cannot be filled effectively by someone who does not embody your purpose and core values, much like a star piece cannot go into a spot shaped like a circle. Although hiring is difficult, it doesn’t have to be as challenging as actually beating Perfection.

“One of the main things we are looking for with our employees is we want to find employees that we feel can be really engaged with our company,” said Brent Darden, a consultant for TELOS Fitness Center in Dallas, Texas.

Darden referenced research on the particular topic. “The findings are, there’s not that high of percentage of employees that are typically engaged with their companies, for a variety of reasons, and some of that [is] because they’re not in the right fit for them.”

At TELOS Fitness Center, Darden said the interview for potential employees starts the moment they walk through the door, even if it’s simply to fill out an application or drop off a resume. Phone interviews, panel interviews and painting a clear picture of not just the position being vied for, but also the company culture, all make up the club’s hiring process.

Gainesville Health and Fitness (GHF) in Gainesville, Florida, has the same mentality: core values come first. About 15 years ago, the club honed in on its vision, mission and core purpose. “Our hiring philosophy starts with making sure everything is centered around hiring for our core values,” said Shawn Stewart, the general manager. “The one thing I learned a long time ago is that hiring is — it’s a difficult science … Once we identified and discovered what our core values were, that’s when we knew we had to put a plan together to make sure we were hiring people that shared those same core values.”

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Photo courtesy of GoodLife Fitness.

To identify who incorporates the company’s core values, GHF has a five-step process full of tests. For example, Stewart will walk into a boardroom where his interviewee has been led and will say he is running late, having to move every chair to the room next door before they begin the interview. The test? To see if the prospect will help. Once, an interviewee watched Stewart clear the whole room by himself. Afterwards, Stewart promptly shook the potential employee’s hand and said it wasn’t going to work out.

At GoodLife Fitness in Canada, staff make use of engagement cards based around the core values and purpose of the company. The interviewee is asked to pick five. “Then at the beginning of the interview we get them to describe to us why they picked those cards and why they value those cards so much — and we learn so much about that person and what they value, and why they would value a certain focus we have as a company,” said Alana Free, the vice president of people and culture. “That can let us know if they’re applying for the right role within the company and if they’re the right person or not that will fit with us for a long time.”

It’s not only important for the hirer to see if the potential employee fits with the company’s values: the interviewee has to decide if he or she fits as well. “I think that’s critical,” said Free. “To have a crystal-clear vision of what your company is all about and to give that to people even before they start with you as an employee. It’s really important because then they can look at that and go, ‘Does this work for me or not?’”

Ensuring a cultural fit doesn’t stop after the hire. Darden said TELOS often assigns a short reading on customer service to new employees. Plus, they make employees feel welcome their first day on the job. “It’s the only time they’re getting hired with your company,” he said. “It’s a big deal no matter what job they’re starting. For them it’s a big deal, it’s a big day, and clubs just need to remember to acknowledge and respect that.”

When it comes to filling an employee-size hole in your company, don’t force a fit. Hiring based on a club’s culture doesn’t have to be challenging, and it will benefit your business in the long run. “The greatest asset a company has is finding the right employees,” said Stewart. “The greatest liability a company has is hiring the wrong employees. Every dollar that you can possibly invest in hiring, training, keeping the right people will always be worth it. It’s the best investment any company can make.”

By Heather Hartmann & Rachel Zabonick

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