We’re less than three weeks away from 2017, which means gyms are beefing up their staff to prepare for the New Year’s rush. Meredith DePersia, vice president of human resource operations at Active Wellness, shared some seasonal hiring best practices for making sure your club is ready to take on the madness.
Historical data from the early months of the current year is helpful in predicting what your staffing needs will be in the early months of upcoming year. By using the previous year as a rough model you can get a sense of what, if any, additional support you will need in each department
A good rule of thumb is to first offer more hours to stellar current part-time employees. Just be clear that the extra hours are temporary and will most likely be scaled back in the second quarter of the year. It is important to set expectations from the beginning.
While internal employees are a cost-effective resource as there are no hiring costs associated with giving them more hours, there are benefits to bringing on temporary part-time staff as well. If you don’t increase your staffing levels you will have more hours to fill when someone needs to take off due to illness, or vacation. Full time, non-exempt employees won’t be able to fill those gaps without the risk of overtime, so whenever possible rely on your exempt salaried employees to provide additional support.
Utilizing exempt salaried employees and temporary (and preferably flexible) employees that can fill unexpected holes in your schedule quickly is key to avoiding staffing emergencies during the industry’s busiest time of year.
Once you determine that you need to hire additional staff, it is important to decide whether you are looking for full-time or part-time staff to continue through the year, or temporary staff to support the first few months of the New Year. Knowing this will define your recruiting efforts.
Temporary staff is great for beefing up your service desk, housekeeping and child care departments to support the influx of usage in those early months. These roles don’t require a specific degree or certification (other than Trustline for child care in California), and make them ideal positions for temporary support. Look for candidates with customer service experience, and who have positive attitudes and outgoing personalities for all positions you are hiring for. You can teach skills for each position, you cannot teach attitude. This goes for every new hire, no matter what time of year.
While a great source of temporary work can be students home for the holidays, it doesn’t help you come January when those same students have to return to school and cannot work for you anymore. Local colleges and universities (and even some high schools) are great resources for students looking for part-time work, especially those in the process of earning an exercise science-related degree. Not only do they get to make some extra money, they gain experience in the fitness industry that will benefit them after graduation. Gearing your recruitment efforts towards the local schools with an exercise science or sports management program can yield long-term employees who are hungry to get their foot in the door.
For roles such as personal training and group exercise, you should be looking for long-term, part-time or full-time employees. These are employees who you aren’t looking to hire as temporary as they are the key to long-term member engagement.
If you have personal trainers who do not have a full book of business at the end of the year, the New Year rush is the perfect time to fill their books up. If your trainers already have full books, you will need to recruit qualified trainers to accommodate the increase in personal training business. Just don’t forget that most new members won’t immediately hire a trainer. They will want (and expect) their orientation to the club and a complimentary workout. If you don’t have the staff to onboard new members, you lose your window to get them engaged in the club from the beginning. If they don’t get engaged in the club they won’t see the value in the services you provide.
Remember, your staffing needs may (or may not) include more personal trainers, just don’t forget about the staff you need to deliver fitness orientations in a timely manner. Again, these roles are perfect for students looking for experience, and potential long-term employment.
If you have group exercise classes that have low attendance, you need to re-staff, revamp and/or replace to build, and maintain, attendance long after the New Year rush. If you have ideas for launching new classes but don’t have the expertise on staff, you will want to recruit specifically for that specific skill set. The New Year is a great time to launch an exciting new class and get the highest levels of participation from the beginning.
Utilize the top job search engines and get creative. Indeed and Glassdoor offer free job postings and are great for finding candidates for front-line positions. Craigslist and LinkedIn require a fee per post, but are platforms widely used by fitness professionals. Post on college and university job boards.
Don’t just stick to online postings, though. Be creative in your efforts. Research job fairs on college campuses and obtain a spot to get face-to-face with candidates who are actively searching for a job. Reach out to university department heads for support getting the word out to students about industry opportunities. Carry your business cards and when you get amazing service from someone who works at your local coffee shop/restaurant/car dealership, pass on your business card and invite that person to contact you to learn about opportunities with a great company. Don’t limit your recruitment efforts to the obvious.
A mistake many operators make when hiring temporary staff for seasonal positions is they fail to onboard these employees like they would a new part-time or full-time employee. Employee engagement and training is the key to a great member experience. Employees who do not undergo thorough training on company culture, customer service expectations and job duties are not set up for success. An employee is a representation of your organization, whether they work one day, one month or one year. The time and effort you put in to onboarding will make or break your customers’ experience.
Don’t take short cuts on staff training. Hire earlier enough to allow for proper training prior to the New Year. Employees should be ready to show up to work trained on their duties, knowledgeable about the club and the services offered, and ready to deliver the company’s culture, mission and values.
If you need temporary or permanent staff for the New Year, start recruiting efforts in October and November to ensure that you have time to on-board a new hire properly. Be creative in your sourcing – think outside the box. Allow adequate time to interview and do thorough background and reference checks – you want the best of the best. Hire candidates with a great attitude, excellent customer service skills and the ability to pick up the skills needed to do the job. Fill positions appropriately, not only based on attitude and skill set, but on desired employment longevity and level of member engagement required.
Hire before the New Year rush begins so you can provide thorough onboarding and training. The more effort you put in to staffing for the season, the greater the pay off in member engagement, quality of staff and financial success throughout the year.