Let’s face it — finding a hard-working, reliable, eager, knowledgeable employee is not an easy task. Someone may have all the credentials and look great on paper, but may lack traits that make them personable and attractive to customers. When people walk into a facility, they automatically get a feel for the company culture. Are the employees welcoming, personable and helpful, or are they quiet, standoffish and uneager to help?
If you find your staff falling into the latter category, it may be time to take some time and try to better understand what you are looking for in well-qualified staff so you don’t end up disappointed later on; because in an industry where you have staff — particularly personal trainers — working one-on-one with clients, you want to make sure those clients leave satisfied.
Gainesville Health and Fitness understands the importance of having a well-qualified staff and has high standards that they measure both mentally and physically when evaluating candidates throughout the hiring process.
“I think our staff is the most important product,” said George Whitehead, the director of personal training at Gainesville Health and Fitness. “When someone comes in, I know they’re in good hands.”
Whitehead explained any new potential personal trainer has to go through a three-stage hiring process including group and personal interviews and application of their skill set.
Stage 1: A group interview. This is an interview with multiple well-qualified staff members to meet the new potential hire, ask questions and see if they fit the culture.
“What we’re looking for is culture — that’s our biggest focus,” said Whitehead. “If you fit into our culture, that means you’re smart, hard-working, articulate and nice — and we see potential for you to grow. It’s not just about expertise. We’ve turned down people with a lot of credentials because we didn’t think they’d be a cultural fit.”
Stage 2: One-on-one interview. During this interview, one or two employees sit down with the potential new hire and talk about practical application of skills and knowledge in regards to the industry, so the company can ensure the hire brings a unique, helpful skillset to the table.
“One thing we focus on is the collegial atmosphere in the training program,” continued Whitehead. “If I come across a client with something I’ve never seen there are people on my staff I go to and ask questions. I may have expertise that they don’t have.”
Stage 3: Training a client. This is when the new hire has to showcase their skills and show that they know how to apply the knowledge they have. This is an important stage, as it shows the personality traits of the new potential hire in regards to how they may handle adversity and different problems with a client. It may be a real client, or it may be another employee.
“The most important thing to look at is how they interact with people,” Whitehead added. “That is something we can always improve upon, you have to have a desire to get better.”
Along with the three-stage process, trainers must have a personal training certification certification. The certification could come from ACSM, PTA Global or any other recognized programs.
Accreditations vary, depending on the level of trainer a potential hire would like to become. For example, Gainesville Health and Fitness has an advanced level of personal training, along with a master level and a master level two. To reach the master level, you have to reach the requirements, including: over 3,000 hours of personal training, two personal training certifications, experience with a physical therapy program and then recommendation by the director, according to Whitehead.
Whitehead confidently holds the title of “personal training director,” with multiple certifications: NASM-CPT, CPR/AED, CHEK Exercise Coach, Active Isolated Stretching Therapist and 1st Degree Black Belt in Shito Ryu Karate; and his specialities include corrective exercise, rehabilitation and post rehabilitation, flexibility, sports performance enhancement and increasing lean muscle mass.
At Gainesville Health and Fitness, the certification process is just the beginning, and trainers work to constantly better themselves through more education.
“Our perspective is, you can take the test and it means you just know the book material — not application — so that’s something we work on constantly,” said Whitehead. “We have team leaders who weekly meet with a personal trainer to go through different case studies. We talk to them every opportunity we can; including a monthly meeting where we get together and study our craft in many different ways — not just exercise science, but in terms of talking to people, emotional intelligence, customer service — all of those things.”
Whitehead said there are two traits he finds more important in well-qualified staff than any certificate or expertise: growth mindset and emotional intelligence.
Growth mindset is a theory that Carol Dweck coined that, according to Mindset Works, “…describes the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them strong, therefore they put in extra time and effort, that leads to higher achievement.”
“Growth mindset is important because if you’re sitting next to me or other veteran trainers, our discourse may throw you; you may not know what we’re talking about, it may sound like another language,” said Whitehead. “But if you have a mindset that you’ll get to that point, you’ll always grow, so that’s really important to us.”
Whitehead also stated the importance of individual growth and the idea that no one should come in being the same trainer they were a year ago, and added that clients should be able to tell a difference in their trainer and their knowledge of the craft over time.
The second most important trait Whitehead looks to identify in well-qualified staff is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, according to Psychology Today, “is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others,” and generally revolves around the ideas of emotional awareness, regulation of emotions and logical application of emotions.
“It’s a people job, you have to work with people,” said Whitehead. “People don’t train with you just because of your knowledge on personal training; but because of an empathetic, sympathetic mindset and that interaction.”