Effective Communications Strategies for Group Exercise
Group fitness managers (GFM) are the communication hub and “heartbeat” of the fitness center. While all members may pass through the front desk and have plenty of opportunities to read strategically placed flyers, your studios are the best places to deliver critical messages to a captive (and engaged) audience. And, your GFM is ultimately responsible for ensuring the instructor is in the know and motivated to spread the word.
A GFM is pivotal in communicating policy, updates and initiatives to your group fitness team. But, she faces unique communication challenges. Relaying information quickly and efficiently with a team is often hampered by resources, job structure and workforce. Unlike a traditional manager, it is nearly impossible to score face time with group fitness instructors on a consistent basis. Lack of face-to-face interaction requires a more robust digital strategy.
Here are three things to consider as you evaluate your options:
- Communication should be consistent, frequent and specific.
Saving it all up for a weekly or bi-monthly email is the norm. But, by the time you include the niceties at the top (obligatory with a team you rarely see), the bullet points and contextual explanation in the middle, and conclude with a “Go Get ‘Em” message, the news is too long. Instructors save for later (and maybe get back to it), read and try to remember the highlights, or skim and automatically reply all with clarifying questions!
Choosing a frequency that allows short, specific info with bulleted, bolded, or otherwise offset action items with corresponding milestone dates is best. Explaining (and sticking to) the intended schedule (what day) and frequency (how often) of your notices will help.
And, determining one central location to communicate versus emails landing in full inboxes is the way to go. Some days, the file box on the stage seems like it was far superior to our options today!
- Communication should be easily tracked, archived and referenced.
Instructors come with varying degrees of engagement, though their responsibility is ultimately the same. Whether full-time, part-time or substitute, access, comprehension and retention of even the smallest announcement is equally essential. Set up a communication system that makes it easy to determine who has read messages real time (without the dreaded reply all, “I Got It!”) for peace of mind. Then, create a method for archiving all information transmitted for easy reference or to quickly bring a new instructor up to speed.
- Communication must be dual purposed: business and community.
Consistent face to face time between GFMs and instructors is limited. And, instructors are not sitting next to one another in cubes. Therefore, facilitating opportunities for conversation among employees is a must to build trust, which leads to teamwork. A GFM should attempt to balance the “task”-related communications with resources and shout outs. For every message that is task oriented, strive to send a relevant message focused on accolades or appreciation (to the entire team or individuals) or share a resource that will add value to an instructor’s class or professional development.
Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the vice president of fitness programming for the FIT4MOM® franchise. For more than two decades, she has helped impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn, Power Systems, and BOSU® as a fitness business and programming consultant. Fable serves as vice chair of the ACE Board of Directors and is the founder and co-owner of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud-based group fitness management tool.