Nothing’s worse for a member than to attend a class, and no instructor turns up or have a substitute instructor who just isn’t up to the usual standard. When another instructor takes over, they must be the same as — if not better than — usual to keep people coming back.
Ensuring sufficient staffing levels to cover classes is an important operational challenge, which can be very relatable and tangible to the class experience and member retention, and last-minute shift covering can be a problem.
With large operators having upwards of 10,000 staff members across their locations and small operators struggling when staff don’t have access to a computer at work, smartphone apps are fast becoming the go-to communication tools. That being said, ensuring any system is secure and completely under company control is essential.
In today’s world, apps can deliver a fast and efficient way of approaching the subbing problem, removing the last-minute scramble to find a replacement instructor or even a front desk team member.
With 200 instructors working across five clubs, communications and managing class cover is a challenging issue, according to Antony Stewart, the head of group exercise at London’s trendy boutique brand, Third Space. “Our instructors are aged between about 18 and 30, and use WhatsApp and Snapchat — half won’t even open email,” he said. “Using an app brings us into the 21st century in the instructors’ eyes — they expect Third Space to be ahead of the curve.”
Finding the right sub who is at least the same standard as the usual instructor and who can connect well with your members, is fundamental and why it’s key that facilities can manage the whole process.
Running between 50 and 60 classes a week, Julie Thorpe, franchisee of four Club Pilates studios in Indiana, knows how onerous fulfilling subbing requests can be. “Efficient subbing is a priority when it comes to class instructors and front desk staff,” she explained. “The process needs to be effortless, which is where smartphone apps come in handy. Young people pay attention to their phone, so using an app to broadcast a sub request allows me to fill it speedily. It also enables me to decide, of those available, who would be best to cover that specific class or job function.”
There are even differences between how boutique clubs like Club Pilates and traditional gyms organize subbing requests. In the boutique market, team members are actively encouraged to “own” their classes, getting to know each and every member, which makes the right sub instructor even more vital. Gyms commonly offer a large variety of classes and have numerous employees, so it’s imperative that management can keep track of subbing requests and common gaps in scheduling.
When staff know subbing options are communicated efficiently and decisions are dealt with quickly, they can plan better and, in turn, provide a better experience for members.