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The onboarding process is key to get new personal trainers accustomed to the club’s culture, ensure they’re prepared to be on their own and help them stand out from competition. 

Ethan Smoorenburg, the regional director of three Anytime Fitness clubs in Louisiana, said the start of an onboarding process for a trainer can maximize the energy of their entire experience going forward. He has three go-to strategies for the onboarding process: understanding who they are, giving clarity for the mission and goal setting.

“I find a lot of joy in starting the onboarding experience like it’s a first date,” said Smoorenburg. “We build rapport with our new trainers. We let them understand why we value them and we take time to fully grasp their aspirations through them telling their own unique story, so we can handle their onboarding experience.”

Typically at the end of a new trainer’s first week, Smoorenburg will meet with them personally to have time for reflection. He asks them to speak on what their expectations were before starting and have them compare them to the inspiration they are feeling at the current moment. Based on that, he provides the opportunity to build on the excitement they have and encapsulate it. “They write down goals, tuck them away and we go over them in a three to six-month period to celebrate their progress toward them, and reignite passion if necessary,” he said.

Marcus Cammilleri, the director for World Gym International, said when onboarding, trainers should first be acclimated to the personal training systems that are in place. Software, prospecting, building rapport and value, creating urgency, overcoming objections, making a sale, scheduling clients, and proper tracking of their personal business are all key drivers.

“New trainers should have designated administrative hours budgeted to allow for proper onboarding, sales training and sharpening overall training skills,” said Cammilleri. “They should initially have several hours of shadowing veteran trainers to learn best practices, master systems and continue to sharpen their skillset. A good rule of thumb is to have a 90-day probation period. This allows you to evaluate the trainer progression and adaptation into your fitness community.”

Lifelong Learners

Another important aspect of onboarding a personal trainer is ensuring they continue their education after they are hired. 

For Smoorenburg, this is a practice-what-you-preach scenario. “I try to show I am continuing my own education to trainers, and more importantly, how I can apply it and how that education can positively impact our clients,” he said. “Also, going through certifications and courses with your trainers can build a greater sense of togetherness and is a more enjoyable process that caters to retaining what is learned.”

Anytime Fitness’ corporate office maintains a high level of course work on their dashboard for personal trainer education. “We refer to that library and recommend course work that is most applicable for the goals of our program at that time,” explained Smoorenburg. “We focus on skills training, consisting of movement patterns, anatomy, biomechanics, form cuing and emotional intelligence.”

Smoorenburg also said attending conferences as a team, such as Perform Better, is highly recommended for an inspiring learning experience and team building.

In addition, Anytime Fitness has a weekly huddle at the end of each week where their training teams collaborate on strategies that can be used in sessions, what they have learned and are learning about, and what intentions they can bring into the next week to maintain a high level of quality service.

World Gym has a similar approach: the speed of the leader is the speed of the crew.

“We don’t expect our team to believe in something we aren’t willing to do ourselves,” said Cammilleri. “Not only do we provide specialty certification options for our associates, but we open the door externally for those qualified and interested.” 

The club also requires their personal training staff to maintain in-house certifications, and challenges them with an incentivized leveling system to continue to develop and add to their skillset.  

World Gym has various continuing education platforms. Their education covers proper Olympic lifting techniques, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), rowing, spin, mobility and proper running techniques, warm ups and cool downs. Cammilleri said this is just the tip of the iceberg, because more dynamic and innovative programs are coming to the club soon.

All-Star Trainers

Continuing education is important to the onboarding process, but with a plethora of trainers in the field, how do you ensure your club’s trainers stand out from the rest? 

For Anytime Fitness, it starts with hiring. There are three intangibles they look for when bringing on a new trainer: personality, initiative and care. 

“Those three traits are a foundation we have seen for all our great trainers,” said Smoorenburg. “We want to enhance those values while also unlocking more skills that can level-up great people into great trainers. Spending the proper time with trainers and nudging them in the directions you notice they can succeed in, rather than criticizing them, can lead to mutual greatness.”

World Gym agrees it all starts with recruiting properly. 

“The right person means absolutely everything to your organization,” said Cammilleri. “If you want an all-star trainer, they must be extremely passionate about fitness, truly care about people, and finally, be willing to listen with their heart.”

According to Cammilleri, an all-star trainer simply has to see the big picture from the get-go: listen first, learn second and then react accordingly. “The right trainer will adapt and implement our standard operating procedures, but will also be willing to share their success stories, failures, concerns, and be able to truly connect with their clients and their team members,” he explained. “The right trainer will easily relate to people, show patience, comprehend, be a good listener and be driven to grow their business. They have to be willing to learn. As the saying goes, ‘work with the willing.’”

In an ideal world, personal trainers will go above and beyond for the job, but according to Smoorenburg, leaders can’t force people to adapt to their own ideologies. “You may have been a great coach because of specific routines and efforts, however, all people wear different lenses,” he said. “Have empathy for the trainers you bring into your culture. Learn how they learn, understand what motivates them and use that ammo you have gathered for their development. Lead by walking alongside your team.”

Lastly, Smoorenburg said awareness surrounding the purpose of self care should also be part of the onboarding process. Trainers take on a lot, such as having to make individualized programs for many people, and hearing the emotions and deepest parts of others’ lives. That reoccurrence will at some point zap a trainer’s energy. 

“Teach the importance of managing transitions between tasks,” said Smoorenburg. “We cannot expect our trainers to perform in the entirety of their schedule without re-centering themselves. Build them up and let them know we want them to be able to generate energy, and they can do so by being mindful of themselves. By maximizing themselves first, they will maximize others.” 

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Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is a staff writer for Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com

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