Staff Education: Investing in the Future
Continuing staff education is a great way for fitness industry professionals to stay on top of trends and strategies to provide club members with adequate training and a great experience.
As such, your health club should invest in employees who are devoted to continuing their education because you have a responsibility to provide your members with safe, effective and consistent products and services.
“If a service is being sold — especially one that if provided incorrectly can lead to injury — a minimum standard of competency is required to help ensure safety and efficacy,” said David Van Daff, the director of health club relations for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). “Therefore, clubs should only employ currently certified fitness professionals.”
Investing in your employee’s education yields an abundance of benefits, such as the ability to serve a wider range of clients’ needs. Of these, according to Van Daff, the most overlooked and underleveraged benefit of an educated team is that of competitive recruitment and retention.
“If a club has a recruitment problem, they have a retention problem,” explained Van Daff. “Educated employees tend to perform better and stay longer. Therefore, investment in their continuing education and training is critical to retention. Company-provided continuing education and staff development programs are now a top consideration among job candidates when choosing where to work — especially among millennials.”
Graham Melstrand, the executive vice president of engagement for the American Council of Exercise (ACE), agreed investing in employee development is a great retention tool. Additionally, Melstrand said there are three areas where clubs can measure the impact and return on their investment in their staff.
Melstrand’s first area is in acquisition and retention of quality employees who can fulfill the needs and expectations the employer and the member have around the customer experience. The second is ensuring the staff have the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities to effectively deliver the programs, services and member experience necessary for the facilities to be successful today, and as the industry and consumer interests evolve over time.
“The third, and often the most compelling, is around the opportunity to prepare staff to deliver new programs and services that will diversify the service offerings that attract participants and develop additional streams of revenue,” said Melstrand. “ACE expects many facilities will add health coaching to their programs and services over the next few years.”
If you want to invest in helping employees continue their education but are overwhelmed with the amount of trainings and certifications available, it’s helpful to start with what is trending in order to stay relevant.
According to Stacey Penney, the product manager for NASM, nutrition and program design continue to pique interest, with wellness, virtual training, mental fitness — like stress and anxiety reduction, and brain engagement — and glute topics rounding out the popularity list.
Christie Ward-Ritacco, the chair of American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)’s Committee on Certification and Registry Boards, agreed virtual fitness is a major trend in education.
“Exercise professionals are incredibly interested in how to safely and effectively continue to provide clients with access to high-quality exercise programming in the virtual environment,” said Ward-Ritacco. “Information on how to do this well, what resources are necessary — i.e., available streaming services, technology, lighting, cameras, etc. — and the legal protections required have been requested regularly.”
While the transition to virtual training was done out of necessity due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ward-Ritacco said it is clear this trend is here to stay due to the convenience and time saving nature of this method of interaction. “Exercise professionals who capitalize on this method for delivering programming are going to have great success going forward,” she said.
However, Ward-Ritacco also said continuing staff education doesn’t always have to focus on what’s new or trendy, even though those types of workshops and conferences are fun and definitely recommended over the course of the year. “Returning to the basics of fitness assessment, exercise prescription, optimal class design, and effective professional/client communication can benefit new and experienced trainers alike,” she elaborated.
Regardless if your facility chooses to invest in trending certifications or the basics, it’s clear continuing education is worthwhile and a great value add for everyone involved.
“Continuing education benefits professionals, their clients and the organization as a whole,” said Ward-Ritacco. “Competent and continually-educated exercise professionals who have a solid foundation and then use continuing education to expand and enhance their skill set are primed to create comprehensive, individualized and innovative programs for their clients and classes.”