Staci Alden shares tips to onboarding and retaining new fitness instructors.
Starting a new job is one of the most stressful events in someone’s life. Fitness managers should recognize this whether they work full-time or only a few hours per week. Here are some tips to onboard new instructors and retain them with continued visibility and support.
Being a positive and supportive leader only goes so far. Show new fitness instructors you want them to enjoy their job and promote their success by following these onboarding steps:
Before their first day, set up a meeting, create a pre-recorded video, or send a detailed email with clear expectations on what to bring and expect that includes:
- Share a gym bag checklist with things they may want to pack for their classes. Examples include microphone batteries, a backup music device, chargers, etc.
- Provide a detailed schedule of the first day with details like when you recommend arriving for class, where to park, which locker room to use etc.
- Provide a map for large facilities and images of how the equipment needs to be returned after use in each space.
- Create a list of resources, procedures and important contacts like the front desk, membership or your personal number they can refer to for help in an emergency.
- Review procedures like tracking attendance, clocking in and out, finding a sub for class, getting a new uniform and the team meeting schedule.
On their first day, or for a positive class review, could you give them a card and a small gift? It doesn’t need to be very expensive and can be a combination or basket of gifts like flowers, a gift card, protein bar, water bottle, hat, hair ties, etc.
Please spend some time walking around the club with them, and introduce them to members you pass by, front desk staff and membership. Then, film a short one-to-two minute introduction video to send to your team. We post this on our team’s Facebook group, but this could be emailed or posted in communication apps and software like Slack or GroupEx Pro.
Offer the ability to teach their class with another instructor for their first few classes. Another option is to teach another lesson with an instructor to complement their class as they get started. Team teaching helps members become exposed to a new instructor since they may not give them a chance if they don’t recognize them on the schedule. Team teaching also helps them get to know and work with one of their new teammates. Try to be there for their first class or have another instructor stop by to say hello to make sure they are good to go with music, opening up the studio, and finding what they need on their first-time teaching. Schedule a one-on-one meeting 60 days after they start to review how things are going and see if they have any questions or feedback.
Providing high pay rates and club benefits only goes so far to keep your instructors. So often, I hear instructors never get to meet or get to know their managers or teammates. Being a visible leader and introducing teammates in a working environment fosters a sense of trust and cooperation. The more your team knows they are a part of something bigger than themselves, the more likely they will step up to help and support each other to get better.
Here are some ways to foster community and improve the working environment for your team to keep them for longer:
Encourage instructors to attend other classes. Express how much they will learn from their teammates and how members love seeing instructors attending classes with them.
Ask your team to share education. Hopefully, your team regularly attends conferences, webinars, trainings and more. Ask instructors if they would be willing to share what they learned with the rest of the team. You could go as far as applying for CECs and hosting a workshop. Or consider paying them to do a quick video or write a quick recap to share with the team.
Conduct group reviews. In addition to annual individual reviews, break your instructors into smaller groups of four-to-eight with a mix of similar and different format expertise. If getting groups of instructors who teach a similar format together in person is a challenge, run the review in a digital environment, record it and send it to the team. Send them the questions you’ll be asking in advance so they can prepare.
Here are some good topics of discussion:
- Please share something new you’ve learned and implemented this past year.
- What are you planning on working on or learning next year?
- Are there any systems or procedures you have questions or suggestions about?
Track and reward the instructors who not only attend these group reviews but also contribute.
Create a team community page. A social media group or software like GroupEx Pro will work for this. Announce birthdays, life events, work anniversaries, intro videos of new instructors, team shoutouts, etc. Set the expectation that no subrequests or formal business are allowed in this space.
Have fun. Even small things make a difference. Share a meme or a funny video you post on the team board or stop by to sing happy birthday to an instructor. Bring fun into your team meetings. Play games, provide delicious food and change up the location.
The last thing I’ll say when it comes to onboarding and retention is to get brave and ask for feedback. Ask new instructors as you check in on how the onboarding process went and what might have been missed or could have been improved. Ask your team for feedback and ideas for team or club events. Long-lasting employees are happy employees. Happy employees advocate for the facility and, in turn, keep members and participants for longer as well.