Culture is key to being an attractive place to work in today’s competitive job market.
Best-selling author Jim Collins once said, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”
Recently, the fitness industry has experienced first-hand how true that is. Many facilities have had to endure layoffs, employees leaving due to prolonged closures and not being able to keep up with rising wages in other industries.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021 over 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs — a movement now widely known as the Great Resignation — creating worker shortages in nearly every industry including health and fitness.
This caused many facilities to look closely at their work culture and ensure they are an attractive employer.
“I believe at most companies culture is not fixed. It’s ever-evolving and there is room for most folks to join, find their place, and perhaps be a part of growing and adapting the culture,” said Cathleen Clark, the chief people officer and first vice president at Chelsea Piers. “The key is being transparent about company mission, values and priorities so the candidate and hiring manager can discuss and be on the same page about whether we are a mutual good fit.”
So how can health clubs be an attractive employer when hiring?
For Clark, this starts by ensuring you’re staying competitive in your market.
“Employers need to look at the entire package — health benefits, flexible scheduling, learning and training programs, competitive pay, growth paths, company culture, etc. — and invest as much as they are able to make the package as competitive as possible, and market said package,” said Clark. “At Chelsea Piers, we’ve invested heavily in our employee experience, and it has paid off greatly.”
Additionally, Clark said the industry itself and having access to a health facility is a selling point alone for many candidates. Chelsea Piers offers complimentary membership to the facility for all employees, which Clark noted is appealing for many candidates.
For a long time, many health clubs have relied on reputation to attract great employees. However, with over 10 million job openings and nearly six million people looking for jobs it’s clear the unemployed have the upper hand. With many industries hiking up hourly rates, health clubs have to stay aggressive.
One club doing this is Fitness Formula Clubs (FFC).
“To make ourselves more competitive, we have updated our benefits offerings along with decreasing our eligibility waiting period, added more affordable health plans and increased the employer contribution to those plans,” said Sarah Klebo, the director of human resources for FFC. “In addition, FFC has a robust education program called FFC University for personal training, Pilates, yoga and group exercise. The programs are offered at a hefty discount to employees, thus increasing their ability to advance within the company. Lastly, our employees enjoy a complimentary membership to our state-of-the-art clubs, an offering that is not new but highly valued.”
Another way to ensure you are an attractive employer is by staying true to your core values.
When hiring new employees, FFC looks for candidates that align with its culture and core values — improvement, friendliness, integrity, superior service and safety. Klebo said all candidates, no matter their role, should be customer service oriented, have hospitality skills and put members first.
“We have standardized questions for all of our hiring managers which allow them to assess traits that match our culture such as conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotionality, critical thinking and being a team player,” noted Klebo.
For Chelsea Piers, Clark said it depends on the job listing for what qualities they look for in applicants.
“We use a tool called The Predictive Index to determine what qualities we’re looking for in each role and then how candidates fit those needs,” added Clark. “In some roles, extroverts are more successful; in others, someone who is more data-oriented may be more successful. There isn’t a one-size fits all approach. In general, we’ve found candidates succeed at Chelsea Piers if they are enthusiastic about our mission and growth, hard-working, and versatile. I think those qualities would do well across the fitness industry.”
However, in today’s competitive job market it’s important to not only focus on hiring team members, but it’s equally if not more important to ensure you’re retaining your current staff.
In Spring 2022, McKinsey released the third edition of the McKinsey American Opportunity Survey. Of those surveyed, the most common reason for searching for a new job was a desire for greater pay or more hours, followed by a search for better career opportunities. The third-most-popular reason was looking for a flexible working arrangement.
While working remotely or hybrid is all the rage right now, Klebo said it isn’t something any fitness club or gym can realistically offer to frontline staff.
“Right now, the two most important factors for retaining employees for us is being as flexible as possible — within reason — and making our in-club environment as fun and engaging as possible, so that coming to work is something they want to do, not something they have to do,” added Klebo. “In addition, we are ramping up our engagement by providing monthly e-newsletters, quarterly in-person all-staff team meetings and employee appreciation weeks twice a year.”
Clark agreed retaining employees is vital but added there’s no one way to do so. Instead, you must be purposeful with the entire employee experience.
“Fair and competitive pay remains the most important thing to retain employees,” said Clark. “From there, every piece of the employee lifecycle and package is important — strong onboarding with clear expectations, a welcoming and fun culture, a mix of robust and affordable benefits, growth potential and clear growth paths, learning opportunities, thoughtful performance process and feedback, scheduling flexibility, etc. Companies who realize people are their most important asset are investing more and more in the employee experience, and it pays off.”
In the current job landscape, national retailers have made it challenging to compete with increasingly competitive hourly rates. If your facility feels it cannot keep up with increasing wage, Klebo encouraged readers to rise to the challenge and only hire those who are the absolute best for the role.
Klebo said they look for talent with diverse skill sets and a range of experience — from the first job applicant to veterans with a plethora of skills and expertise. In recent months, they’ve seen an influx of more experienced and talented personal trainers and massage therapists seeking out FFC for employment. This shows the main way to be an attractive place to work is to invest in your people and protect your culture.
“A warm body to fill any shift doesn’t work,” said Klebo. “We want those with heart, passion and drive to find their way to FFC, and we will help them build a career growth plan.”