Amy Boone Thompson, the owner and CEO of IDEA Health & Fitness Association, shares three common challenges and staffing solutions.
The pandemic spurred unprecedented upheaval in employment, leading to widespread job losses in early 2020 and then to tight labor markets in 2021. The fitness industry was certainly impacted.
A 2022 Pew Research Center survey found most workers who quit in 2021 cited low pay (63%), little or no advancement opportunities (63%), and feeling disrespected (57%) as reasons. There were other factors that led to quiet group fitness studios and empty training schedules. Now that the industry is on the other side of reopening, how can we address ongoing staffing issues? Here are three common staffing challenges with solutions:
1. Lockdowns led to employment shake-ups.
Anecdotally, many fitness professionals retired, others relocated, some changed careers and others became solopreneurs. When doors reopened, club owners were faced with a dearth of talent.
Solution: Offer improved compensation and flexibility for both part-time and full-time roles. For part-time staff, this may be even more important. How do you get one to five hours from top talent? Why would someone work with you versus growing their own business/audience? Rethink benefit packages, growth and development. Consider paying for continuing education and industry events. Ask staff what they value.
2. Lack of a clear career path.
The fitness industry has seen strong growth over the past two decades, but defined career paths for trainers and instructors have been spotty or not formalized/standardized. This makes it harder for new recruits to find a home.
Solution: Connect with fitness industry leaders and resources to create standard operating procedures and clear steps to career success for new hires. The industry’s credentialing system promotes ongoing learning, growth and development. Each governing body offers primary and advanced certificates. Other trusted professional associations help educate graduates about the fitness profession, which meets their learning and knowledge gaps throughout their career.
Many club and studio owners may not know the basics of professional accreditation and/or how to help staff advance. They could benefit from educating themselves and hiring someone who can build an in-house career advancement program with specific requirements for increasing compensation/benefits packages. This promotes growth and empowers staff to initiate their own progress.
Look at less traditional career paths, which include programming, content creators/on-demand fitness, health coaches, corporate wellness, and medical and outdoor fitness. Can club and studio owners bring these specialists in-house or partner with them? Think outside the club walls and partner with other community fitness and wellness leaders to complement current services.
3. Need for mentors.
New and mid-level fitness professionals benefit from shadowing fitness industry veterans who’ve been in the trenches. This helps ensure legacies of professionalism are upheld and roles — from front desk, sales, training, teaching and management — all benefit from this wisdom.
Solution: Create a mentor program and incentivize seasoned professionals to participate. Focus on a career development program that provides formalized and consistent coaching to develop talent. What’s next for seasoned staff? Salaried positions with full-time benefits packages to mentor and continue retaining the most loyal and top revenue-per-membership clients. If suitable, consider helping them to become vested partners.