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Entries in staff (17)


When Employees Sound Off on Social Media

Employees' use of social media has always posed complicated questions for health club owners.

You'd hope that your staff would use social media judiciously, particularly with respect to comments about your club, but, sometimes, unfortunately, they don’t exercise their best judgment.

What should you do when an employee makes a compromising statement about your club or members? Do you have the right to take disciplinary action against them? 

First, it should be noted that the First Amendment only protects free speech from government interference, which leaves private-sector issues to the manager’s discretion.

That said, it’s not a cut-and-dried issue. While you can, to some extent, control what your employees post about business, there are still federal labor laws to consider.

Read More.

Click to read more ...


Do you know how to motivate your staff?

Motivation is no stranger in the health and fitness industry. It is used in many different ways on the gym floor and during classes in order to get clients to achieve goals and make changes to live a healthier lifestyle.

But what about motivation in order to get your staff to work harder? Essentially what managers are hoping for is no different that what clients hope to achieve - hit goals and live a healthier work lifestyle (which, really, is be more effective).

The IHRSA Institute’s first Leadership Session, by University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School Professor Alison Fragale, looked at how managers can use motivation to get better production out of their teams.

Read on for more on motivation of your staff.


Should I Hire Group Exercise Instructors as Contractors or Staff?

Keith Callahan and Justin Tamsett discuss hiring group exercise instructors as contractors or staff in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "Should I hire group exercise instructors as contractors or staff?" 

A: Generally speaking, group exercise instructors do not pass the test to qualify as contractors.  Group exercise instructors are not an independent contractor if they perform services that can be controlled by you, the employer (what will be done and how it will be done). This applies even if they are given freedom of action. What matters is that you as the employer have the legal right to control the details of how the services are performed. I am aware of a club that was audited by the IRS regarding 1099 versus W2 status of group exercise instructors and the instructors had to be converted to W2 status and penalties were assessed.  The risk of contracting as a 1099 contractor a "single event" instructor for specialty training or programs is very low.

Keith Callahan
G.M. / Managing Partner
Manchester Athletic Club 

A: The answer to this question should really come from your accountant or human resource consultant. The local laws vary considerably so you want to ensure you get your employment contract right. Regardless of how they are employed, it is important that they are orientated into your club culture. So make them feel part of the team. The key is ensuring that your new staff have similar core values to you and then understand what commitment you want. Many group fitness instructors are just ‘walk-in and walk-out’ but you can ask for more commitment.

Justin Tamsett
REX Round Tables


This post is a part of our weekly Best Practices series. We post a new question and answer every Monday morning. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.


Social Media and Your Staff: How to Protect Your Club

Bryan O'Rourke, Josh Gerber, Christine Thalwitz and Keith Callahan discuss how to protect your club from your employee's use of social media in this week's Best Practices.

Q: Is it within our rights as an employer to have our staff sign a code of conduct agreement for social media use? If so, what are some points to include in such an agreement? We’re mainly concerned about a staff member saying something that makes our club look bad.

Bryan O'Rourke, CSO & Principal

A: As an employer it is within your right to have your staff sign a code of conduct for social media. We allow our employees the option of joining the Brick Bodies social network but once they do so they must realize they have bridged the gap between their social and personal interactions. Employees must be aware that anytime they put out posts on their social media pages they are making statements that are a representation of the company whether you like it or not. At Brick Bodies we have this code of conduct in our employee handbook and each new hire reviews these policies with our HR Director to make sure they are aware. Here are some important points to have in your conduct code:

  • Cannot use the sites for anything personal during work hours – Employees will get on these sites and play for hours. 
  • Cannot make any posts that give a negative connotation to the company or its employees.    
  • Cannot post anything illegal. 
  • Have information about how to handle friend requests from members.  If the employee chose’s not to participate in the company community they should direct them to the companies social media pages. 
  • Conversation’s that you have with current or potential members should be approached with the same level of professionalism as if they were talking to someone in the club. 

Employee’s must always keep this in mind when they make posts: Does this Help or Hurt the Brand?

Josh Gerber, Marketing Director
Brick Bodies Fitness Services, Inc.

A: Even if your company is not active on social media networks, your employees probably are.  Therefore, it is critical to set clear guidelines about the organization’s expectations and policies for social media activities. Many companies have simply expanded their existing communications policies, confidentiality agreements and codes of conduct to specifically include social media. If you decide to create a more comprehensive policy: 

  • Define social media broadly to include multimedia sharing, blogs, social networking sites, wikis and any other applicable online activities.
  • Reiterate your company’s policies regarding non-disclosure of confidential and proprietary information.
  • Include a code of online conduct that addresses company standards of honesty, integrity and professionalism.
  • Prohibit team members from speaking on behalf of the organization, presenting themselves as agents of the company, or using company logos or trademarks if they have not been authorized to do so.
  • Remind team members that information shared online, whether publicly or privately, can easily circulate and that anonymity is unlikely. Explain potential problems that can arise if team members reference the company when participating in social media outside the workplace.
  • Emphasize that any computer use at work is subject to company monitoring and that team members should have no expectation of privacy under these conditions.
  • State the consequences for violating the company’s social media policy, including (but not limited to) termination of employment and potential civil liability.
  • Obtain signed acknowledgment and acceptance of the terms of the policy from all team members.
  • Provide opportunities for additional training on appropriate use of social media.

For successful adoption of a social media policy, focus more on what employees can do than what they shouldn’t do. When crafting a policy, you may want to solicit input from team members who are active social media participants. Your team members are an amazing resource, so harness their know-how and enlist their help in promoting your business online!

Christine Thalwitz, Director of Communications & Research
ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers

A: It is clearly within the company's rights to have employees sign a code of conduct. However, much of the use of internet has not been fully tested in the courts. I believe it incumbent upon businesses to establish ethics and acceptable behavior guidelines.

Your company should take no position on employee's  decision to maintain or participate in blogs, wikis, social networking pages, web sites or other online activities. However, it must be clearly understood that the views expressed in the blog are the employees alone and do not necessarily represent the views of the company.

Employees must respect the company’s confidentiality and proprietary information, follow all rules regarding said information and be respectful to the company, employees, customers, partners, and competitors.

Employees are subject to the company's discipline policy for any posting, publication or public statement they make, including specifically any statement that the company determines, using criteria of its sole choosing, to be detrimental to its business.

Some general topics for the Code of Conduct could contain: Excellence, Integrity, Team Work, Innovation, Healthy Lifestyles, Business Ethics, Honesty, etc. Similarly, you can also choose to outline clearly unacceptable behaviors, including: Dishonesty, Inappropriate Social Distancing, Failure to Comply, Use of Drugs/Alcohol, Theft, Insubordination, etc.

Mr. Keith Callahan, G.M. / Managing Partner
Manchester Athletic Club


Do Your Staff Members Understand the Big Picture?

Vaughn Marxhausen, Bill Windscheif and Deborah Redder discuss new management, customer service and strategic planning in this week's Best Practices.

I am a club manager at a gym that recently transferred ownership and are making a ton of positive changes to the club. The transition has brought some negatives along as well. Our front desk/member service associates are having a tough time keeping up with the changes and reaching the level of professionalism/service that the new owners requires. How can we get our team members to focus on member relations instead of just doing day to day tasks?

A: Change is never easy for anyone, especially if you are not involved in the decisions that are made for making change. Getting your staff involved and letting them be a part of the conversations about the changes will help them to “get on board” and understand and embrace the changes that are being made to improve the club. 

With change, there is a sense of uneasiness of what direction the company is headed and questions about what the owners are trying to accomplish. It is vital that all staff members know, understand and practice the mission and vision of the company. It is important for the owners to provide a clear picture of what “True North” is: where the company is headed and what kind of company does the owner what to have. 

Once the staff understands True North, they must all be on board and move in the same direction.  If some of the players don’t want to conform to the new way of doing things, then a tough decision needs to be made. Those who do not believe in the company or are not in line with the company’s path may find themselves out of a job. While new policies, owners and direction may be in place, there will always be one factor that will not change and it is the same for any company: the key to success is personal relationships.

Vaughn Marxhausen, Area General Manager
Houstonian Lite Health Club

A: It sounds like, along with the many other positive changes that are coming from the new ownership, a renewed focus on customer service and member relations is desired. I would not look at this a negative, but take this challenge as an opportunity to take this club to the next level. It is very common for staff members to get into a specific daily routine and unfortunately sometimes customer service can suffer.  For everyone in the club - especially for the front desk staff - customer service coupled with a professional attitude is key. The front desk is at the front line, they are answering the phones first, greeting prospective members first, and helping existing members feel welcome and providing them with what they need. We could talk all day about the importance of customer service and the role the front desk plays in its execution, but we’ll save that for another time. 

I would first recommend  talking with the new owner and asking him/her to attend a meeting with the front desk staff and clearly set out his/her expectations for the club.  You are looking for specifics here and you should be looking for the owner to prioritize the duties and expectations of the front desk staff. Without a clear understanding of what is expected and prioritization, you will just be spinning your wheels. 

Next, I would re-write the job descriptions for the front desk associates and incorporate what was laid out in the meeting. It may be helpful to have the front desk associates participate in this process as it may help clarify all the details from the meeting and will certainly help get their buy-in. Depending on how the front desk associate is compensated, you may need to look at their incentive plan. If the incentives are contradictory to the new direction, you will ultimately fail. Incentives should be clearly aligned with what is expected. If there are no incentives, you may contemplate incorporating some sort of incentive program, even if it is not tied to compensation, to help drive and reward the behavior you want.

After the new job descriptions are completed and signed by the associates, you will need some training. You will need to help them build and practice the skills that are expected of them. You can’t just tell them what you want, you need to show them with real world examples. You may lead the training or possibly have some of your superstars at the front desk assist. You could also look into hiring an outside consultant who specializes in customer service training for example, or have the front desk staff attend a seminar or workshop on the subject. Finding a good book related to these topics may be a good idea as well. 

Next you will need to inspect what you expect. Hold the front desk associates accountable by inspecting their work, observing their professionalism and providing them with feedback in daily or weekly meetings, employee evaluations, etc... Sometimes this can be challenging, and we all know that when management/ownership is not present, behaviors can change. For this reason, you may want to implement a secret shopper program, providing you with accurate and objective analysis of the front desk associates performance. You can use these reports to help each associate understand what they are doing that is good, and what needs improvement.

Bill Windscheif, VP - Gym Development
World Gym International, Inc.

A: Many clubs begin a new year with leadership changes and transitions to the new processes are timely and often challenging. In our experience with club changes we offer a variety of tactical improvements for the front desk staff knowing that the process may evolve with the practical experiences they may encounter. The following is a list of options and ideas for your question: 

  1. Prioritize the “messages” for the front desk. Examples are phone answering and front line greeting with those walking in the door. Front desk can make this a little easier with a cheat sheet (address and directions from several points of geography to your facility, class schedule – times, and an overall understanding of what each class is, personal training options, orientation times & reservations, etc. An overall cheat sheet with common FAQ’s is very helpful.
  2. A notebook – with events, questions, problems, etc. documented by each outgoing shift Manager On Duty (MOD) provides a smooth communication transfer the next shift to be aware of and be ready for. With these notes, from each shift manager your facility avoids having to tell members “I don’t know."
  3. Once the process changes have been agreed upon by the staff, leadership can evaluate the results of how the changes are being implemented by asking a neutral person or secret shopper to call on the phone or “come in” and see how the front desk is handling inquiries and walk ins. With this kind of evaluation some adjustments can be made.
  4. Be prepared to offer the front/desk additional support during prime time periods. Even the best front desk personnel is challenged with multiple phones ringing and 10 people waiting to check in.
  5. Ask questions of the front desk staff after a couple of weeks on how to improve and streamline the new processes. They will offer great solutions and ideas since their experience is invaluable.

Deborah Redder, National Programs Director 
Healthways-Chandler Campus


This post is a part of our weekly Best Practices series. We post a new question and answer every Monday morning. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.


The Recession is Waning: Time To Hire?

Diogo Angelino, John Atwood, and Keith Callahan discuss the conundrum of to hire or not hire full-time staff´╗┐:

Q: “Throughout most of 2009, we weren't replacing employees who left our club. Now that business seems to be (on the surface) picking up, we're feeling the demand for more staff. However, we're very weary of hiring again just to lay people off in a few months. How do we know when it's the right time to start hiring again?”

A: When you feel the demand for more staff, you should hire or you may start feeling that costumers want more attention and start losing them. If the members of your club start feeling unhappy your retention rates will decrease, so you should consider hire more staff. When thinking of hiring you should pay attention to:

  • The seasonality is important to decide when to hire, you should do it when your club is increasing the number of memberships and when you have “strong/good” months (when the demand of costumers is bigger);
  • Hiring for a 6 months period should be an option;
  • Contracts should have a base fee and a variable fee, like that you will find that staff will be more “motivated” to work;
  • You should find out what is your club’s retention rate and improve it, by doing this you will find it more unlikely to have the need to lay people off.

Diogo Angelino, Assistant Director
Solplay - Family Health Club

A: In essence you want to work your staff as close as possible to the limits of their capabilities before risking re-hires. If that means overtime for an interim period, well, that may be a plan to consider.

Overtime is not as expensive as you might think. While 30 hours of paid overtime is the equivalent of 45 hours of regular pay, there are no health insurance costs or other pay based benefits (vacation time, sick time, disability, unemployment taxes) on top of the 45 hours of pay. This means that often 30 hours of overtime equals 40 hours of labor cost. The additional value in overtime is that it can be managed easily and no one loses their job when it comes to an end.

Another option is to hire some part-time staff with the plan to have some of these jobs eventually transition to full-time as the business get much stronger.

The right time to add staff is when business (and net income) has come back for an extended period, say at least two consecutive months, to the point where club management believes it can permanently support the reinstated labor cost.

John Atwood, Principal
Atwood Consulting Group

A: I think that there are a few basic questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Do you have a budget = operating plan?
  2. Do you believe it?

Answering these two primary questions should allow you to make this decision. That said, an alternative is to hire “Temporary Workers” without much risk, and then make them Regular Workers once past any doubt. If things turn worse, you can let the Temporary Workers go at the end of their agreement, and suffer little consequence as they were temporary to begin with. Check with your HR advisor and be sure you are compliant with federal, state and local laws.

As for the economy, don’t wait on the government to tell you what to do. They don’t have a clue. Changing the economy will be driven by you and operators like you who choose to make it happen. And stop watching the media. It’s all doom and gloom.

Consider that it is high season for your business, (most likely) and that you may see a drop off in demand. If you do, why add new costs to your operation?

Always drive your revenue up and your expenses down.

Mr. Keith Callahan, G.M. / Managing Partner
Manchester Athletic Club


How To Motivate Without Money

This week, experts Alex McMillan, Bonnie Mattalian, Ryan Vogt, and Diogo Angelino discuss how to motivate your personal training staff without money:

Q: "My club has frozen wages and has implemented a hiring freeze, making it difficult to keep our staff motivated. What are some creative ideas to keep my staff of 8 personal trainers focused and motivated?"

Alex McMillan NASM, ACE CPT, Owner
Fitness Profit Solutions

A: During challenging times you must focus on your team’s strengths. What can your TEAM do to drive the company’s non-dues revenue helping to right the ship? If your team realizes their efforts help the club’s bottom-line, you can expect improved performance. If your team of 8 knows that you believe in them and they have the ability to deliver their strengths. They’ll be more focused and motivates. Here is what you can do. Devote daily time to E.M.P.O.W.E.R. your team:

Education: Make those around you better.
Motivation: Show them your passion…and learn what drives theirs.
Preparation: Prepare like you are the busiest/most successful club in town.
Opportunities: Deliver opportunities to grow- lectures, classes, corporate fitness
WOW Factor: Teach your trainers to treat their clientele like King/Queens
Expectations: Your staff must know what is expected of them
Reward: Look for little reasons to recognize and reward your staff

Ryan Vogt, Fitness Director
Ryan also is a freelance writer, presenter and fitness consultant
Tri-City Court Club and LifeQuest Fitness Center

A: Personal Training revenues in most clubs have seen a significant decrease during the economic crisis. In most cases, that means the training team feels it in their pockets, and need an extra push to keep their eye on goals and service objectives.

Here are a few quick ideas to help inspire your team:

  1. Different things motivate different people. Have a good talk with the trainer and acknowledge what is going on. Find out if there are any barriers or stumbling blocks that can be easily removed. Is your club doing everything it possibly can to promote personal training?
  2. Give the trainer a project, event or program to begin working on for the next month. Ask them to outline the project in full with processes, costs, and anticipated ROI. If they don’t know how to do this, pair them with a mentor or coach them yourself. Give them the tools and resources they need to launch a successful program.
  3. Set in place a plan with small daily or weekly goals to achieve, so that the trainer is headed towards a certain goal or objective that can be accomplished in small steps. Recognize and reward effort.
  4. The best question to ask your staff every day is “What do you need from me?”. Don’t wait for someone to come to you to acknowledge a need or a challenge. Achieve more positive outcomes with an engaged and proactive leadership style.

Bonnie Patrick Mattalian, President
Club & Spa Synergy Group Consultants

A: From my experience in Portugal working with Personal Trainers, the best way to keep your PT staff motivated is to implement one or more of the following tips:

  • Pay them per PT session that they give to a costumer, for example, if you pay 17 Euros per one hour PT session and if one member of your staff does 50 PT sessions per month, he will receive 850 Euros. Allow them to work as long as they want, they can earn more money, but the club will not lose, because they will sell more;
  • Create levels of earning per PT session given, for example, 1 to 49 sessions a month they can earn 17 Euros. But for 50 or more they can earn 19 Euros a session. This will induce the increasing of membership retention and profit for the club; (remember to adapt the levels to your club reality) Finally, after implementing new strategies, you must stay alert and keep giving feedbacks to your staff, guide and inspire them for success.
  • Create a rank to input healthy competition between your staff, at the end of a month or a trimester, give a prize to the best seller and professional. Make sure every member of your staff and costumers know who is the best professional of the month/trimester;
  • Allow/”defy” them to work as a class instructor or on other fitness project and see if they fill more motivated with that.

Finally, after implementing new strategies, you must stay alert and keep giving feedbacks to your staff, guide and inspire them for success.

Diogo Angelino, Assistant Director
Solplay - Family Health Club

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