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9 Key Considerations for Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives

Developing a strong diversity and inclusion strategy for your health club can help boost team performance and innovation.

Given the growing awareness around social justice, inequality, and disparities, it’s not surprising that organizations in nearly every industry are taking a look at how to implement more diversity and inclusion. From hiring practices to employee retention programs to client-facing practices, diversity and inclusion are driving change for numerous companies—but what does it look like for health club operators?

Since health clubs can be unique from one another in terms of size, clientele, and workforce demographics, it’s tough to put a one-size-fits-all approach into place. You risk wasting time, effort, and maybe even going in the wrong direction.

Because of that, planning is key. With that in mind, here are some key considerations for elements you may want to include, kicked off by questions that help you think deeper about what diversity and inclusion means for your operation.

1. How do you define diversity and inclusion?

There are definitions of diversity and inclusion from many different sources. It can be helpful to get some basic definitions down and hone in on your focal point. Ultimately, the definitions of diversity and inclusion, as well as other relevant terms such as equity, equality, belonging, and access, will inform your efforts.

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2. What is the focus of your initiative?

There are a few ways to approach diversity and inclusion in your business. You can focus on the employee side, with efforts to expand diversity on staff, or make your offerings more inclusive and accessible to more people in the community. While the two go hand in hand, they require different approaches and tactics. Will your efforts focus on staff, consumers, or both at the same time?

3. What is your vision for inclusion?

Consider outlining your organization's broad vision for commitment to diversity, inclusion, and access, and clearly identifying and articulating how that commitment aligns and fits in with the overall mission of the organization as defined in your statement.

Think about what diversity and inclusion looks like at your business in the next year, five years, 10 years. How do you want employees, consumers, and the community to view your efforts?

According to the Society for Human Resources Management, the most powerful strategies to drive inclusion and diversity come from the business strategy, not HR programs. Kiera Fernandez, chief diversity and inclusion officer and senior vice president of human resources for Target, told Personnel Today: “DEI is a business function at Target, not something delegated to HR.” When you view it as a function, it’s easier to see how it threads throughout your operation, not just in hiring.

4. How will you implement your vision?

Your implementation plan will outline how the organization will work (now and in the future) toward putting the strategy into action. The plan should include the following:

  • Clear, measurable goals
  • Identification of resources needed to achieve goals
  • Incorporation of feedback from employees
  • Impact on sales programs and campaigns
  • Impact on recruiting, career, and learning opportunities

5. How long will it take to put your plans into place?

A clear timeline for action will help keep efforts on track. When will each effort be accomplished? What are the key milestones that signal progress? Make a list of key milestones, goal metrics, and realistic, achievable timelines for achieving them.

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6. How will you ensure your initiatives are effective?

Monitoring and evaluation are crucial and can take many forms. How will you monitor progress and measure outcomes? Identify specific tools you will use—for example, you can start with surveys, sales metrics, employee demographics.

7. Who will be included in planning and implementation?

A task force, itself made up of a diverse and representative group of staff, is important to support the success of your work. Reflect on those who will guide and shape your organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Those charged with this responsibility should be people who are not just assigned a task, but are empowered to influence outcomes.

This includes engaging people at the top leadership levels of your organization to set the tone and promote accountability and action. For example, the CEO can set a vision and communicate progress, hold leadership teams accountable for outcomes, and make sure strategy is an integral part of business operations.

It can also be important to speak to members of the community. A key piece of diversity and inclusion is the perspectives of those you are hoping to reach. There are organizations that serve the populations you are looking to bring into your club or include on your staff, and many are searching to partner with organizations like yours to further support and advance their own efforts.

8. How will you communicate with staff and keep them engaged?

Your staff members stand on the front line of member interaction, so their support and ongoing engagement are essential. Carve out regular time to provide education and/or consider giving them the option of pursuing related training or certification courses.

9. How will you communicate with members and the community?

One of the most important parts of inclusion is the extent to which it is intentional. Think about not just telling someone they are welcome in your facility, but specifically inviting them to come in. A statement can be a good place to start and is an explanation of why the organization is committed to diversity and Inclusion. The statement should align that commitment to the overall mission of the organization.

Consider also the context for your statement. What are the key points in time in your organization's history and diversity and inclusion journey? What are the values that best capture why your organization is committed to intentional activities to increase diversity and inclusion? What is the benefit for your organization and those it serves?

However, communication goes beyond a statement. Marketing visuals can tell customers and potential customers a lot about a company, and consumers can spot contradictions. Look at your marketing materials, and ask yourself whether the images utilized adequately represent the people you are aiming to include.

Fitness stock photos tend to skew toward a specific subset of people. Using photographs of people of different races, weights, body types, and skills can make more people feel welcome, and make it clear that physical activity is both beneficial—and accessible—for everyone.

Even swapping out two or three photos displayed prominently in ads or on the club’s facade can make a difference.

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Remember it’s an ongoing process, not a quick fix

Diversity and inclusion aren’t just hot topics in the news or on social media. They may be front and center right now in a way that makes them seem almost trendy, but the reason to employ them has always been there, and always will be.

That’s why it’s important to take time to think through your efforts, set goals and milestones, get insights from employees and your community, and implement your initiatives thoughtfully. That builds a foundation that can strengthen your operation, now and into the future.

10 Elements to Include

Diversity and Inclusion is an integral part of your business strategy. These 10 elements will help you organize and prepare to take initial steps in beginning a diversity and inclusion initiative.

1. Create a Task Force or Working Group

The task force, working group, or champions will establish a clear set of goals and timelines in order to accomplish their work.

2. Engage Senior Leadership Commitment

Gain commitment from the top by preparing the business case for diversity and inclusion, especially your expected outcomes.

3. Develop a Statement

A statement explains why the organization is committed to diversity and Inclusion. The statement aligns that commitment to the overall mission of the organization.

4. Articulate Your Vision/Mission/Strategy

Outline your organization's broad vision for commitment to diversity and inclusion. Align the commitment to the overall mission of the organization as defined in your statement. The strategy articulates what the organization will do to realize that statement.

5. Be Specific in Your Definitions

Get basic definitions down and hone in on your focal point. Definitions of diversity and inclusion and other terms such as equity, equality, belonging, and access will inform your work.

6. Further Define Areas of Focus

Areas of focus, pillars of concentration, or aspirations will help define your goals. They’ll also give other contributors, like task force members and employees, a clearly stated path.

7. Develop a Plan to Implement Strategy

The plan will outline how the organization will work (now and in the future) toward implementing the strategy. Be specific in both short- and long-term actions you hope to accomplish.

8. Identify Necessary Resources

What professionals do you need to bring in to implement your plan? Do you need help with marketing, HR, strategic vision, or community outreach? Think about what resources would be most helpful.

9. Listen to Employees and Act on Results

Employee feedback and insights can offer a view of the operation’s strengths and challenges that you may not see on your own. But if you don’t use that feedback, it will slow to a trickle, so be sure to implement what makes the most sense, and let employees know why other feedback wasn’t able to be implemented.

10. Measure Outcomes

Your implementation plan should have goals and milestones, but in order to realize those, you need to be able to measure whether you’ve reached them. Be specific in your goals and it will be easier to track your progress.

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Author avatar

Regina Satagaj

Regina Satagaj is the Vice President of Human Resources for IHRSA. She oversees all aspects of human resources, including recruitment, compensation,  benefits, performance management, and employee relations. Because she is passionate about health and fitness, one of the best parts of her job is helping people start careers in health and fitness industry. When she’s not at work, you’ll often find Regina running with family and friends or enjoying time with her husband and two sons.