Drafting a Championship Staff

The unemployment rate fell in the most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but stands at a still high 7.7 percent. So then, why are so many independent health club owners having a hard time finding employees? Well, actually the question really is, why are they having a hard time finding good employees?

The answer may be more a look in the mirror than a look at the number of applicants walking in the door. 

Even with March Madness in full-effect, a look at the uber-successful National Football League (NFL) can provide insight into staffing. As the NFL draft looms in April health club GMs are faced with many of the same staffing problems as NFL GMs, especially whether to draft (or in the club’s case) hire for need or talent. Much like a football team that drafts for needs rather than the best available athlete, too many independent club owners hire for needs rather than for the attributes of the employee, which can lead to trouble down the road. 

Take for instance a club owner we spoke with recently who was tired of doubling as the club’s opener more often than not. Opening at 5 am is great for the members, but it is difficult to find someone that wants to work a front desk for minimum wage (or just above) at that time of the day. With that in mind, this owner — and plenty of others — often take the “warm body” approach to hiring, so they get that and little more. 

Of course, that warm body may be much happier in bed when the club should be open, so maybe that person is really more cool than warm, leading to the manager or owner having to take on more than he or she needs to in order to make sure the club is open on time and running at full speed. 

So, what then is a hiring manager to do when looking for an employee? It really comes back to the mission statement and core values of the health club. 

In building a culture that separates the independent health club from the competition — both big and small — is having a staff that embodies the company mission and values. This will not only lead to employees that show up when expected, but that will often go the extra mile to help fulfill that mission, propel the company’s brand and help grow the business. 

Of course even the most talented NFL players drop a pass or miss a tackle, but the ones that have the shared passion, vision and goal of management will more often than not make the big play. So, on occasion you or your GM may have to open the club (or close it), but more often than not your “bought-in” employee will come through leaving you to do your job instead of his or hers. 

Of course, this isn’t possible without a clear mission statement...but more about that next time. 

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