In the scramble of hiring to fill an immediate need, health club owners and managers often become short-sighted and concerned with addressing the small-picture issues. But, to successfully build a thriving fitness organization for the long-haul, it is important to not only hire for the requisite skills of a current position opening, but to scout for future leadership potential - to plan ahead for the growth of a new hire within your organization.
Hiring a new employee into your club is much like a pro sports scout looking at minor league, college, or high school athletes. Scouts assess, not only a prospective athlete’s current talent levels, but project how their skills will grow and translate to future levels of the sport, and how the scout’s organization can reach that potential. Clearly, scouting athletes isn't a perfect science (and many would argue it is equal parts science and art). Neither is assessing candidates for a position at your club. But there are ways to improve your “scouting” abilities when trying to hire future leaders vs. short-term fixes.
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An Eye on the Future
Sure, not every employee at the juice bar or the front desk is going to stay at a club or even in the fitness industry for their whole career. Still, it is really important for hiring managers to assess current skills and traits of all applicants both for their current roles, and with an eye toward filling the management pipeline. Often, an opening shift front desk employee will be someone you hire due to a history of being consistent in attendance and service in other position. This kind of self-discipline may be a great predictor of future leadership of others.
Perhaps the new personal trainer has a passion for fitness, and a great knowledge of the latest trends and modalities in small group training. They come with a solid background in the service industry and seem like the kind of person that truly cares about customer happiness. Their “others first” attitude, passion for their job, and initiative to be the best that they can, is indicative that they are someone who can grow into leadership in a customer service industry such as health clubs.
The leading two candidates for a membership consultant role bring plenty of different skills to the table. But, while both have impressive sales records at previous jobs, one talks about a customer retention and referral program she developed at a previous position. This type of initiative, ingenuity, and understanding of the “big picture” of the gym membership sales process could be a sign of a future leader at your organization.
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Training Future Leaders
While it is important to hire with the future in mind, the pipeline doesn't end there. It continues from day one with training. The proper training of staff is important, and complex enough to fill a book, let alone a blog, so for now, we'll just leave it that it is essential that every company has a systematic and ongoing training program established. While every employee needs to know and understand the basics of the day-to-day duties of the current job, developing future leaders goes beyond the basics. If current leaders are not working with superstar employees to help develop them into future leaders, they are missing an opportunity to grow leaders from within your health club, and worse, may be unknowingly priming those future-superstars for another gym in your neighborhood.
Leaders can be found everywhere in a health club. Hiring managers need to learn how to scout applicants for the skills needed to be successful today and tomorrow.
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Top 5 Traits to Look For in Future Health Club Leaders
- “Others First” Attitude
- Bonus: Sense of Humor (A gym should be a fun place to be and that starts with leaders
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John Agoglia has spent nearly two decades either working in health clubs or writing about them. He currently writes for several digital and print publications in and out of the fitness industry.