Recently, my business partner and I informally surveyed our fitness clients and asked them to share the biggest pain point in their businesses. We received a range of responses, but one common issue emerged: the difficulty in finding new employees.
This is not a surprise considering we are living through “The Great Resignation.” Employees now have many options, which often include working from home. As fitness facilities, we are not just competing for employees with others in the fitness industry, but with other industries, and the competition can include corporations able to afford larger salaries and more benefits. The bottom line is that finding talent today is a battle, and organizations must focus on finding candidates in a strategic way.
One important note before I share specific methods for building your candidate pool: your organization must scream to potential candidates that it is a wonderful place to work. When marketing your organization to potential candidates, start by thinking of treating candidates as customers. Write engaging and inspiring job postings. Create a positive social media presence highlighting your company culture. Publicly celebrate current employees. Collect and share employee testimonials. Create a profile on Glassdoor. Research how to get “Best Places to Work” recognition. In short, do everything you can to show the world why your organization is fantastic and why anyone should choose to work for it. HubSpot said it best: “Culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing.”
Now, on to the five effective methods for finding great candidates:
1. Internal promotion
Internal promotion is a terrific way to find new team members. It’s effective because the team member is already immersed in the organization’s culture and has likely developed skills that can transfer to a new role.
Promoting from within has a lot of other benefits, such as cost savings and improved motivation and engagement. Other team members are inspired when they see a peer get promoted. LinkedIn’s 2020 Global Talent report revealed that organizations that hire and promote more internal candidates see employees stay 41 percent longer than workers at companies with lower internal hiring rates.
At our last club, we had a team member who excelled at the welcome desk. He had a wonderful attitude and great customer service skills. Based on this, he received a promotion to membership sales. Since he was already a splendid culture fit, and had demonstrated overall ability, he only needed sales training. From that role, he was eventually promoted to sales manager.
This was an internal promotion success story, but there is a cautionary tale to be told, too. Just because an individual excels in certain roles does not guarantee success and effectiveness in a new one. I still recommend interviewing internal candidates and providing the necessary training and coaching for success, but we have all heard of (or experienced) the best personal trainer being promoted to personal training manager, only to have disaster ensue. Trust me, I’ve made that mistake.
Internal promotion is good for many reasons. Just be sure the team member deserves to be promoted.
2. Employee referrals
Employee referrals are often overlooked, but they are a fantastic source for potential candidates, and using them often decreases the cost and time of hiring. Candidates tend to be good fits because they are already informed about your organization and culture from the employee who referred them.
To maximize this tactic, it is essential to make it front-of-mind for employees. Even your best employees may not think to refer. To encourage more employee referrals, try offering bonuses. A small bonus promotes this behavior and is less expensive than finding and hiring unreferred employees.
Another way to encourage referrals is to create social media marketing assets to share with current employees. Employees can share these assets on their own platforms. The goal is to make it as easy and fun as possible for referrals to happen.
According to Gallup, employees are more engaged when they have a best friend at work — another, albeit non-monetary, bonus of your employees making successful referrals.
3. Prospecting and recruiting
Just as employee referrals might not be top of mind, a career in fitness might not be either — until you bring it up.
The best way I can illustrate this is through a personal experience. Our last club shared a wall with a restaurant. Occasionally, we would pop in for a drink or two after work. There was a fantastic bartender who worked there. After getting to know her, we recognized her incredible people skills and knew she could make a great salesperson. That had never crossed her mind, until we brought it up. We ended up hiring her and she became one of our best employees.
When you come across people in other businesses that you feel might be a great fit, do not hesitate to talk to them about it. It is flattering to be recognized and recruited, so the potential relationship begins on the right foot. Some of my best hires have been recruited, so when out and about, keep your head on a swivel and actively look for potential team members.
4. Members as candidates
Similar to prospecting and recruiting, view your own members in a new light — as potential job candidates.
Think for a moment about your members. In fact, think of your best members. These are the ones who are always happy and smiling, the ones who give positive reviews on social media, and the ones who refer new members. Just like the bartender in the previous example, a member may never imagine a career in fitness — until you suggest it.
We had a member who consistently took Group X classes. She attended regularly, had a great attitude, and loved the club. We approached her one day and asked if she had ever thought about teaching. She replied, “Not until just now!” She got certified and became a substitute instructor. She started teaching regularly and did such an excellent job that she eventually began teaching the prime-time classes. One day she approached us and said, “I think I could do an exceptional job running this department.” In due time, we promoted her to program director.
This is a splendid example of recruiting a member and then using internal promotion. Your facility is full of good members. Consider their potential as new employees.
5. Untapped workforce
Recent research from Accenture and the Harvard Business School’s Project on Managing the Future of Work discusses the concept of “hidden workers.”
These are people who want to work and have the skills or could be trained to develop the skills needed to do a job but may not be on your radar. This group could include veterans, retirees, workers with disabilities, formerly incarcerated (read “second chance”) individuals and even global talent (for roles that could be filled virtually). While these “outside the box” candidates still need to be properly vetted, many can be a powerful addition to your team.
We had good success employing retirees. Typically, a high school or college student fills a welcome desk role. However, some of our most dedicated welcome desk staffers were retirees. There is something to be said for someone who works because they want to. This group was incredibly dependable, with an unparalleled work ethic and an extremely positive influence on the rest of the staff.
While the untapped workforce may need a little extra training, it is well worth it to include them as a part of your hiring process.
Using the methods discussed above will increase your candidate pool. A bigger pool provides more selection, which allows for the best possible hires. More importantly, a big pool of candidates helps avoid the dreaded desperation hire, which rarely works out long term.
While this is just the first step to creating an excellent workforce, it is one that must not be overlooked or undervalued. Starting off with proper pooling often leads to successful hiring and retention.