Building a World Class Group Fitness Program

Club Automation


May 29, 2020



minute read


May 29, 2020

Today we’re talking about three pieces to building a world class group fitness department at your club. Those three stages are capturing talent, creating a team, and connecting the dots.

They're all interconnected, because when you secure the talent, create a killer team, and connect the dots to convey the bigger picture of the experience you’re delivering, you create a feeling other people want to have. That puts more eyes on you, which makes it easier to capture more talent, invest in the team, connect the dots, and so on. It’s a circle that keeps growing outward. We’re joined by Shannon Fable, co-founder of GroupEx PRO.

Short on time? Here are the takeaways:

  1. Recruit and hire proactively, not reactively.
  2. Foster a team. We can't just leave these talented individuals as their own little islands that are in charge of their piece of the pie, their hour, their time slot, their format. To develop a world class group fitness program as a whole, we have to develop our instructors as teammates.
  3. Develop your instructors for lower churn. This can be formal through continuing education courses or informal by sharing articles, YouTube videos, and other free resources.
  4. When it comes to connecting the dots between capturing talent and creating a team, communication is the cornerstone. We created GroupEx PRO, to give you a platform to streamline communication and empower your instructors.
  5. Evolution in group fitness is a good thing! The best managers, the ones who are able to capture great talent, create great teams, connect the team to each other, are ones who do not fear change but embrace it.

For the full webinar, read below or play the recording above.

Video Transcription  

Shannon Fable: We started these webinars at the very beginning of this COVID crisis, or whatever you're calling it. I call it the Great Pause. It has been so wonderful to meet with you and gather with you each week, and share these ideas in this format. Again, please definitely now or in the future, ask us your questions. Not only does GroupEx PRO have an amazing software that you can use to help support your world class fitness department, but we are also here as though leaders in the industry to help a group that doesn't often get a ton of help with how to manage, how to grow. And right now, we're talking about how to recover strong.

Building a World Class Group Fitness Department. I am going to talk about as if you were starting from scratch. And then, I'll also pepper in some of the timelier pieces that have to do with recovering strong and coming back in. And understanding as we continue to have these conversations each week, everyone is in a very different place. We're in the process of doing a little poll on a couple of different Facebook pages, asking where you are with your recovery. If you want to pop that in the chat right now, we'd love to hear as well. But some people have no idea when they're opening back up, some have already opened, some have opened with group fitness, without group fitness. Obviously, as we progress, these conversations tend to go in a lot of different paths or go down a lot of different paths. I'll try my best to keep it quick, simple, to the point. And as always, we're here to answer questions afterwards.

Today, I want to talk about three pieces to building your world class group fitness department. And it doesn't stop with three. And what you're going to find is, I may have lumped them into three categories, but within these three, there are three pieces to that. And then under those, there are sub-bullets. I want to make it really easy to understand, the three big buckets that you need to focus on, when trying to build, rebuild, or start a world class group fitness department. And then, I'll get as granular as I possibly can, in the hour or so that we have.

Capturing Talent

Step one: we're going to talk about capturing talent. This is obviously the bread and butter of what we're doing. You have to have people to deliver these classes. As we recover strong, it might be time for you to reevaluate the talent that you left off with. The people that got you through to where you are today, look at what they've been doing, or how you've been able to connect them and engage them during this time apart. And which one of these members move forward, and where you might have to fill in some gaps.

Creating a Team

We're going to talk then about, once you capture this talent... and you've heard me talk about this point so relentlessly over the last seven or eight weeks because it is such an important topic. We can't just leave these talented individuals as their own little islands that are in charge of their little piece of the pie, so their hour, their time slot, their format. We have to figure out how to create a team.

Connecting the Dots

From there, we have to connect the dots. We talk about connecting dots not just between the team members, but between them and members, them and the non-members, them and the rest of the club and the rest of the talent that's inside of your club working in different departments, as well as your community and beyond, and the fitness industry as a whole. It's the three Cs of capturing talent, creating a team, and connecting the dots.

When we put this in a picture format, I hope you see, they are buckets, but they're all interconnected. Capturing talent, creating the team, connecting the dots leads back to capturing talent. While we're going to talk about these as one, two, three, it's truly three plates that need to spinning constantly because they feed each other. If and when we get good talent and we're successful at creating a team with these people and the connecting the dots to the bigger picture of the product that we're delivering and the feeling that we want people to have, then this in turn, gives us more people looking at us, to capture talent, invest in the team, connect the dots, and so on. Just remember, it's a big circle. These don't operate, really, in silos, and it's not something you can necessarily do in timeline order. Like I said, you can't focus, "Okay, I'm going to work on capturing talent now. And now, I'm going to work on creating a team. And now, I'm going to work on connecting the dots. We need to tee them up as separate pieces, but know how they're interconnected and how they influence one another.

How to Build a Group Fitness Program

Let’s talk about step one, capturing talent. And I love to call it talent because it is talent. And talent does not grow on trees. Back in the day, you may have been able to find just... and you still can, find those superstars that just plop in your lap. And here they are and they do it all. But more often than not, we have to do more than just find a superstar, put them on the schedule, and sit back and relax. There are four sub-pieces to capturing talent.

  1. Plan. We got to plan for the talent that we need, plan for the talent that we want. And there's some steps to consider there.
  2. Recruit. We need to also recruit to get the talent. Very rarely do people just walk through your door that are going to be the exact person you need at that time. How can we continue to reinforce this recruitment concept. We have to retool how we attract people to us. Proactively figuring out, what are those key hallmark pieces of your team that you can put out there that attracts talent to come to you. And we'll talk about jumping ship and poaching, that's not what we're describing here. But you want to become the club or the program where people hope and aspire to become part of your team, where they are just clamoring to get on, even your bench.
  3. Hire. And then, we'll talk about the hiring process.

Planning Your Group Fitness Program  

I always start with this concept of planning. Because many times, if you're not constantly planning or making a plan to see what you've got and what you need... so identifying your gaps, just like you would with any good business. When you talk about capturing talent, it ends up being just simply throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. You have to take some time to really sit back and analyze the current landscape of your product, figure out where you want to go, and then, identify what you might need to get there. It's about identifying needs. And step one is looking at your current KPIs. And we did a great webinar last week about the group fitness trifecta. It blew off the conversation on KPIs. Because most of us have just been looking at numbers. That's what our managers have wanted. That's what our owners have wanted. That's what we've known. It's the easiest objective measure. But we want to look at these KPIs. We definitely want to start there. How is your program performing? And we want to look at, how is our program performing, both as a team... Collectively, how is your group fitness department working? And how are they working inside of your club? And then, as compared to the industry?

The number one KPI you want to look at is penetration. That is going to be the best KPI to get a good grasp on, how is my current program performing? And that isn't necessarily going to tell you just the story of your individual player or your individual instructors. It's going to show you how your instructors, your class types, your formats, what things are you offering, what products are you offering, how you've stitched those products together. Now obviously, if you're closed right now, and your product is very, very different, we're going to be looking back to what was going on before. And you're, kind of, going to be looking into a crystal ball to project what's happening in the future. But when we look at penetration, which is total number of people that are utilizing group fitness on a daily basis or a monthly basis as compared to the number of people that are accessing your club. That's penetration.

Back in the day, when we were a little bit less verbose, a little bit less all... we have some many thing happening now in group. But most of us have three, four, five studios or places where thing are happening inside or our clubs. Of course, if you're on the phone right now or on the webinar right now, you could still maybe only have one studio or five. But back when we only had one or two studios, most of us, industry average was around 15% penetration. What does that mean? It means for all the people coming in the gym during the day, we were capturing 15% of them were walking through door with the objective to take group fitness.

I would say now, if you're a multipurpose health club... and this is where it gets really hard there and not great places to look for the actual stats or benchmarks, so to speak. Some of this is very fuzzy. But I can tell you what we see, having access to the reporting features on GroupEx PRO from tons of clubs, of all different shapes and sizes, across the US and Canada, and some places around the world. What we know to be true, multipurpose health clubs, we're leaning towards 20 to 25% penetration. Meaning, for every four people that come in your front door, one of them is accessing group fitness in some way, shape, or form. That's something to aim for.

Now, if you're still [inaudible 00:09:52] and you only have one or two... because it's a numbers game. If you only have one or two studios, it's, kind of, hard to capture 25%, unless you're just killing it. So that's still down around 15%. But even still, if you're tracking this number and you're watching the trends with this number, that's going to give you a really good indicator of how you're performing against... like I said, if you're looking at the trends, you're looking at how your team is performing now versus how it used to be performing. And if you're looking at the industry, the numbers that I just gave you, you have a benchmark to shoot for. Okay, I want to maneuver the pieces on the board to get to a place where we're between 15 and 25%. And if we can get over that, that's amazing. Because for your owners and your managers, the more people that can be service by group fitness, the better.

Of course, I know you're sitting there saying, "But Shannon, wait. Post-COVID, this is not going to be the same." You're right. Right now, I'm giving you statistics that were pre-COVID, when we could pack people into our classrooms. Now you're going to have to look... but it could be relative because the total number of people that can come to the club is going to go down. The number of people that you can service in group fitness is going to go down. But you might want to do some calculations, get together with your owners and your managers. And talk about how many people, at most, are going to be able to come into the gym, look at how many classes you're going to have on the schedule, how many studios are going to be running, and figure out what that ultimate number might be. But those are going to be the KPIs I'm looking at, so we can analyze our talent.

Hire Proactively Rather than Reactively

Secondly, we want to look at our assets. How deep is our bench? This really gives us an objective marker of sustainability. And it's something we all struggle with, is making sure that we have enough people to cover the classes that we've got. Good people to teach the current classes that we have. We have enough people that are available to sub in and, or take over if people's lives change, or they get sick, or they have to leave for a while. And then, we need some people waiting in the wings that can move in. I liken this to the way that baseball is set up. You've got your people that are playing in the Majors. You've got the Minors. You've got the Farm teams. We need to look at it the same way. And it doesn't mean that the people that are in the Minors, so to speak, on your team or on your payroll. But you've got your eye on them, you know what they're capable of. You are continuing to engage with them. And we'll come back to this in a minute.

But we have to fill all of those buckets to make sure that we don't find ourselves in a place where we are panicked, and we're having to hire reactively versus place people proactively. I hope that makes sense. Now, it's not perfect, no club is perfect. You are going to every once in a while, wake up, and someone can't teach 5:30 anymore. You don't have anyone that can teach that format at 5:30. And you're going to have to go searching for people. But if you can truly assess what your bench looks like now, and where you've got some gaps. A great example of this that I do, when I'm consulting with group fitness managers is, put all your formats in a spreadsheet. Put all your people down the left-hand side, and then use some kind of grid to mark the people that are super-proficient doing it, could be with a little practice, don't teach it at all. And then, you can sub stratify based on days and times, so availability. It's a complicated spreadsheet, but it's a really good thing to do every once in a while. You can identify, "Oh my gosh, we still have Step on our schedule, twice a week, and I only have one person who can teach it. And if she goes down, I am hosed."

It doesn't mean that you necessarily have to add a whole bunch of people in the Step category. But are there some people you can teach to be available, train up to be available. Or is it something where you need to start considering that step starts to fall off of your schedule, because you don't have any talent, you don't have anyone on the bench, and you don't want to find yourself in a predicament where you have mutiny on the bounty with your members. Because all of a sudden, you find yourself with no options. Again, talking pre-COVID. Post-COVID is a little different. But we can do this right now, this asset management, this asset audit, I guess I should say. Then as we come back, we can put together smarter schedules.

The very first webinar we did during this COVID series was about painting with a white canvas, or having a blank canvas in front of you. And you certainly do. We just released the feature yesterday, where we can batch into people's schedules. And we knew some people were asking for it, but we had no idea how many people were heeding this advice of the white canvas, and completely shutting down their schedules, erasing their entire schedules so that they can start fresh post-COVID. Something to think about there.

Growth Opportunities and Needs

We also want to think about growth, growth opportunities and growth needs. This is something important as we start to recover strong. Again, I'm going to use the analogy of a crystal ball. None of us really know what's going to happen when we reopen and people start to come back. One, we don't know if they are going to come back or not going to come back, if the people that were taking group fitness before are going to be there or not, what they're going to want. Well, we certainly can look backwards to forecast forward, and leave ourselves a little bit of wiggle room. Again, this asset audit is going to be the place where you start.

And then, you look at the classes that you had currently. You can look at the classes maybe you've been doing them virtually. And you can look at what other people have been doing virtually, not just other clubs, but Pelotons of the world, the Mirrors of the world. And you can really dig into some of... there's so many articles right now, out there, showing all of the different reports and stats about what's happening in the industry with consumption of these virtual digital products. You can look at that, you can start to attribute what the opportunities are going to be in the future. And match what you have against what you might be needing in the future. And this is going to help you stack rank, for lack of a better term, who you're going to bring back on board. Because the thing I'm hearing from most clubs is, there's no way you're going to be able rehire your entire team, right when you open. You're going to have to make various strategic decisions. It goes back to why you want to do this asset grid.

You can get your Swiss Army knives hired first. But not just your Swiss Army knives of old, the Swiss Army knives of what you might need to put on the schedule as you start to get feedback from members about what they want to do now, and what they're hoping to see in the future. I hope that makes sense. Identify your needs, that's step number one to capturing it.

Evaluate Compensation and Benefits

Then you want to evaluate compensation and benefits. And again, I'm going to talk pre-COVID, and then, recovering strong. You want to look back at what you were paying. And to look back and do this evaluation of compensation and benefits, you do want to look at current standards. So [IDEA 00:16:39] does an employee or a fitness professional salary compensation report, that would be a good one to grab. IHRSA does one as well. ACE has done one in the past. But really important to look at what group fitness instructors are making all across the nation or the world. And then, we want to look at what are the additional perks that we have to add to the kitty. I'm going to talk pre-COVID first and then, recovery. Think about the perks that add to this hourly amount or class rate that you're paying. Because obviously, it's very hard to increase or just brighten the load, by changing how much we pay them per hour. And this might be even harder post-COVID. We have to look at the things that are important to instructors, and what would make that dollar amount more palatable. If you can't get it up, what other things could you provide for them that make this package look better.

And we need to discuss the options. Are there other options for incentivizing their compensation or providing additional benefits for them beyond the perks and the money that they make. And then, you got to continue to negotiate. A, continue to negotiate with your peeps, but then, continue to negotiate with owners and managers about, "I can't give it to them right now. What are the points or the forks in the road where we can reevaluate, whether that's a date or a metric that they have on the backend with regards to sales, or the number of members that they have in the club, or ancillary revenue that's coming in. What does that look like? And that's going to be really important post-COVID. Because owners and managers are doing the same things, we're talking about right here. They have no idea what their run rate's going to look like, when they open back up. They know how many people are still members, how much they should be paying, how many people have frozen, what the outs look like, how long are the contracts if you have contracts. They know all that, but the map gets really fuzzy in their future. Because we just don't know what consumer behavior is going to be.

Negotiating Compensation with Group Fitness Instructors

Of course, they're going to be a little trepidatious about A, opening back up with the same exact schedule that you left with. Because the demand is probably not going to be there. And even if the demand is there, the number of people that you're going to be able to service is going to be less. All of a sudden, that cost per head is going to be much higher than they're comfortable with, if that's how they've been managing their forecasting in the group fitness world. Cost per head, remember in our conversation last week, is how much each member is paying, for lack of a better term, to take that class. And that is determined by how much they're paying the instructor, by how long the class is. That's how much each member, like the dollar sign over their head. And before, if we could get that number down to $1.00, $1.50, our owners and manager are really, really happy. That feels like a good return on their investment for instructors. Well now, if you've only got 10 people can be in your studio, and you're paying an instructor $30, now you're at $3.00 as your cost per head. And that looks a little wonky to owners and manager.

We're going to have to do a little bit of negotiating with our owners and managers. Find out more about how they're feeling with regards to your payroll. Because that means you're going to have to look at these options and perks a little bit more deeply, and you're going to have to sweeten the pot. I'm not suggesting that I think managers and owners are going to ask you to cut back on how much you're paying people. But it's certainly not going to be a time where we can greatly increase how much we are paying people. And we might not know how soon that can be. And we have a lot of instructors that have been at home, really calculating what it's worth to come back.

Offering Additional Perks

Now, let me talk perks for a second. This is going to get tougher because when I say, and I think I talked about this on other webinars... when we talk about people coming back, and as an instructor sitting at home, thinking about my ROI. I'm not just thinking about, okay, I make 25 bucks per hour that feels pretty good. I have had the time to sit down and think about, I get paid $25 per hour, but I show up 15 minutes early and I stay 15 minutes late. And I know some of you pay them for that. Let's just hold that off to the table. But if you don't, I make $25 per class and it really ends up taking 90 minutes, plus I've got to get there early enough to check my kid into childcare, check them out of childcare. I've also prepared my class, whether that's memorizing choreography or making up my class, I've bought my outfit, I've bought my music. And probably, part of a continuity program, if I teach branded programming, like Zumba, BODYPUMP, etc. and I used to be able to justify that a little more because I got free childcare, maybe free swim lessons, discounted programming, discounted summer camps, free gym membership, etc. Think of what I'm saying.

When you come back and the club opens up, are all those perks still there? And do they still hold the same value? Because if the perks are gone or the value has decreased, and we can't increase how much they're making or give them the same number of classes back, how are we going to incentivize them to come back and give us, probably even, an elevated level of service, when it comes to cleaning, thinking outside of the box about how to teach with limited equipment, with limited numbers of people. Being mindful of that post-COVID, that some of the perks that we've always just been able to bullet point, and hope that people are like, "Yay, I get a gym membership for lifetime. This is great." That it might not be as valuable as it once was, and it might cost them more to teach class now. And when I say cost them more, it might be more work to [inaudible 00:22:14] the class, it might be more work because they've got to get childcare because your childcare isn't opened up the same way it was before. Be mindful that this evaluation of compensation and benefits is going to look really, really different, coaxing people to come back post-COVID.

How to Attract the Best Group Fitness Instructors

When we talk about attracting people, there are three key components to that. And this is the third part of capturing talent.  

Job Description and Responsibilities

You need to have a really good job description and responsibilities. And again, I would say, in the past with a lot of the clubs that I've either worked for or consulted for, the group fitness job description was a little fuzzy. I think I just used that word, but I'll use it again. It was a little fuzzy because it wasn't granular based on what studio you taught in, what formats you taught, etc. First thing I would say is, be really mindful about is the description of what a cycling instructor does different than the yoga instructor, different than the main studio, strength, or cardio instructor versus the water instructor. And if so, you need to make sure you have specific job descriptions for each of those. If you can do it and your HR department help you, it's quite possible that you have one job description for all group fitness instructors. But be sure it's specific, specific to what you're looking for, specific to what you reward.

And the key is really bullet pointing the responsibilities of how you see them fitting into the fitness ecosystem... I'm sorry, the club ecosystem as I've said before. You've got to get really specific with this. It's got to be documented. They've got to be easily accessible. And they've got to be consistently updated. This is, like I said, a great opportunity for you to take a look, because post-COVID, this job description and the responsibilities of your team may be very different than they were before you left, and before the lights went down in the studio.

What do we need to update to be really forthright with our employees about what they're doing? You’ve heard me say, I'm sure, a million times, conflict is when expectation doesn't meet reality. The more specific we can be about the reality of the job and what we believe this job to be, the better the outcome.

Job Offers

Second, we have to have a really good job offer. When we're sitting down to either post-COVID reintroduce a job to... and I would highly suggest, even if you have an instructor that's been on board for 24 years, you had to furlough them and you're rehiring them to come back and teach the same class that they were before, this is a good opportunity to level the playing field. Get that job description and responsibilities back in front of him or her. And then, get a solid job offer on the books. This is how much are they making per hour, what are their incentives, what are the additional compensation opportunities, what are the benefits, what are the opportunities for growth in this job, in this role. The better employees will be the ones that are interested in seeing this job offer. They want to see what is the path forward, what are the other opportunities that exist here, how might I be able to increase how much I make over time. And we've got to be able to document that in a job offer.

Trying to think about how to explain the last piece of this. We're always going to deal with, what I call, the hobbyist in group fitness. And a hobbyist is someone that the perks were always the justification for doing the job. They would teach one day a week to get their free gym membership. They'd teach the one day a week to get summer camp for their kids. I've always been a big believer that hiring the hobbyist is the least desirable option, when you're looking at capturing talents. Because you get what you attract. If you write the job offer, the job description, the responsibilities, to dumb it down to the hobbyist level, then you will continue to attract people that are doing it because they love to move, not necessarily because they like to move people. The people that like to move and like to exercise, and like to get paid for doing that, versus being paid to coach, support, and empower other people. And I could go on and on, but I think in this post-COVID recovery strong world, like in order to recover strong, I've said this as well, what a member is going to need when you come back, is very different than what they needed before. And that hobbyist is going to be less suited for that role.

That's not to say that you might not end up having to still hire some people that just treat it like a hobby and don't really need the money. But you still want to put some things into the job offer, job description, responsibilities, the expectations, where you can manage... It may not be something that they need, so they can call it a hobby, but they are still engaged and interested in it enough that they are part of this team, which we'll talk about again. And the group fitness trifecta conversation really tapped into this whole concept of engagement. But you need them to be engaged with the bigger picture in how they're really attached to your entire club and the mission of that club.

Enhancing Brand

Finally, the last ingredient for attracting people is enhancing your brand. Now, know that your brand... there are two parts to your brand at the club. There is how consumers see you, but there's also how potential employees see you. Obviously, your marketing department works on how consumers see you. And you need to weave that into the second piece of the brand, which is really what I want to address with everyone here with regards to capturing talent. How do potential instructors see working for you? It has to closely align with how your club want the consumers to see you, the people that you are trying to attract to the membership. But you also want to make sure that you get really specific about, again, the expectations. I keep coming back to the word expectations. You're like, how high is your bar set? What does working for you mean? Is it a fun environment? Do you feel part of a team? Do you feel connected to the mission?

And I'm not here to say that those are the right things to make your brand about. But you really want to think about, if you surveyed your current instructors, the ones that have worked for you in the most recent past, how would they describe working at your facility? What is the good of it? What do they get out of it? And how can we really amplify that brand message, so we can attract more people like that? I hope that makes sense. These are the three ingredients to attracting really great talent that you're interested in capturing.

How to Recruit the Best Group Fitness Instructors

Let's talk about recruiting. Again, we can't assume that people are going to come knocking on your door, maybe they will. But we always have to be proactively recruiting. And even if you are not open right now, you should be recruiting right now. And it is the easiest thing in the world to recruit right now. Because you can be on social media and online, looking at what instructors all over your community are doing, which is super exciting because that's never been available. Like you'd have to sneak in other clubs and take classes to see what other talent is out there. And again, we'll talk about poaching in just a second. But this is a great time to be recruiting, putting feelers out there, and looking for people that you might want to entice to come your way or to scoop up during this time. Basically, everyone's a free agent at the moment. And they're looking to work for clubs, going back to the brand, that really align with their reason for teaching and getting them back to doing what they love.

Job Postings

Three ingredients to recruiting, one is job postings. I am a big believer that you've got to craft a really great job posting. And that goes back to, what is the description, what are the responsibilities, what's the offer? You always want to have a group fitness job posting out there, always. But you want to make sure that you have it in the right place, so you look professional. My number one rule is that job postings should not be on Craigslist or any of those types of bulletin boards. And not to say that companies don't put things up like that on Craigslist. But there are plenty of job posting sites, specific to fitness, where good fitness professionals would be looking for job opportunities. I'm happy to share some of those with you. If you have any questions, just drop me a line of Facebook, and I can post those out there. But think about local places where folks look for jobs that are reputable and screen career, not hobby or garage sale. And then, look at the ones that the industry really holds up as a place for instructors to go looking for jobs.


The second, as I was just mentioning, you should constantly be scouting. Now, I want to make no mistake about this. Scouting is different than poaching. Poaching is going to another club and asking them, how much they're being paid, and topping the offer, and getting them to come over to you. We're all in this together, and I really loved watching group fitness instructors, managers, etc., come together during this time, and clubs come together during this time to support one another. I don't won't that to change, when we all recover and we come back. Never go to someone else's facility and sneak in and take a class, and then try to convince someone to come over. But right now, you can scout online, and even when clubs open back up, you can still scout online. And see instructors in your area and what they're up to.

Again, we don't want to reach out to them and try to poach them and get them over to our side. But if we always have these job postings open, we're consistently advertising that we're on the hunt for talent, we're constantly searching for talent that might be good team members for us, then they will be attracted to you, if we follow some of those other ideas that we set forth before. Being on the lookout for talent everywhere. You should also learn how to spot raw talent. I am a product of someone spotting, what they consider, raw talent. I took classes. I loved classes. I went from the back row to the front row. I may or may not have had a cassette tape in my bag, hoping for the day the instructor did not show up. But someone saw me and said, "Oh my gosh, we do this thing. We teach people how to become group fitness instructors, would you be interested? You're a really good mover." That is how a lot of great group fitness instructors are born. Never be afraid to have your instructors, and incentivize them, to find raw talent, and to talk to people about the opportunity. And no lie, it is a little complicated to get a member to go from being a member to being an instructor. But there are ways to do that. We can tackle that in another webinar.

But what I've found to be true in my years of managing, 25 years other managing, you can find raw talent, and you draw this talent out of them, and you teach them how to do something, they never even knew is available. They will be indebted to you forever. They become such a loyal employee. If you have the time, you have the space, and I hope that you do, to scout raw talent, train raw talent, that is, probably, the best path to getting really great team members.

Develop a Clear Process

Finally, you're going to want to develop a process, a very clear process, for screening and interviewing. I said, job postings always, you're scouting always, you are screening always, you are interviewing strategically, and you are auditioning even less people than you interview. What I find to be the greatest source of frustration and the biggest time suck for managers is two things. They're consistently or constantly searching for people, so they're always accepting applications, which I think is fine. But then, every time they get an application, they review the application, they call the person, they interview the person, and they audition the person, unless you just look at their application. You're like, no, they don't meet our criteria, or no, they applied for the wrong thing. But they [inaudible 00:34:09] repeat this over and over, and it becomes really time consuming without getting a lot out of it in the end. Always have the job postings up, therefore, you're always going to be accepting applications.

But then, we're going to talk about time management next week. Having time each week, and I would say it would be weekly, where you sift through all of your applications. Do it like every Friday morning or every Friday afternoon. You sift through all the applications, and you put out an email to them, A, telling them you got the application, B, inviting them to click on a link and go look at your calendar and find a spot for a 15-minute screening interview. And then, have those phone calls.

There are a couple things, and I'm not going to get too deep into this. I do a whole workshop on this process of hiring, to make it easier. But suffice it to say, I'm going to see a lot about people, if I email them and give them directions to click on something, like a schedule, [inaudible 00:35:05] or [inaudible 00:35:07], where I've got a certain period of time each week that I allot to doing these interview. It's going to tell me a lot about how quickly they click on that link, if they can follow these directions, and if they follow through for the 15-minute screening. Right away, I can already save myself a lot of time, if they don't make it through that process. I do not want to hire someone that cannot figure out that process. Because they're going to end up being really, really hard to manage when they're on their own and having to sift through all of the communication we send out.

Once I do the phone screen... the phone screen's pretty simple, walk me through your resume or walk me through your application, and then, hey, I need these things. I need a resume, I need a reference letter, whatever you want to say, I need more information about the continuing education you've done in the last year, the format you teach, even a snippet, maybe, of you teaching. Now, we can ask people to video tape themselves and send that in. And that can be the next layer of interviewing. Again, we're giving them some hoops to jump through. But these are hoops that we need, to know if they're able to jump through, to one, demonstrate their interest, their actual interest in being hired, versus just getting on your sublist and being able to take advantage of some of your perks. And how easy are they going to be to manage in your process? How easy are they going to be to manage later on? And then, I only audition when it makes a ton of sense. And hopefully, if you're continuing to do this, and you've got a lot of people coming at you, you can audition groups of people simultaneously.

Aida Johnson from East Bank Club, I did a great fireside chat with her. I think it was last Monday. And she talked about the fact that she's doing a lot of video interview now or video auditions now. So that she doesn't put them through this painful audition process, and she doesn't put herself through that painful audition process. Because auditioning someone where I'm just watching them is a nightmare. It's not really them being in their element. It's very sterile environment. And sometimes, you do and sometimes, you don't see what they can do. Making other instructors take their class, that's just super intimidating. And you never want to put them in front of members, that's a liability. This whole concept of... especially now, post-COVID, they all... well, I shouldn't say all, that's painting the very broad brush. But a lot of them have gotten very good at videotaping themselves. They've certainly been introduced to it. Whether it's them teaching for 15 minutes on Zoom or them recording themselves or sending them something they've done during COVID, that would be great. But adding this whole video component truly can bypass this time suck of live auditions.

Now, you do want to get live in front of them at some point, for sure. I do a lot of group interviews. And if you go back and listen to that fireside chat with Aida, you can hear some of the great ideas she had, and some of the ideas that we shared. Three ingredients: job postings, always be doing it, always be scouting. And then, invite people to fill out your application, get a clear process for screening it, interviewing, and auditioning, so it doesn't feel like an awful time such for you.

All right, and then, you're going to hire them. You give them that official offer letter we talked about. You clearly explain the expectations, and not just the expectations of arrive on time, teach a safe and effective class, clean up your space, record your numbers. But expectations of, what does a group fitness instructor mean to you, what are your expectations of keeping up on their education, or being part of the community and not just showing up and only teaching their classes, of engaging? If you have GroupEx PRO, how often do they have to be on and communicate with you? You really want to outlay the clear expectations before we sign on the dotted line.

And then finally, make it official. You've given them an offer, you've talked them through the expectations. Any good company would say, "Take some time to think about this. I need you to interview and audition me as much as I have had to interview and audition you. I want to make sure that you know this is a good choice for you." Because the last thing you want, and we've all done it, you hire someone, you think it's going to be great, they sign on the dotted line quickly, rainbows, skies are clear. And then a week later, they're like, "Oh gosh, nevermind." That wasn't good.

The space between expectations and time to think, what I do, and this is in the fireside chat I did with Aida... I used to give them a pass to the club as a guess, two weeks, a month. At the last club I was, I would give them a month. And I would ask them to come in and take classes and provide feedback to me on the classes. But go in and be a member and see how the member are, and if you like the members. Go take classes in the format you want to teach. Go take classes in the studio where you see yourself, at the times where us see yourself, use the amenities. Like, does this feel like a good home for you? Because I want to make sure that this is a longterm hire. I don't want to keep doing this in an ongoing way. I want to get people that are going to be around for a long time.

How to Create a Team

All right, step two, you've captured your talent, now you're going to take that talent and create a team. We've talked about this in some other webinars that we've done. I'm going to hit on it briefly. But four pieces to this too. You've got to onboard them. You've got to manage them. You've got to integrate them together. And then, you need to be some part of their development. Whether it's an expectation of yours that they're taking care of their own professional development, you have to invest in their professional development in some way, shape or form, if you want to reap the reward, and you want them to be onboard for a long time.

Starting with onboarding, really just want to hit the high level of... most clubs do not do a great job of onboarding group fitness instructors, various reasons. But there is so much research to support that the better... let's go back. The better that you explain the position, you outlay your expectations before they get there, you've given them time to think about it, and you make a decision on the hiring, you're going to have better people come through the process. But then, if you can go the next step, and you can take your time to figure out an onboarding process that gets the indoctrinated to both your system and the club and the rest of your team members. And you set them up for success in regards to understanding process and procedure.

And again, how those expectations you've talked about come to life, the road forward is going to be paved with way less friction, way less stumbling blocks. Where we've all been there, you get someone, they start teaching the next week, and you spend the six weeks because you didn't take the time or you didn't have the opportunity to onboard them clearly and to the best of your ability... you spend the next six weeks asking or answering little questions that they have, and, or redirecting them when they do the wrong thing. Record their numbers in the wrong place, you've used the time card in the wrong way, don't put the keys back where they go, those types of things. It’s very important that we have an onboarding process.

Plan for Onboarding

Your plan for onboarding has to include the what, when, who, how, and why. What do they need to be educated on? When will they get onboarded? Who is responsible for the onboarding? How is the onboarding delivered? And then, anything else you can think of that might fall into that last bucket that you have to plan for. But you've got to create this process, and then, you've got to deliver and access it and fix it. Every time, you're going to learn, and every time you onboard someone, gosh, where are my gaps, what did I forget? But some of this can be in written form, some of this needs to be face-to-face or on a Zoom call, some of this needs to be taught in the moment. You can't really explain it until their first class. And great example, in GroupEx PRO, we've got that reference section, so you can document and have your employee handbook. Usually, you have to review the employee handbook for the entire club.

But then, you might have specific procedures for your team. And that might include things, like expectations for classes, format expectations, specific format expectations, what toys do they use, what toys do they not use, what are the [inaudible 00:43:03] of the music, etc. You need a sudden protocol. You need emergency protocols. You need... you get the idea. And those can all be documented in GroupEx PRO. But then, you need to have a forum that's like, okay, you need to read these things by this time, and some kind of check offs, so that you know they've gotten through it. But there are other things that you're going to have to teach them live.

I would highly, highly suggest that you would show up, and you are present the first time that they teach, or you can nominate someone else, maybe you've got extra instructors that can help play this part too. But you need an ambassador of awesome to welcome them to the club, introduce them to the members, help them with the stereo, and teaching all of that upfront before they're ready to teach their class, may or may not fall on death ear. You get the idea. We want to create this fail proof system, deliver it, access it, and continue to enhance it as time goes on, to make our jobs easier as we bring people on board.

How to Integrate Your Team Members

Then we need to integrate. Your success 100% hinges on the interdependency of your group. And it's interdependency, not cooperation. And I know I sound like a broken record, I say that every single week. You've got to know one another, and you have to facilitate that getting to know one another. When a new person comes onboard, how does the rest of your team get to know them? You're probably not going to have a face-to-face any time soon, put could you have a fireside chat or a little 15-minute Zoom call, now that we're all used to Zooming. And let everyone see their faces, record it, put it up of GroupEx PRO. So that people that didn't get to see it, get to see it. Could you do a video interview with the new instructor and ask them five questions, put them in a hot seat, learn a little bit more about them professionally and personally? Do you welcome them on GroupEx PRO in the forum, and then, have everyone introduce themselves? Do you create buddies with veteran instructors with your new instructors, so they have someone to go to, to ask all their questions? You get the idea.

We want to integrate them on the personal and professional level. And we do really want to highlight, why did you bring this person onboard, what are they bringing to the table, what are you excited about? And really, really sell this person to your team internally, so they see the puzzle just got even better. You added one more piece to the puzzle, and your mosaic is almost finished.

How to Do Performance Management

People want performance management. They want to know what they're supposed to be doing, how well they're required to do it, what do you think of how I'm doing it, how are you going to reward me, how can I improve my performance? This is all part of that expectation piece that we talked about. But this has to be ongoing. Ensure that we're having these conversations, that we've put key metrics in place. This is a good place to go back and reference the group fitness trifecta webinar, we did last week. And it gives you clear place to adding KPIs for objective and subjective performance that you can consistently report on and discuss. You have common language with each of your instructors to help them know how they're doing and what you'd like to see. And this is what I mean by development.

There's another side of that development. But at it's most rudimentary level, someone's development industry predicated on answering these five questions. And having conversations with people early and often, to ensure they know what you want them to do to get better. And probably up until now, most of those conversations center around, getting your numbers up and teaching a better class, better choreography, better drills, better use of music, better queuing etc. It needs to be bigger than that. And we need to have these conversations more than once a year, when they want a raise, or once a year when we have to do it, because the why tells us we have to for HR purposes. That leads to this learning and development, this concept of filling up their jar early and often. It's going to benefit you. It's going to benefit the customers.

Invest in Continuing Education for your Group Fitness Instructors

We fill up their jar in a few ways. We give them education, both formal and informal. If you can invest in their continuing education, if you can bring in CECs, you can pass along articles, that is fantastic. If you can't, what informal education that you can provide. We talked about it last week, in the group fitness trifecta, daily doses of inspiration and information. Again, articles can go into that informal, choreography exchanges, people taking one another's classes, you hosting get togethers for them to test out new music or swap music idea, etc. We want to fill them up from an education standpoint.

We want to give them a framework for doing their job, reminding them and reinforcing how it needs to be done, both the staff and the individual. And then, highlight when it is a job well done. And catching people doing things right, early and often. I'm going to keep saying, early and often. We consistently want to put marbles in their jar by catching them doing things right, early and often.

And then finally, are there any ways that you can develop them by enhancing their roles? And these can be small upgrades that don't necessarily add responsibility, but stars next to their names. Think of it more as a leveling system than a hierarch of how much you pay them or what their responsibilities are. But for example, if you have an instructor that continues to prove themselves over and over, to go above and beyond in cycling. They've got the best playlist. They could become your defacto [inaudible 00:48:25] of the club, where you give them a platform on GP to share their playlist or their Spotify playlist. They could share them with the team and share their ideas for where to find music. They become the person that everyone goes to, to ask music questions. If someone is really good at choreography, then maybe they’re the ones that help with step choreography or dance choreography. You have someone that's really good at navigating different resources on the web to find incredible information for fitness professionals to enhance their education, then they become the curator of that content.

Now, I get that some of these things start to add hours that might lead you down this path of, do we have to pay them and all that kind of stuff? But even if it's just like, a shout out at the end of their name, a superlative at the end of their name, like Lauren's our music guru, if you ever have questions about music, I'm sure she... Obviously, I'm going to ask Lauren if she's okay if people ask her questions, but what a feel good thing for Lauren to be known as the music guru of our team. Or this person over here is the clothing... they know everything about clothing, and when the sale [inaudible 00:49:34]. These are what I mean by small upgrades, where we can just celebrate pieces from our staff, things that they do well, that they do better than anyone else, that go beyond just the nuts and bots of, how many people that they have in their class. How are they contributing to the community?

And then finally, step three, we have to connect the dots. I have talked for the last two months about communication. I will not belabor the point, but the other piece of connecting the dot is evolving as you need.

Communication Makes a Great Team

Communication is the cornerstone of a great team. It is the cornerstone of having a job that you love, of having people talk about working for you in a favorable way, of feeling like, I'm successful and I have ownership and I have control over my job, to get the information, process the information, act on the information, when it's convenient for me. Because that's just the nature of being a group fitness instructor.

We've done a lot of webinars on this topic. I encourage you to jump back on the Facebook page and look for them if you weren't there with us. Communication is so important. It's why we created GroupEx PRO, to give you a platform to streamline communication and empower your instructors to have control over the communication and interact with it when they want. It's got to be consistent. It's got to be inclusive. It's got to be broad. It's got to be available to everyone, non-discriminatory, expected. And engaging with it needs to be rewarded. Really think about communication as a big part of taking this team and connecting them to what's happening inside their department and inside their club and inside their community.

Evolution is Positive Change

Finally, evolution, which is what we're all going through right now. I did a Facebook Live last week on the ACE Group Fit page, which is specifically for instructors. It's a group of about 6000 instructors all over the world. And we talked about the book, Who Moved My Cheese. And we're doing a little book club on it right now. We're talking about, which character do you identify with, Sniff, Scurry, Hem, or Haw? And those four characters in the book, if you've read it, they all deal with change very, very differently. I like to use the word evolution instead of change, because change freaks people out. But our industry, it always has been evolving. Good managers and ones that are able to capture great talent, create great teams, connect the team, and keep a solid product going year after year, are ones that do not fear change, but they embrace it. And they recognize that evolution is inevitable, and it's necessary.

I hope right now as you're going through this crazy change that COVID has caused, that you can embrace it as an evolution. If you can do that, then we can look at growth for our team, and we can reward and encourage their growth. Wshat I mean by that is... let me put it in a story form. We all have that one instructor that... mine was 4:30, a Monday instructor that had been teaching since the day that the club had opened, same format with the same music and same outfit on, packed the room every single week with the same people. That looks good on paper if I'm just looking at raw numbers, but as we evolved as a club, as fitness evolved, as the membership base evolved, it actually became a stone attached to my leg that was weighing me down. Because I had worked my way into keeping this little cornerstone, because well, she got 30 people, this is how much money she makes, her cost per head is good, the time slot is working, that's working.

What are all the things that happened because I wasn't embracing evolution, and I wasn't encouraging her to grow, even if it put her outside of her comfort zone, and the members in their class outside their comfort zone? Well, it was getting to a place where she was the only one that can teach that. Nobody wanted to sub for her. Nobody wanted to take the class if somebody was subbing for her. If I even threatened to move the time by 15 minutes, I had hate letters and people asking for my removal. At the end of the day, it wasn't attracting anybody new, it was just servicing the same 30 people for 10 years.

That did not necessarily resolve itself in a great way, but what it did teach me is when I hire new people to keep this little circle going that I've been talking about for the last hour, I truly had to embrace growth as an expectation from the beginning, and plant seeds of reward and encouragement along the way so that none of us ever got stale. In other words, it was very clear to people that worked for me that you are not guaranteed this slot for the rest of your life. It is also not guaranteed to stay at the same time or maybe the same format, and it is certainly not guaranteed that you will always be the one teaching it. And that's okay. I am going to reward people that embrace that evolution of time slots, formats, and members in our gym. Status quo, when we start reaching the status quo, we got to plan for it. How did you reshape things up? We're going to do more about scheduling later, but now is a great time. You can shake up your schedule and never go back to only changing it every quarter, and trying not to change things. You can start having pop-up classes. You can supplement with virtual. You can try different people in different time slots. And as long as you keep changing it consistently, then people won't get use to the status quo and fight you so much.

I think we have a grace period for the next three to four months, when members are just going to be so happy to come back. We can test some things, and see if we can keep this evolution going, and make our jobs a little bit easier. Then again, knowing when change will happen, understand how you can be part of great change management. And this is just a final little slide to explain change management for process, programs, and people. You access for the change. You prepare for it. You plan for it. You implement it. And then, you work to sustain it, and you trust, the minute that you're sustaining it, that another plate's going to start spinning that needs to be changed. That's where we are right now.

I welcome you to our club. Come read, Who Moved My Cheese? I think it's a really great, quick 75-page read, that will remind you that change is good, change is necessary. How we deal with it is the problem or the catalyst. You've got to be starting to look right now. What is going to change? I know you don't have a crystal ball, but do the research. Like I said earlier, start looking, start reading. And I know you all are. [inaudible 00:56:00] you're on webinars. Keep it going. Don't let it paralyze you, but ingest as much as you can to see what's happening. The instructor prepares. Once you know when you're going to open and what that looks like, start to think about what you need to do. And be really realistic. Don't be so hell bent on returning to how it was, that you miss the opportunity for what it could be. Sstart preparing for that change now.

Then put your plans in place. How am I going to start planning for the change? That goes back to that auditing, accessing your instructors. Who are going to be the ones I want to bring back on board first? What's my second wave? What's my third wave? What are the classes that are going to make the most sense? What times are going to make the most sense? Implement the change, and then reward it, so you can sustain it, and this keeps going. And that is a little bit outside of the context of what we're talking about today, which is specifically building a team, a great team. But I hope it does resonate with you with regards to how you handle people during this big change that we're all going through. Communicate with them early and often, explain where you are, put some pins in things along the way, make some decisions, enroll people in the change, and then, reward them for coming along on the journey with you. Once you can do that, this becomes this lovely little circle that definitely continues around and around. You capture, you create, you connect the dots, and that is going to keep filling up your coffer with great people to deliver great products.

All right guys, that is it. We are going to talk about time management next week. It's one of my favorite topics to talk about. If you have any questions at all about what we chatted about today, please let us know. Thanks as always for joining in. Hope you have a wonderful weekend. And I'll turn it back over to Maria.

Maria Morton: Great. Thank you, Shannon. And I'm going to second Shannon's recommendation, Who Moved My Cheese? is an excellent book. And everyone should read it.

Thank you to everyone who joined us. Thank you, Shannon, for another great webinar. We will be sending out the recording of this webinar, either later on today or first thing on Monday, just depending on technology and how long it takes to download it. But please be on the lookout for that. And in that webinar, as always, is going to be a link to register for our next webinar, which is on Friday, same time. And as Shannon mentioned, we'll be talking about time management, which is, I know, going to be a useful topic for me, and I'm sure it will be useful for everyone else as well.

If you would like to learn more about ways GroupEx PRO can help you better manage your group fitness department, please visit for more information and to watch a quick demo. And I think that's all we have. Thank you again, Shannon. Thank you, everyone, who's on the webinar. Have a great weekend. And we will see you guys next week. Take care. Thank you.

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