5 Essential Tips to Finding and Hiring the Right Talent for Your Fitness Facility

Personal trainer with client
(Photo by Thinkstock.)

Well before you can hire talent, you have to recruit it. For many fitness studio and health club operators, recruiting talent is not a priority. For that matter, most operators would not even consider talent recruitment a part of their job. Yet, in having talked with numerous club managers and studio operators, the second greatest challenge that arises on a day to day basis is finding and keeping great talent.

Interestingly enough, if you believe what the business literature espouses (e.g. that a great business starts with finding the right talent and then getting the right talent in the right roles), then you will understand the importance of the recruitment and selection process.

As Jim Collins espouses in his book, "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't," one of the most important principles of organizational greatness is first who, then what. Finding and hiring great talent takes focus. Recruitment requires a commitment of time, people and resources. Although everyone wants to hire great talent, most are not willing to commit themselves to the process.

All too often, operators hope that talent will show up at the door and, when it does, they will let it in. Unfortunately, great talent usually does not seek your business; in fact, it probably doesn’t even know you exist. You have to provide talent with a compelling reason to seek you out and then learn to interview your candidates to make sure they fit your culture.

In the day-to-day tussles of business management, operators forget that recruiting and selecting employees is like recruiting members. It takes commitment, focus and discipline. So what are some of the steps studio operators can take to insure that their recruitment process results in finding the right talent? Here are five actions to take:

1. Leverage the connections of your existing talent. When it comes to finding great talent, your current employees are the best resource. It is a well-accepted axiom in business that the best employees are normally those referred by existing employees. Studio operators wishing to ensure a steady stream of great candidates need to focus their efforts internally. One of the best means of accomplishing this is to create an employee referral program that rewards existing employees for bringing you candidates. Employee referral programs exist in many health and fitness club operations, but few if any address the concept of narrowing that focus to your best people, meaning you really want your best employees — not your average employees — to refer new talent.

2. Establish an internship program. One of the best sources for finding talent is through an internship program, and a good one should have two primary goals. First, internship programs should be seen as an opportunity to bring in students who are highly interested in a career within the industry. Second, they should be seen as an opportunity to obtain raw talent that can be trained and developed. Some of the best employees are those who began their career as interns.

3. Conduct and sponsor workshops for professionals in the community. Great fitness instructors, group exercise instructors, massage therapists and personal trainers continually attend workshops and seminars in an effort to advance their knowledge and professionalism. These are the types of people you want as candidates. In addition, some studios and clubs host continuing education workshops conducted by their own staff (e.g., Cooper Aerobic Center, Telos). In most cases, these workshops award continuing education credits from one of the many national fitness organizations.

4. Leverage the web, especially professional social media sites. In today’s world the Internet has become the preferred destination for job seekers and recruiters. Sites such as LinkedIn, Indeed, as well as sites maintained by many of the professional organizations — including AFS, ACE, ACSM and others — provide an excellent means of connecting with top level professionals.

5. Take advantage of association and peer group networking. Every leader and manager should utilize association and peer networking groups as part of their recruitment strategy. This is the practice of engaging in the activities of professional peer groups and industry affiliated associations (e.g., national, regional and local). One of the best sources of great talent, second only to that of your employees is the recruiting opportunity that exists when you are actively participating in the activities of these types of groups.

By incorporating some or all of the abovementioned steps into your recruitment process, you

will find that the talent pool available to your studio grows exponentially. Recruiting talent is

only the first step; the next step is hiring the best people from the pool of recruits you generate.


Stephen Tharrett is a former president of IHRSA, member of AFS’s Advisory Board, AFS community expert and member of the Club Industry advisory board. Tharrett and his business partner Mark Williamson are co-founders of ClubIntel, a brand insight, market research and consulting firm serving the fitness and private club industries. He also has served on the education, certification and health/fitness facility standards committees for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Council on Exercise (ACE).

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