Seven Tips for Retaining Trainers and Instructors

Seven Tips for Retaining Trainers and Instructors

Dave McGarry earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in exercise science and an MBA from the University of Texas, Dallas. Along with his degrees, McGarry is certified through the NSCA as a certified strength and conditioning specialist and is the current assistant general manager for the Cooper Fitness Center at Craig Ranch. His experience consists of more than 12 years as a personal trainer and fitness manager. McGarry also is actively involved with the community as a public speaker and presenter to corporations for health and wellness. His most recent accomplishment is a self-published book for fitness professionals and personal trainers called “Anatomy of Sales.” If you would like to learn more or read his blog, visit

What would happen if you lost your best personal trainer or group exercise instructor to a competitor? If this has ever happened to you, then you know how important it is to retain your trainers and instructors. As an industry, we spend a lot of time and effort on member retention, but it is just as important to focus on retaining your personal trainers and group exercise instructors.

Here are seven tips for retaining personal trainers and group exercise instructors:

1. Hire right. Having the right people on the team from the beginning will keep your staff retention rates high and prevent you from losing members and revenue to a competitor. You need to have a system for hiring that is repeated with every candidate. The hiring process must weed out the weak candidates and give you the candidates that are serious professionals who want to be part of your team.

2. Clearly define your expectations. Once you hire an instructor or personal trainer, they need to understand from the beginning what is expected of them. Also, once you have your new hire, write out their goals in 250 words or less. Goal setting is important for two reasons: One, research shows individuals who write out their goals have a higher success rate, and two, during reviews with the instructor or trainer, you can evaluate their performance on what they said they would accomplish.

3. Immerse them in your culture. It is essential that once you hire an instructor or trainer, you immerse them into your company’s culture. Allow them to experience every department and program that you have. Engrain into them your company’s core values from the beginning.

4. Give them a sense of ownership. Once they understand your culture, apply open book management with your instructors and trainers. It is important for them to understand and see the financials of the business. Once they have an understanding of the financials, have them contribute to the budgeting process. This allows them to buy into the plan and lets them feel a sense of ownership for the financial success of the business.

5. Reinvest in your staff. Personal trainers and group exercise instructors love to learn from the gurus in the industry. Reinvesting in your staff through continuing education will help develop highly trained and motivated employees. Providing education and personal development can be the single biggest payoff in retaining your instructors and trainers.

6. Develop your emotional IQ. Emotional IQ deals with soft skills of leadership. Essentially, having a high emotional IQ provides you with an understanding of others and their feelings. Employees want to know that their supervisors care about them as a person, not just as an employee. Work on developing your soft skills and genuinely show your staff that you care about their overall good and not just the financial success of the business.

7. Reward. This can be done in several ways. The simplest way could be in the form of monetary compensation. If you want average employees, pay average, but if you want the best, you need to pay the best. Another way to reward could be in the form of promotions, such as lead trainer or lead instructor. Finally, another way of rewarding your instructors and trainers is to compensate them for years of service rendered to the company. For example, you might give your personal trainers an extra percentage of their take home pay for being with the company for five years. Regardless of what you do, consider doing something that rewards them for their hard work and continued employment with your business.

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