// Club Network's Manual for Success: How to attract, hire and integrate the right people to your team

by Donna Hutchinson

If the world was coming to an end and it was your job to find skilled individuals to put on a bus with the intent of rebuilding society, how would you choose the ‘right’ people to get on board? I’m sure you would give careful consideration to this question before making your choices.

After all, the fate of humankind rests on your shoulders and depends on the decisions you make now. Choose wisely and the world fl ourishes, but choose unwisely and everyone fl ounders. When hiring, if you use the same careful consideration you can avoid ending up with the disastrous results that come from having the wrong people on your bus.

This Manual for Success explains how to identify the right fit for your team by creating a job ad that will attract appropriate candidates and prevent the wrong ones sending you their CVs. You’ll also explore the concept of breaking the traditional interview rules, as well as creative ways of uncovering the hidden potential within your candidates. You’ll then examine how to integrate your new team member into your club culture and how to inspire innovation from within your team.

1. Attracting the ‘right’ candidate through creative job postings

When crafting a job posting, script it in such a way that it attracts only the candidates you truly wish to respond.

Think of a fi sherman who casts a net and scoops up every type of fi sh, plant and rock. You might catch what you want but, more than likely, you will also get a lot of what you don’t want. In this scenario you must undertake the onerous task of sorting through your catch in the hope of fi nding something worth keeping. This takes time, energy and money. Imagine if you could cast that same net but only catch the fish you want.

To cast this ‘specific net’, you fi rst need to forget what you know and have learnt with regards to traditional job postings. Not sure what this means? Review some of the standard job ads that are placed and it will become painfully obvious. Most postings are too generic, which equates to casting too large a net. The more descriptive you can be in terms of the qualities and outcomes you desire for your candidate, the better the quality of applicant that will surface.

For instance, saying that you are looking for a team player who has a good work ethic and who possesses excellent communication skills does not actually weed anyone out.

Very few people who read that ad would not apply because everyone thinks they have these abilities. Being specific means really understanding what type of job you are trying to fill and what qualities or talents a person should possess in order to successfully undertake the role. For example, if you are looking for a customer service representative, what talents would you expect them to have? A typical response is ‘good communication or customer service skills’. But what does that really mean in the context of skills and abilities for this particular role? See if you can pick the difference between these two sentences:

1. Currently seeking a customer service representative with excellent communication and people skills.

2. Currently seeking a customer service representative who has the ability to make people laugh and feel inspired to work out.

See the difference that a couple of words make?

The first sentence is very generic – everyone perceives themselves as possessing good communication skills as well as that vaguest of notions ‘people’ skills. Sentence number two, however, invokes outcomes of behaviour.

The candidate who read this sentence would be forced to consider whether they were the type of person who makes people laugh and feel inspired; it challenges them to contemplate their abilities and how those abilities translate into measurable outcomes.

Here is a genuine example of a job posting from a fi tness web site (the name of the club has been changed): XYZ Athletic Club in Melbourne is seeking motivated, enthusiastic, high energy personal trainers who have a sincere passion for helping others obtain their fitness goals.

This description does not sort anyone out, which would have become apparent to the club when it received piles of
 pplications. How will you know if the person is motivated, enthusiastic and possesses high energy and a passion for helping others? Why would someone become a personal trainer if they didn’t have a passion for helping others? Let’s rewrite this description and see if we can narrow our parameters so that we are not casting such a wide net.

XYZ Athletic Club in Melbourne has an opportunity for a personal trainer with the business acumen to generate $6,000 in monthly personal training revenues, create one to two monthly client social activities and establish an 80 per cent client retention and satisfaction rate. The right candidate to join our team should be known for their integrity, capabilities and ability to deliver results.

Again, notice the difference between the two postings. Candidates applying for the second posting will consider their abilities and skills before sending their CVs. They would have to know, from past experience, whether they are capable of achieving those specific metrics.

There is also no doubt about the expectations of the position. By sending you their CVs, you can be sure that these candidates view themselves as individuals who are capable of delivering what you are requesting. You may still fi nd the odd rock in your net, or the wrong fi sh trying to wriggle through, but it will make fi nding the right fit a lot easier when the time comes to sort through the applications.

Using this method you will probably receive fewer CVs, but those that you do obtain will be worth reading. Try this approach for your next job posting and test whether or not you start attracting the right people to step onto your bus and into your organisation.

2. Hiring the ‘right’ candidate

‘People are your most important asset’. Every club owner or manager has heard this sentiment a thousand times.

Within any organisation it is the people who set the stage for cultivating the company culture and creating an upbeat working atmosphere. Thus hiring the ‘right’ person to join the team is a responsibility to be taken seriously because of its many ramifi cations. Hire the right person and your team fl ourishes, but place someone within your group with the wrong skills, fi t and attitude and you create a recipe for disaster.

When the time comes to replace or expand your lineup, seek out individuals who can fi ll specifi c positions to bolster the team and consider how this new person will contribute towards building a more cohesive group. Before we look at the new, improved way of doing this, let’s recap on the traditional process;

The old: 5-step hiring process

After placing your job posting and sorting through piles of applications, you undoubtedly created a ‘worthy of an interview’ stack. You arrange the interview to take place with either yourself or a panel you have assembled. As part of this process a practical assessment may be followed by a reference check. If satisfi ed, you proceed with an offer of employment. Sound familiar? This fi ve-step process is straightforward, time-effi cient and affords you the opportunity to hire swiftly. It also has the potential to be the least effective method of fi nding the ‘right’ people.

Step away from this traditional hiring process and explore the following seven step model to hiring top performers.

The new: 7 steps to select the elite

This seven-step hiring method takes you, your team and candidates on a journey towards discovering the ‘right’ person for the job. Following a lengthier and more time-intensive hiring tactic will allow you time to let the relationship simmer. Date them first. Allow them to show you their values over time rather than their good behaviour during an interview. This is not something that you want to rush. The more contact you have with an individual, the more insight you are likely to acquire regarding their skills, abilities and compatibility.

The premise here is to ‘hire slowly and thoroughly’ while getting to know the person. Each step along the way affords you an opportunity to gather a little more information about your candidate.

Step 1. The job posting
The posting is crafted in such a way as to draw a very specifi c type of individual into the process (covered in section one, above).

Step 2. The phone interview
Step two is geared towards assessing a candidate’s verbal communication skill. Since there is no opportunity to assess body language over the phone, the candidate’s responses to questions can be evaluated by the clarity of their answers and how articulate they seem. Ask a few preliminary interview questions that are descriptive in nature. For example, ask them to describe in detail a client retention strategy that was a success and to explain why it was so. From their answer, you can evaluate whether the person is capable of conveying information in a clear and concise manner.

Another advantage of a phone interview is that it has the potential to save you time in the process. If you are not satisfied with the responses at this stage then you may choose not to proceed any further. Other areas that you can assess in the phone interview are things like punctuality; how long does it take to receive a response after leaving a message? What does their voice message sound like? A potential candidate once informed me that it wasn’t a good time to talk to her because she was shoe shopping. She wanted me to call her back later at a more convenient time. I thought not, and thus the process ended there.

Step 3. The reference check
Typically reference checks are conducted as a final step in the hiring process. However, conducted at this juncture it will give you a chance to fi nd out early on what others have to say about the candidate. Keep in mind that reference checks can be very contrived. As an interviewee, have you ever provided reference contacts that you knew would not speak highly of you? Probably not. Go deeper and take it a step further. Check the given references but then ask to speak to someone else you can talk to about the candidate. Ask other colleagues if they know the person and probe for more information. This takes a bit of time, but in the end will yield additional information regarding your potential teammate.

Step 4. The facility tour
Set aside some time to take the candidate on a tour of your facility. Show them the area where they will be working. This is an important step because it gives them an opportunity to see the environment they will find themselves in, and to picture whether it will be a good fi t for them. If the candidate cannot see themself in a particular atmosphere, chances are they won’t stay long in the position. An additional benefi t of the club tour is that you will fi nd the conversation a lot less formal. The candidate will likely be more relaxed and let their guard down, providing another opportunity for you to assess their communication skills.

Step 5. The practical skills assessment If all goes well up to this point, assess their practical skills.

Trainers are typically asked to design a workout and to then take a more senior trainer through it. For frontline employees you may give them an opportunity to role-play a scenario in which they could demonstrate their social interraction skills. It is a good idea to evaluate whether they have the skills necessary to fi t within your organisation as well as to gauge how much up-training may be needed in the future.

Step 6. The first interview
The interview is one of the last phases of the 7-step process, as opposed to the traditional method where it is typically the second step. The advantage here is that by this point you have had an opportunity to review their CV and interact with them over the phone. You’ve guided them through a club tour, assessed their practical skills and heard what others have to say. Now you are ready to set up an interview and invite others into the process.

We will focus mainly on the types of questions you should be asking in order to gain the most information possible about the candidate. Start by assembling a minimum of three to four senior staff members (if the size of your business makes this viable). Prior to the interview, prepare questions that are anything but your typical queries such as ‘tell me about your strengths and weaknesses’. Think back to the many interviews you have been part of – did you ever say anything about your skills and abilities that weren’t positive? Even when asked about weaknesses most people spin them into a positive.

For example, you might get the reply, ‘Well I am very organised and sometimes I spend too much time making sure everything is right’. Is this really a weakness? While it is true that most people would not feel comfortable revealing a genuine weakness because of how it may be perceived, it is your job as an interviewer to get to the root of a candidate’s talents, potential and to even find areas that need further development.

Instead of using the standard approach to questioning, try using a performance-based technique, the premise of which is that past performance predicts future behaviour. For example you may use a request such as, ‘Describe a situation in which you were faced with the challenge of enforcing the 24-hour cancellation policy’. The candidate would then recount the story, and explain how they faced and resolved the problem.

Ideally they would describe the situation, then the task, their action and fi nally the result of the scenario. As the interviewer you listen, evaluate and score their responses based on a predetermined scale. Each interviewer goes through the same scoring procedure. At the conclusion of the interview the scores are compiled along with individual comments and perspectives.

Step 7. The second peer interview
The second interview is peer-initiated. By including members of the team at this stage, you will gain invaluable insight into whether the group thinks the candidate would be compatible with the existing team dynamic. Ask the group to come up with their own set of questions and guide them through a similar process to step 6. Hiring the right person for a job takes a team effort.

Allowing everyone a chance to get involved in the process, including the candidate, will send the message that something is different about your organisation. It is the community within the company that is doing the hiring as opposed to just the managers or supervisors. While this may be more time consuming, the result will be that together you will fi nd the right fi t for your team.

3. Integrating the new team member

If your team is currently operating like a well-oiled machine, any new cog added to the ensemble may upset its delicate balance. Unless you establish a system for introducing and integrating your new associate they will struggle to fi t in and the team will suffer. Keep in mind that people may profess to be ‘team players’ when in fact very few truly understand the nuances of being part of a highly dynamic and collaborative unit.

We have already explored how to craft an innovative job advertisement and introduced the seven steps to hiring top performers. The fi nal step of the process requires us to focus on integrating the new teammate into the corporate culture. According to Jon Katzenbach in his book The Wisdoms of Teams, ‘a team is a group of people with complimentary skills committed to a common purpose and set of specifi c performance goals’. It is the teams’ task to assist in the process in order to achieve perfect synchronisation of the group.

5-step action plan for integrating your new team member

The following five key points will help your workmate become accustomed to your team environment, and they
can be easily remembered by the acronym SHARE.

  • Spread the message about your corporate culture
  • Have many opportunities to provide feedback
  • Acknowledge roles and expectations
  • Reward teamwork and not just individual effort
  • Extend trust, respect and provide a climate for open communication.

Spread the message about your corporate culture

Spreading the message about your company culture lays the foundation for building the team. When you tell your company story you are communicating the spirit and essence of the organisation. Howard Behr, former president of Starbucks International, explains ‘At Starbucks, we are in the human service business, not the customer service business’. During his presidency Behr was instrumental in creating a corporate culture that empowered employees to think, feel and take action. He fi rmly believed that in order to build a strong company you had to fi rst grow people and that, in turn, the people would grow the business. The message of ‘people fi rst’ is ingrained in the corporate culture and is at the core of how Starbucks does business at every level of the organisation. Even though the company has experienced some tough times recently, it is still striving to take care of its employees.

Go beyond just regurgitating your company mission statement. Instead, explain the meaning behind the words with passion and conviction. Your new colleague should thoroughly understand what is so unique about your organisation. They should be excited about sharing their time and expertise, so get them hyped up about being part of your distinctive culture and embracing its values, beliefs and vision.

Have many opportunities to provide feedback

If you are still providing annual performance evaluations or think you are being ‘radical’ by performing bi-annual evaluations, you need to get your head out of the sand.

Waiting six months, or worse – 12 months, to provide feedback is absolutely useless. Everyone within the team should have an opportunity to receive feedback on an ongoing basis.

Newer team members require more initial feedback and need continual reinforcement that they are doing a good job. It also provides an opportunity for them to ask questions, gain clarifi cation and fine-tune their skills. Feedback can be provided from a variety of sources. Traditional performance reviews were the sole responsibility of a manager or supervisor, whereas today’s approach is quite different as more companies move towards a 360 degree feedback system. The 360 degree performance review provides individuals with an overview of how their peers and their managers perceive them. It can be a very powerful tool to enhance team effectiveness by identifying gaps in team skill sets.

In his book The Future of Management, Gary Hamel talks about the culture at Whole Foods and it’s unique approach to feedback;

‘Every new associate is provisionally assigned to a team. After a 4-week work trial, teammates vote on the applicant’s fate; a newbie needs two-thirds majority vote to win a full-time spot on the team.’

Whole Foods believes that critical decisions, such as whom to hire, should be made by those who will be most directly impacted by the consequences of those decisions – now that is feedback.

Acknowledge roles and expectations

Roles and expectations are usually defined within a formal job description. However, what is written on paper is seldom what actually takes place once on the job. Lack of clarity surrounding job functions has been cited as one of the top reasons people leave a position. It just wasn’t what they were expecting. With so much on the line, it is imperative that roles and expectations are clearly explained.

Provide the job description as a jumping-off point, but take it a step further. For example, assemble your personal training team. Then facilitate an open discussion where each trainer shares their perspective on their role and responsibilities within the team and organisation. Provide lots of opportunity for questions. Through the experiences of others, your new trainer will have a more complete understanding of what their job truly entails. To gauge whether the trainer fully understands their role, ask them to create a job description outlining the points they heard throughout the discussion. Then, set up a time to review this document and cover each point. By the end of the meeting there should defi nitely be role clarity.

Reward teamwork and not just individual effort

If you say you want people to work together as a team and then only reward individual effort, you are sending a mixed message. This happens time and again in countless workplaces, managers espousing the need to work together and then singling out one or two individuals to receive a bonus. What message does this send to others within the group? It certainly isn’t teamwork.

Work as a team to define goals and objectives. Create a system to track progress and then reward everyone on the team equally when they meet their objectives. Whole Foods has created an innovative approach to teamwork and rewards, whereby teams at the company have access to performance data for every other team within its store and for similar teams in other stores. There is huge motivation for teams to do well and compete for bonuses. Whole Foods created transparency so that each team knows exactly what is going on with everyone else. The Whole Foods process has everyone on the team striving to work harder and in support of each other. They know that the group will only be successful if everyone works together.

Extend trust and respect, and provide a climate for open communication

Without a climate of trust you are going nowhere fast. Trust must be built and sustained between all team members if the group has any hope of working together.

Joe Paterno, head football coach from PENN State University said, ‘Whether you’re on a sports team, in an office or a member of a family, if you can’t trust one another there’s going to be trouble’. The thing about trust is that it builds slowly over time but is quick to be lost once broken. Treat trust like your most precious commodity and avoid breaking it. A team will only move forward in a climate where trust genuinely exists. Every meeting within the Whole Foods organisation ends with a round of ‘appreciation’ where each participant openly acknowledges the contributions of his or her peers, a process which helps to build trust within the group.

Respect everyone for their unique skills, perspective and input. You might not always agree but you can always show respect. Part of building respect is to actively listen and seek to understand the person’s opinion. This entails being mentally present when someone offers an idea, and not distracted by formulating your response. Worse still, working on your laptop or Blackberry during a discussion exhibits an open lack of respect.

Being open in your communication can only be accomplished once trust and respect are established. Once you build a culture of trust and respect you should feel free to say how you feel and offer suggestions without fear of reprimand. In meetings there should be time for constructive conflict to take place without it turning into an awkward situation. It is okay not to agree with someone’s point of view and to be open about it. Leave nothing unsaid in a meeting. If you and your colleagues leave meetings with unresolved issues and then find
yourselves talking in the corridors afterwards, you haven’t practiced open communication.

The acronym ‘SHARE’ was selected for the above process because it embodies the true meaning behind building a strong team. It also acts as a road map for integrating new members seamlessly into your group. This is not to say that you won’t face some challenges along the way, but by taking the time to create the right job posting, hire slowly in order to build a relationship and then integrate your new hire into your company culture in the spirit of sharing, you are well on the way to having the ‘right person’ on your bus and filling their unique seat.


Donna Hutchinson, DipExSc
Donna is a passionate educator who is deeply committed to the growth and development of fitness industry professionals. She has worked in numerous facets of the industry, from corporate health and wellness to privately owned facilities, and culminating in the successful operation of her own personal training and fi tness education business. Over the span of her career Donna has had the pleasure of training and educating thousands of emerging and veteran fi tness leaders. She has authored over six fi ness resources manuals and is a contributing author to many industry publications. In 2007, Donna founded The International Fitness Network Association with the goal of uniting fitness professionals from around the world. She strongly advocates the development of fitness professionals into community leaders who can then inspire people to add movement into their everyday life. Donna travels extensively, consulting and speaking about business growth and development. She shows how individuals and organisations can improve their business by creating innovative and creative work environments for employees to take charge and reach their full potential. Born in Montreal, Donna now resides in Vancouver in the beautiful province of British Columbia where she shares her passion for life with her husband Brian and dog Bailey. For more information, contact Donna at:

On the Edge Fitness Educators
1542 Westover Rd.
North Vancouver, BC Canada
V7J 1X5
Ph: +1 604 985 7410
Web: www.edgefit.ca
E-mail: edgefit@shaw.ca

CLUB NETWORK'S MANUAL FOR SUCCESS • Volume 3, Number 1, 2008