Godsend or nightmare? Hiring the right GX instructor for your team

Procuring the right staff to complement your team can be a challenge for group exercise coordinators. A thorough hiring process will ensure you avoid the 'quick to hire, quick to fire' trap, say Marietta Mehanni and Ange La Scala.

Did you choose well? Did you hire the right instructor for the class? How do they fit in with the rest of the team? Are you having regrets, and now your hands are tied because they have a following of members? Or are they the best thing since sliced bread?
Hiring instructors who can be successfully integrated into your group exercise team is one of the most important – and often challenging – aspects of a program coordinator's role. The following steps outline an effective process for building a successful team.

step 1. Interview

The first step is to have a face-to-face meeting. Hiring someone over the internet or phone is problematic as you will have no indication of potential 'issues'. So what are the first steps that should be taken to arrange an interview with a new instructor?

  1. Have a phone conversation – not an email or Facebook one! You need to hear their voice, their enthusiasm and their ability to converse. From so doing, you can begin to make a decision about whether they will be suitable for your team.
  2. Set up a time and place for the interview. If they have not already supplied you with a résumé and relevant copies of their qualifications, ensure they bring them to the interview.
  3. Meet with the instructor and have a professional, but casual, conversation about your expectations: professionalism, teaching standard and customer service.

So, how can you assess whether an instructor will fit into the culture of your fitness facility? Initially, you should look for:

  • Preliminary contact. If they are difficult to contact via telephone, presumably you will have this issue in the future.
  • Punctuality. If they are late for an interview or audition, then it is more likely they will be late for their classes – although exceptions do apply.
  • Initial presentation. If they are dressed inappropriately, what image would they portray while instructing classes?
  • Communication skills. Are they a good listener, or do they just want to talk about themselves?
  • Body language and eye contact. If these communication skills are poor, they will not be effective instructors.

If, after you have interviewed them, you are satisfied that they may be suitable for your group exercise team, the next step is to arrange an audition.

step 2. Auditions

Ours is a physical profession, so auditions are necessary in order to assess the abilities of a group exercise instructor. An instructor's skill level cannot be gauged by their résumé because good instruction cannot be displayed on paper. Depending on the circumstances, an audition can be conducted in one of the following ways;

In your class. This is the best scenario as you will see for yourself how they teach under pressure. Ideally you will have them teach a class similar to that which they would be teaching at your facility should you choose them to be part of your team.
In another experienced instructor's class. This is when you are unable to attend, but have someone on your team that you trust and whose opinion you value, to conduct the audition.

In a one-off class. This is only suitable if you feel that your initial telephone conversation with the applicant has been positive, or if they have been recommended by another coordinator or instructor (note: even if they have been recommended, an audition is still necessary in order to establish whether they will fit into your club's culture and team environment).

step 3. Induction procedure

If you are confident in the instructor's teaching ability and you decide that you would like them to join your team, you need to engineer a thorough induction. The induction is the most important part of successfully setting up an instructor to join your team. When the instructor knows how to fill out pay and attendance sheets, follow communication procedures, operate sound systems and store equipment, it is likely that they will fulfil your expectations and conduct themselves as part of your team.

It is imperative that the induction procedure is thoroughly completed prior to the instructor's first class. Allow adequate time to complete the induction with the new instructor; the minimum recommended time slot would be 30 minutes to allow for questions and clarifications.

Induction pack
Before the new team member arrives for induction, ensure you have an induction pack ready for them. Induction packs are unique to each facility. Some may require time to sit down and read documents and contracts prior to signing, and others might allow the instructor to take documents home to be completed and returned at a later date.

An induction pack may include documentation of:

  • Personal details
  • Bank details
  • Tax forms (if required)
  • Group fitness checklist – will ensure they have been shown around the facility and are aware of where equipment, communication points and emergency exits are located
  • Current timetable
  • Contact phone list
  • Contract
  • Letter of appointment
  • Policies and procedures (or group fitness guidelines).

The induction
The induction should include the following;

  • Meeting and greeting the instructor, and ensuring you establish a warm and inviting atmosphere
  • Collecting details for their staff file, e.g. qualifications, résumé and certificates
  • Sitting down and spending time going through the induction pack
  • Touring the facility, being sure to introduce the instructor to other team members.

Spending time with the instructor in the induction is invaluable. The first impression you create now has the power to foster a positive atmosphere that will ensure the instructor is excited about working with you. This is when you can instil your core values and expectations; if these are not emphasised at this point, then it becomes more challenging to implement them later on.

After the induction
Following their induction, and after instructing their first class at your facility, call or email the new team member to see how they feel about their performance and ask if they have any questions or concerns they would like to address. Take this opportunity to congratulate them, reinforce how important they are to the team, and to express your warm welcome once again.

Foster a win-win relationship

Remember: we need instructors as much as they need us. Even if they are new to the industry, they will soon learn that there are more classes than instructors, and that they are able to leave whenever they wish. By ensuring that they are made to feel special and important, you can build a happy team and membership while increasing staff retention.

Marietta Mehanni
Marietta is an award winning presenter and Australian Fitness Network Ambassador with over 20 years of teaching and presenting experience in both land- and water-based group exercise. Co-creator of 'Tricks, tools and trades of Program Coordinating' and mentor for over 70 instructors and presenters, Marietta is passionate about inspiring others to lead and share their skills and talents to create a better fitness experience for all. For more information visit www.mariettamehanni.com

Ange La Scala
Ange has been involved in the fitness industry for the past 28 years, working in numerous areas including aqua, personal training, older adults and coordinating. The co-creator of 'Tricks, tools and trades of Program Coordinating', her role reflects her passion for group exercise and her desire to build a strong base of instructors and coordinators to lead our industry into the next era.