hire hard, manage easy

Having the right people on your team is critical to the success of your business. So why, asks Justin Tamsett, do so many owners and managers use outdated and ineffective employment selection processes?

In recent years we have seen the proliferation of ‘apps’ to make numerous areas of life and business easier and more efficient – and in many instances less reliant on the human element. Within the fitness sphere we have even seen apps designed to replace the living, breathing personal trainer. We have also seen gyms selling, and allowing cancellation of, memberships online, and the use of SMS and email marketing to communicate with our members.

At the risk of offending equipment suppliers and maybe some health club owners, the average consumer does not see the difference between the treadmills, dumbbells, group exercise classes and bricks and mortar used by one club and the next. The difference for them is how they feel when they go to a club. They notice the experience, and the majority of club experiences are created by people, not technology.

So, if people are so important in the equation for fitness business success, why haven’t owners and managers improved their employment selection process?

In his powerful book Good to Great, author Jim Collins summarised the need for smart employment processes as one of the key factors in creating a ‘great’ organisation, when he wrote, ‘Get the right people on the bus, and get them in the right seats.’

To profit from this insight, you must take action. Unfortunately, hiring right is not like searching for computer software and then using it. It has bigger payoffs than introducing the right software, but it is also harder to implement because there is no ‘off the shelf’ system for a good hire: every business is unique, so every employment procedure will be unique to your company.

There are, however, lots of resources to help you create your own system. To ensure you continue to hire right, you must also track the results of your employees and continually refine your system of recruitment.

The following seven-step system has proven success in attracting the right people:

  1. Advertisement. Ensure that your ad qualifies all potential applicants by providing sufficient information about the job. It should also include information on qualifications, shifts, skills and compensation.
  2. Method of application. Empower one of your team to handle the initial enquiries with a series of simple questions. This will give you another perspective on determining if the candidate is the right person. If you can accommodate it, encourage applicants to email their résumés as this can save even more time.
  3. Application form. Use a comprehensive application form that all applicants complete. In doing so, you will be able to gauge their writing skills, and by asking the same question in a number of ways you can determine if the applicant is exaggerating any of their experiences.
  4. Initial interview. Make the first interview more of a ‘get to know you’ chat. This could be done in a coffee shop or other relaxed, informal environment. Your goal is to determine the type of person they are and their general attitude. Remember, you can teach anyone the skills of the job, but attitude is very difficult to change or train.
  5. Involve others. To test applicants’ specific skills for the role, involve other team members. This is an objective judgment of performance (i.e. they can or cannot do certain tasks), so it is beneficial to use your existing team members to help assess their skills and also give you their perspective on the applicant’s attitude. Even more importantly, by involving your team they feel a sense of participation and therefore accountability over the success of the chosen applicant.
  6. Trial shifts. Always have your applicant come in and try the job out. Give them some specific tasks to do (e.g. have them walk the gym floor and meet 10 members and learn something about each of the members). Give them no other instructions and see if they take the initiative. Observe their body language when talking with members: are they smiling, and do they appear to be warm and welcoming? This is an important part of the process, because it enables you to evaluate them in the actual environment they will potentially be working in.
  7. A workout. Have one of your personal trainers take your applicant for a high intensity workout. The purpose of this is not to determine how fit they are, but rather to see how they respond under pressure. You might look to see if they complain when under physical stress. Do they listen to instructions when under pressure? Or do they go further and challenge themselves?

By following these seven simple steps, you place your applicant in a number of different settings and environments, allowing you to determine what they are really like. The key component is to be consistent with all applicants and avoid compromising your business needs.

It is not the bells and whistles of a facility that make it successful, it is the people that ring the bells and blow the whistles. By hiring correctly your business will prosper.


Justin Tamsett
Justin is the managing director of Active Management and the presenter of the management training program at the FILEX fitness convention, in which he shares his management theory, marketing ideas, human resource strategies and retention programs. Justin is regarded as one of the world’s leading thought leaders as he facilitates the Round Table program for club owners and personal trainers. Follow him on Twitter @JTActiveMgmt as he strives to lower the health care costs for Australia!