Incentivising instructors

Retaining gym instructors is high on the list of importance for any club, but how do you incentivise effectively? Guy Griffiths explains how.

So, you want to incentivise your gym instructors to provide better customer service and improve retention. What metrics do you want to use, and what will be the best incentive?


It can be difficult for the individual instructor to see how they can have an effect on raising your club’s 12-month member retention from 50 per cent to 60 per cent. Additionally, asking instructors to reduce attrition or increase average length of membership can be a bridge too far. Instead, you can achieve better results by looking at daily or weekly actions that will provide a short-term effect that builds up over the month or year.

Giving each instructor a group of members to manage is a common practice. It provides straightforward key performance indicators (KPIs) on which to base targets and rewards. For example, aim to keep a certain percentage of your members:

  • Active (visiting in previous two weeks)
  • On a current exercise program
  • Under 50 per cent risk of drop-out.


A contact management system can trigger and measure contacts. Some provide an effectiveness score for each instructor, showing how many more times a member visited following a recorded contact.

The competitive nature of instructors means individual incentives can both help and hinder retention. Staff shift patterns and regularity of members’ visits can sometimes make competition counterproductive for the member and club. In these cases, you need to incentivise the team as a whole. This could be in conjunction with, or separate from, individual incentives, depending on your team dynamics. The level of competition will also be defined by what the incentives are.

People often jump to the conclusion that an incentive or reward is financial. However, research shows money does not create long-term happiness or job satisfaction. We work in a vocational industry; any fitness instructor who is in it for the money is in the wrong career.

Seeing a member achieve their goal – or simply visit more often – will be the best kind of incentive for many instructors. Success breeds success, and results generate results. If members get results, they stay longer. Likewise, if instructors see members get results, they stay longer too, creating a virtuous circle.

Recent research from The Retention People has found that by talking to members and encouraging repeat visits, fitness staff can extend average membership life by up to 23.3 months and generate up to 600 per cent more income per member. Given this positive impact on both retention and the bottom line, it can easily be argued that introducing some form of incentive or reward to motivate fitness teams to interact with members and ‘sell’ repeat club visits would be beneficial. Investing in systems which enable clubs to manage their staff effectively and to accurately measure performance is key to this, and will allow clubs to introduce motivational incentives for staff while at the same time improving their own financial performance.
Mike Hills, retention director, The Retention People

Other non-financial incentives could be time off, or a points scheme whereby points can be exchanged for tickets to workshops or registrations for conventions such as FILEX. These types of event generate more motivation through inspiring instructors to develop their careers or win an award for the club.

The last, and most important, part of any incentive scheme is for management to get involved and support the instructors. The gym manager will no doubt do this, but the whole management team needs to champion the successes and also help address the shortfalls. Communication between management and staff helps maximise effectiveness. If you can also share the results with members, it closes the loop and the instructors get another pat on the back from the people who really matter. Being seen as top dog among peers is also a big bonus to the competitive instructor.

So, when thinking about how to incentivise your instructors, the incentives themselves should come last. The most important points are being clear on measurement and constantly communicating through your club. Keep it simple for success: the most effective KPIs and rewards are the simple ones.

Guy Griffiths
Guy works for GG Fit, an independent consultancy that helps clubs to focus on member retention by working with staff, systems and processes. For more information visit or follow @ggfit on Twitter.