Mentor and more:
how to get the best instructors on your team

If you’re struggling to find the best fitness professionals to work in your facility, Leanne Sklavenitis has some insights into finding and retaining the best staff.

One of the biggest challenges for fitness facility managers, owners and operators is finding the best instructors or trainers to work for – and stay with - them. Is this your challenge?

The following tips will help you recruit, train, motivate and retain awesome staff.

1. Train and mentor

Ask yourself, who are the most loyal members/participants in your facility? If you don’t know who they are then it’s time to find out. Your next team members could be right under your nose.

Some of the best group fitness instructors and personal trainers are the members who frequent your facility the most. At staff meetings I have attended over the years it has been identified time and time again that up to 50 per cent of our most loyal staff were originally loyal members of our facility.

If you are not sure how to find these ‘team members in waiting’, run a survey and find out if people are interested in pursuing a rewarding fitness career. Many people are coasting along in their present jobs, waiting for the light bulb moment that directs them to a change in career. Get to know more about these clients, and make the time to chat with them on the phone or in person, to share with them the benefits of being involved in the fitness industry and make them aware of the difference they can make. Obviously, you cannot promise them employment in your facility, but you can encourage them and make them aware of the courses and qualifications they need to complete in order to get started in this industry.

If they do decide to become qualified, you can offer to provide them with additional support in the form of mentoring throughout their course, even if their training already includes a mentoring element. You, or a member of your team, may make yourselves available to answer a few questions or a quick phone call to help keep them on track and motivated. The reward for doing this could be a loyal and dedicated staff member who loves working at your facility.

If you mentor a new personal trainer or group fitness instructor they will not forget the small amount of time you dedicate to them to help them build their confidence and develop a new career which they may never have seriously contemplated before.

Depending on the size of your facility, and your resources, you may even choose to establish a mentoring program that functions as an ongoing recruitment tool.

2. Communicate

Good, clear and practical communication, with not only new staff but also your present team, is crucial to your business success. Do you regularly ask your team what extra training they may have completed, whether fitness-related or otherwise? What are their strengths? Could they potentially run seminars for your members on topics in which they have expertise? Do they socialise together, where do they hang out, what is important to them, what do they love about your facility and why do they actually work for you? Have you asked them what they are finding out about the members they are training or seeing on a regular basis? What makes them tick?

It can be useful to implement a Feedback Sheet, whereby each week all team members write a line or two about something that happened to them, either negative or positive, so you are aware of everything that is happening in your facility. Do you have an open-door policy and make it clear that staff are always able to approach you to discuss any issue?

When new staff members join the team, make sure they are inducted properly and guided by the right team members throughout this formative time, and that they get a lot of attention to keep them on track. Make sure that you also ask them for their feedback on what they are learning and experiencing: they are a fresh set of eyes on your procedures, and seeking their thoughts can reveal some fantastic ideas or more efficient strategies or procedures that could benefit you and the facility.

3. Reward

I’m not talking monetary reward here – I’m talking recognition of your staff and their achievements. Most staff actually prefer acknowledgment of their achievements, either verbal or written, to receiving monetary reward. Having a Staff Member of the Month or similar is a great way for all members and other staff to be aware of what great things your staff are achieving, big or small.

Small things like personal acknowledgement of a job well done, thanking them for going the extra mile, and regularly showing appreciation and gratitude is the key to retaining your best staff.

4. Empower

Do you empower your staff? Do you give them the opportunity to brainstorm or ask for their ideas and thoughts on decisions such as the purchase of new equipment or new programs to be implemented? Although, ultimately, the final decision will be up to you, it is empowering for your team to be involved in these processes.

Another benefit of empowerment is that, by learning how to delegate certain tasks to team members with particular interests or aptitudes, you can take pressure off yourself and free up time to work on your business rather than in it.

You should appraise all your staff on a regular basis, not only providing feedback to them about their current role, but also about where they could be headed. If you make yourself aware of their future goals, you can help provide guidance and potentially transition them into other roles they are passionate about. By treating your staff as valued peers who can provide value to yourself and your business, they will stay motivated and remain loyal.

Following any, or all, of the above tips will help you recruit, mentor and retain your staff – the keys to a successful business.


Leanne Sklavenitis is a fitness professional and business coach. She has presented at conferences worldwide and is the author of three books. leannesklavenitis.com