// Three core strategies for staff development

by Donna Hutchinson

It’s Monday morning and Ashley awakes with a feeling of trepidation. Her thoughts are flooded with the prospect of another day working in a job which has become frustratingly routine, predictable and mundane. It’s been six months since she started in the role and her initial excitement has dwindled significantly. She is feeling unchallenged, under-used and seriously unmotivated; ‘if only my manager would offer me more juicy projects, something i could sink my teeth into. I know I’m capable of so much more than I’m currently achieving’ she thinks. She’s made numerous recommendations on improving operating systems, boosting frontline customer service and decreasing unnecessary spending, and is perplexed as to why she hasn’t been acknowledged for her suggestions.

Ashley was initially excited about the position because the hiring manager gave her the impression that the company valued staff development. during the interview process he articulated how proud they were of their extensive employee training program. In reality, this turned out to be a review of the policy manual and a few DVDs on customer service. She is seriously contemplating looking for another job, something that will offer her more of a challenge and use her skills.

What an unfortunate turn-of-events. Here was a highly motivated employee willing to offer her suggestions for improvement only to find herself in a stagnant position. Given the enormous time and energy it takes to uncover potential candidates, it’s a shame to lose people because your company does not have an adequate staff development program. People within your business who are achievement-orientated value opportunities where they can grow and learn new skills. there are many approaches you can take towards staff development, and this article will touch upon three core strategies; creating a culture that prides itself on education; encouraging staff to tackle new challenges; and providing recognition where appropriate.

Create a culture of education

If you truly want to motivate team members, create a dynamic continuing education program which ignites their passion and desire to learn. In order to start developing your culture of education, ask your fitness staff to identify topics of interest. Group fitness instructors may express a desire to learn more choreography while trainers may want to focus on how to build their clientele. Once everyone has had a chance to express their ideas, develop a continuing education program which enables them to learn more about those subjects. such a program may entail:

1. Subscribing to industry magazines or online resources. ask a few team members to review articles and present the information to their colleagues.

2. Creating a resource library that includes books, CDS and DVDs. team members can make recommendations on which resources to purchase. they can provide reviews of the material at staff training events.

3. Allocating a percentage of your revenues to continuing education. use this money to send people to workshops and conventions. ask the team to decide which events are most valuable and to recommend who should attend.

4. Hosting a workshop or conference within your facility and having the team create and present the content. this will enable them to showcase their expertise and allow them the opportunity to be innovative and creative.

5. Tapping into the resources of your members. Undoubtedly you have expertise among your fitness clientele. Ask them to present to staff on their area of fitness specialisation.

Set the stage for new challenges

It’s common for many employees, after a period of time, to have mastered the basic skills of their job. at this juncture, some people may start to feel like the job is becoming a bit predictable as the thrill and challenge of learning has faded and been replaced with a sense of routine. while some individuals will feel a sense of relief that the learning curve has subsided, giving them a sense of stability in their jobs, there are others who need to keep things moving, fresh and exciting. For those individuals, it is important to their sense of wellbeing and growth to be able to tackle new challenges. If you want these individuals to continue to be motivated and stick around you need to provide them with new challenges. The key is to be proactive and take steps to ensure that there is ample opportunity for growth.

Unfortunately, in most organisations employee goals are set around yearly performance evaluations. You probably know the scenario all too well; the evaluation takes place once a year where the job functions are reviewed and measured against performance, then goals and expectations are set for the upcoming year. How exciting! I’m sure many of us leave these evaluations feeling indifferent about the goals
being provided and uninspired to achieve them. Take the initiative and bust out of this goal-setting nightmare and yearly performance evaluation mindset. Turn the tables around and ask employees what challenges they wish to pursue for themselves over the next three, six, nine and twelve months. Let them create a list of action steps they want to achieve regarding their own careers. Then take the role of coach and mentor. Help employees discern their plan of action and how they will set forth to achieve those initiatives. Act as a resource to guide them towards success.

Arrange regularly scheduled meetings and goal setting check-ins to discover how they are progressing and ask if there is anything additional you can do to assist them. It’s invigorating when employees realise they have a manager who is a mentor and genuinely interested in helping them improve their skills.

Employee recognition

When was the last time you received positive recognition for your efforts? How did it make you feel? Were you motivated to put in an even greater effort the next time? If you’ve received recognition for a job well done, chances are you were motivated to take on new projects and challenges.

It feels good when people acknowledge us for the hard work we do – it’s a big part of motivation and boosting morale. Everyone appreciates a good pat on the back from their peers or managers. No matter how small or large the effort, develop a program where staff are continually acknowledged. Here are a few suggestions for your employee recognition program:

1. Provide feedback and recognition right away. If you see or hear someone doing a good job, say something to them. The immediacy of the feedback is important for providing continued support. This demonstrates to people that you are aware of the impact they are making on a daily basis.

2. Host a formal staff recognition event where individuals and/or teams are recognised for their efforts.

3. Use staff meetings to highlight achievements. Have staff recognise each other for a job well done.

4. Look for any opportunity to provide positive, meaningful reinforcement and recognition.

A final word on staff recognition. If you are going to recognise an individual for their efforts, do it right by doing it professionally. Make it have meaning to the person receiving the recognition. Include their peers, supervisors and even higher level managers. Make a big fuss and even include a ceremonial aspect to it.

These are three strategies that your organisation can use to help grow and develop your team. If you want to keep good people, think of ways you can help them achieve more on a professional level. Over time people will become bored and look elsewhere for new challenges, so the task for employers is to keep employees stimulated, engaged and growing. By doing so, your business will flourish and be filled with truly inspired and motivated individuals.


Donna Hutchinson
Donna has over 16 years fitness industry experience. She spends her time training and educating tomorrow’s fitness leaders in the
areas of business growth and development. As a fitness presenter, Donna travels throughout Canada, the US and Australia. She is
president and founder of On The Edge Fitness Educators, a leading Vancouver-based fitness education provider.