A major challenge facing gym owners is finding and keeping a team of top-notch personal trainers on board. In this episode with Podcast with Rick Mayo and Matt Helland, we discuss the concepts and strategies for dealing with personal trainer turnover.

To illustrate the point of turnover, Matt and Rick use the River & Ponds analogy, which says that some people will come into your business and it will be a river for their career, then the current (the market) will take them somewhere else in a short period.

The opposite is the pond, where employees stick around for a long time. With the pond analogy, you need to provide fresh water, add nutrients, otherwise they will get stagnant. Just like people, you need to provide updated training, support and education to keep them fresh and motivated. 

Surprising to some, they both come with their own challenges.

Fitness businesses are a combination of ponds and rivers. At Alloy, the management team is the pond, which could include you as an owner/operator. You and your management team is in it for the long haul. 

The part of the business that is the river includes the trainers. In the fitness industry, the annual personal trainer turnover rate is 80 percent. If you look at the average time personal trainers stay in the industry, it was like around 12 months. With this industry-wide problem, it is tough to build your business, knowing that you’re going to have more of a river scenario with your trainers. So you have to make sure you have a fast onboarding process, get them up to speed quickly, and ongoing recruiting processes. 

One thing we have at Alloy is a six-week mentorship program. It helps to get them up to speed and test drive them to make sure they will make good team members. By thinking of this ongoing hiring process as a river, we built a systematic training approach to hiring people. We don’t have to look for the unicorn “Rock Star” employees that are good at everything. We can hire the people and give them the training tools and a playbook. All they have to do is go out on the floor, service the clients and run the playbook correctly. It’s a completely different skill set. It certainly helps deal with the river scenario.

We developed the systematic training over 30 years of fine tuning. We found that if you could take the sales play away from the trainers, it would help trainers to focus on running the plays. Personal trainers are known for wanting to help people, but not so much for their sales skills. By putting someone else n charge of sales, and having a client induction process that starts from the time the client walks in the door to designing the right personalized training program, then all the trainer needs to do is run the plays. If you nail the right systems and training protocols, then anybody you hire will understand and be able to run the plays.

One of the biggest reasons a trainer will leave a large fitness gym is they feel lost and unsatisfied. They are literally just floating downstream. Many large gyms take a major percentage of the personal training revenue. Owners just want them to sell and make them some money and train the clients. The talented trainers leave to head out on their own to make more money.

Knowing the statistics around personal training, you better have a system set up to onboard quickly, and not make it as awkward when they leave so you don’t lose customers and disrupt your business.

It is also a good practice when you bring on a personal trainer, to have a discussion when you hire them, “How long they plan on staying?” Have that discussion early on with employees and discuss what their goals are so you can help people grow. Help then work toward those goals and if they leave, it can take all that tension away because you both worked towards the common goals. If they could stay on the team and do something else to reach their goals, great. If not, then I’ll help them find something else that they want is great advice. 

Learn how to make hiring trainers a win-win for everybody using the river and pond scenario to help reduce personal training turnover. So tune in!

Key Points of Discussion:

  •  Rivers and ponds concept: Short-term and long-term employees (1:15)
  •  Old is not always gold (3:32)
  •  Mentorship: A test drive for both the employer and the employee (3:42)
  •  Start with the easy part, like your training protocols (6:57)
  •  It’s not a bad idea to ask them how long they plan to stick with you (9:17)
  •  Helping people grow (11:30)
  • Use goals to reduce personal trainer turnover

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Mentioned in this episode

Matt Helland

Rick Mayo 

Alloy Personal Training Franchise

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