March 7, 2024

Key Strategies to Find, Retain, Evaluate, and Grow Your Studio Staff

From rewarding instructor performance to establishing data-driven reviews, here’s how to keep the right staff that strengthen your studio community.

Key Strategies to Find, Retain, Evaluate, and Grow Your Studio Staff

Finding and retaining the right talent at your fitness studio is crucial to operational and scheduling success. It was also a hot topic and the main subject of our co-founder’s panel at the Lagree Summit in Las Vegas. From the front desk to your top instructor, who you hire is a direct reflection of your studio mission and a living representation of your brand. Your staff is why clients return; they influence your reputation and growth. We’ve all had hiring wins, but as business owners, many of us have also made hiring mistakes—and the wrong studio staff member, like an unreliable trainer—can negatively impact retention and revenue. Potentially driving your students to another studio in town. The struggle to find and keep the team you want is consistent across the boutique fitness industry.  

“Over 60% of studio owners say that finding and keeping the right team members is the biggest challenge in their business today. If you aren't proactively training and maintaining a pipeline of instructors, you will find yourself in a bind,” says Laura Munkholm, President & Co-founder of Walla. “Turnover is inevitable, so hone your training SOPs and find a system that simplifies the training experience. And most importantly, treat your existing staff like gold! Find what motivates each individual and focus on making them feel appreciated. Staff planning is just as important as tracking your monthly KPIs.”

What effective staffing strategies can you implement and prioritize? Here are our top tactics for finding, retaining, evaluating, and helping your staff grow with your studio—making them your biggest community and brand advocates! (Plus, how can Walla’s instructor insights allow you to have informed, data-driven conversations to establish a success baseline amongst your staff?)

Finding Staff

Lean into your community, local connections, and clients. 

1. Targeted recruitment channels and conversations

  • Utilize job boards at establishments where your clients and instructors visit, advertise on fitness-related websites, and post on social media platforms to advertise job openings. (Remember to tag your current staff to spread the word organically!)
  • Talk to your most loyal members. As Amy Teter said during the Lagree Summit panel, you never know until you ask—and some of your students want to be asked! They are already passionate about your studio and modality, and becoming an instructor and attending teacher training, for example, is the natural next step. 
  • Attend fitness events, expos, and conferences in your general area to network with industry professionals. Live in an area with a lot of students? Trying partnering with local fitness schools, colleges, and training programs to connect with aspiring fitness professionals.

2. Clear job descriptions (and weave in expectations)

  • Develop detailed job descriptions that outline the roles, responsibilities, and qualifications required for each position at your studio.
  • Highlight the unique aspects of your studio environment and community and the opportunities for growth and development available to potential candidates, no matter the role.

3. Employee referral programs

  • Some of the best, most reliable job candidates come from your connections! Implement an employee referral program that rewards current staff members for referring qualified candidates who are hired.
  • Encourage your employees to share job postings with their networks and actively participate in recruitment. Empower them to showcase their worth and show them you value their opinions.

Retaining Staff

Use data to make informed decisions, and remember to reward your high performers.  

1. Competitive compensation plus benefits

  • You must stay competitive in this always-evolving industry to keep good staff (and your top instructors)! Offer competitive salaries and performance-based incentives to attract and retain top talent.
  • To enhance employee satisfaction and loyalty, provide comprehensive benefits packages, including health insurance, retirement plans, fitness memberships, and discounts.

2. Career development opportunities

  • Invest in ongoing training and development programs to enhance the skills and knowledge of your staff, especially your instructors and trainers. 
  • Support staff in obtaining relevant certifications, attending workshops, and pursuing advanced education opportunities—like Level 2 Lagree certification for your standout instructors who want to expand their knowledge and skills. 

3. Positive work environment

  • Yes, pay and teaching classes on the studio schedule matter, but it’s the culture that makes your staff (and members) stay. It’s your studio’s differentiator. Foster a culture of collaboration, respect, and inclusivity within your fitness studio.
  • Encourage open communication and feedback channels to ensure that employees feel heard and valued, whether positive, negative, or constructive criticism. 

4. Recognition and rewards

  •  Implement a formal recognition program to acknowledge employee achievements and contributions. Creating a reward-based structure at your studio allows staff members to work towards something greater while establishing expectations to help them reach specific goals and achievements. 
  •  Give praise when and where it matters. Celebrate milestones, such as work anniversaries and certifications, with personalized recognition and rewards.

5. Work-life balance

  • Every employee and employer across all industries aims to offer flexible scheduling options and paid time off to accommodate employees' personal and professional commitments.
  • Promote wellness initiatives—such as mindfulness programs, fitness challenges, and mini-retreats—to support employee well-being.

Evaluating Staff

This is where it comes down to data and conversations based on real now—and how Walla can help! 

1. Performance reviews

  • Schedule and conduct regular performance reviews to assess employee performance against established goals and objectives. 
  • Ensure the review cadence is set on the calendar and something your staff members (and you) can prep for rather than pulling someone aside and saying, “Let’s grab coffee and talk.” By taking a more structured approach to reviews, you’re establishing a baseline for performance reviews to be taken seriously across the board and something staff can look forward to. 
  • Provide constructive feedback and coaching to help employees identify areas for improvement and capitalize on their strengths based on data. Walla’s Teacher Ranking Report is a great source to help formulate that feedback against instructor performance averages, reliability, profitability, and more, so the input is based on facts rather than guesses.

2. Objective metrics

  • Establish clear performance metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure employee productivity and effectiveness. When you have strategic conversations to review individual metrics, you’re naturally creating a baseline for goal-setting, showing your staff you want them to grow with your fitness business.  
  • Use data-driven insights to identify trends, patterns, and opportunities for performance optimization—and to have the more challenging conversations regarding your staff members who aren’t meeting benchmarks, like the unreliable instructor who is constantly subbing out their classes, which impacts client attendance because they never know who will be teaching. Walla’s Instructor Stats provide the exact information you need to review metrics in real time, so you’re discussing data rather than leading with assumptions. (It’s black and white when you have the data!) 

3. 360-degree feedback

  • Lean into your community during evaluation periods. Solicit feedback from peers, managers, instructors, and clients to understand employee performance and behavior comprehensively.
  • Encourage open and honest communication to foster a culture of continuous improvement and accountability. This naturally illustrates an environment of success, worth, and care—helping your staff become more connected and supportive of one another. That’s the type of positive energy your clients can feel. 

4. Professional development plans

  • Collaborate with employees to create personalized professional development plans that align with their career aspirations and organizational objectives. From taking their modality training to the next level to educational opportunities to expand their skill set, empowering staff to broaden their knowledge only furthers your studio's expertise.
  •  Provide resources, support, and guidance to help employees achieve their goals and advance in their careers. Share opportunities via email, post flyers in the break room or have a team meeting to discuss them. (Open communication is key here!) 

5. Performance improvement plans (PIPs)

  •  This comes back to making decisions based on data. Develop performance improvement plans for employees struggling to meet performance expectations. The improvement plans should be actionable, and you should keep the specific employees accountable with regular check-ins. 
  •  Clearly outline specific goals, action steps, and timelines for improvement, and offer coaching and support to facilitate progress. Implementing a PIP might be a little more work for you, but it is worth it when you can make an employee feel like they have overcome a career challenge with your help and guidance. 

By implementing these strategies, you can attract, retain, and evaluate talented fitness and wellness professionals committed to driving your fitness studio's success. Creating a positive and supportive work environment, offering opportunities for growth and development, and fostering open communication are vital to building a high-performing team that delivers exceptional results and becomes your biggest brand advocate.

Customer retention is the key

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What are the most relevant factors to consider?

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Don’t overspend on growth marketing without good retention rates

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What’s the ideal customer retention rate?

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Next steps to increase your customer retention

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