Recruiting great employees for your gym

Gyms require reliable, quality employees to succeed. We work with several gyms and fitness businesses, and we hear that finding competent gym staff is becoming increasingly difficult. 

While we don’t have a database of top candidates to hand over, we do have some ideas and resources for you in your search for competent gym employees. We’ll review critical traits to look for in potential gym employees, best practices for recruiting gym employees, and actionable tips to assemble a winning team to staff your gym. 

The Cost of Staff Turnover in the Fitness Industry

Before diving into hiring advice, let’s chat about turnover in the fitness industry. According to an IHRSA survey, the fitness industry’s average staff turnover rate is around 30%. However, one multi-location gym owner we spoke with shared that they experienced closer to 100% staff turnover each year (retaining some long-term employees while others worked for the gym for a very short time).

High staff turnover can be a huge financial and time burden for gym owners when you consider recruiting, screening, training, and a potential impact on member retention for bad hiring decisions. 

Traits to Look for in Gym Employees

Passion and Enthusiasm: Passion, excitement, and enthusiasm for fitness should be at the top of your list when looking for new gym employees. Enthusiastic employees make a positive impact on their environment. Plus, people’s attitudes can be contagious! Your gym members are more likely to feel motivated and engaged when interacting with people who are happy to work in a gym. There is simply no substitute for enthusiasm.

Customer Service: Great customer service is vital to running a successful gym. Look for a background in customer service and applicable skills, such as friendliness, patience, empathy, and willingness to help.

Communication: Good communication skills are crucial for a successful employee in nearly any industry, including the fitness space. Clear and timely communication can help prevent problems and ensure issues are quickly resolved. 

Willingness to learn: It’s a huge advantage when candidates are willing to learn new skills, such as sales techniques. While you may have a membership manager or club manager who is the primary person responsible for giving tours and assisting potential members, any front desk team member will likely answer calls or field questions from people curious about joining the gym. If managers are unavailable, having other employees confidently answer questions and speak with potential members can make a big difference. 

Recruiting Gym Staff – Front Desk 

Job Descriptions: Think twice before posting a job description you found online. While you can certainly review job descriptions for similar roles/businesses, it’s essential to create a clear and compelling job posting for your particular business. Describe the skills and qualifications you’re looking for and the unique aspects of your gym’s culture and mission. Remember to advertise perks in your gym’s job description, such as free membership and advancement/paid training opportunities.

Where to recruit gym employees: Try a variety of recruiting channels for your gym and periodically evaluate which ones are most effective. Some places to post your openings may include:

  • Local high school and college forums/job boards
  • Your company’s social media pages to find people who are already interested in your gym
  • Competing gyms, hair salons, and other places with front desk/customer-facing staff (poaching is not the most polite option, but it can be effective)

Employee Referral Programs: Encourage your current gym staff to refer potential candidates. Employees often understand your gym’s culture and can recommend individuals who would be a good fit. Employee referral bonuses certainly help encourage this!

Internship Programs: Consider trying an internship program to identify and train potential employees. This allows you and the interns to assess if it’s a good fit before extending a more permanent offer. 

Recruiting Gym Staff – Personal Trainers

Most gyms employ personal trainers for members who want a personalized workout plan and/or to help them achieve their fitness goals. 

  • Reach out to personal trainers that list their services via Bark, Fyt, and other outlets to see if they’re interested in employment opportunities
  • Poach personal trainers from other gyms (again, not the most polite method, but can be effective)
  • Contact private personal training businesses to see if there’s an opportunity to form a partnership with them to outsource their trainers

Personal trainers are typically certified by a nationally recognized institution, like the American Council on Exercise (ACE). However, if you’re willing to pay for a current employee or applicant to become certified, it will expand your pool of personal trainer applicants. This allows you to:

  • Offer training for front desk/administrative staff to become personal trainers
  • Look around your gym for regulars who have trained with someone else on your staff and are advocates of the service/passionate about fitness
  • Reach out to local colleges that have a kinesiology program. Offer students free training in exchange for internships and/or employment while in school.

Vetting gym staff

Thorough Interview Process: Don’t rush the application and interview process. While some roles in a gym may be considered entry-level positions, it’s still important to take your time and get to know the applicants before making a hiring decision. 

Conduct multiple interviews to evaluate a candidate’s suitability. At the very minimum, a multi-step process ensures the candidate can show up on time and has enough interest in the position to follow through with multiple steps. Your hiring process might include an initial phone screen (scheduled in advance), an online assessment of your choice (whether it’s behavioral, basic math, etc.), and an in-person interview.

You may want to include part of your existing team in the hiring process to get their input and make sure it’s a good fit. Get to know the candidate and their strengths and weaknesses. In the long run, this will save you time and money. Just make sure you’re not making it an extremely long, tedious screening process. 

Check References: Take the time to contact the applicant’s references for insights into their work ethic, reliability, and ability to work in a team. This step can provide valuable information beyond what’s presented in the resume.

Trial Periods: Consider implementing trial periods for certain positions. This allows the candidate and the gym to evaluate if it’s a good fit before making a long-term commitment.

Feedback Loop: Establish a continuous feedback loop during the onboarding process. Regular check-ins help pinpoint and address any issues early on and can create a more positive work environment.

Invest in Employee Development: Demonstrate your commitment to employee growth by offering training opportunities, certifications, and career development programs. This enhances employee satisfaction and contributes to a highly skilled and motivated team.

A quick note on keeping competent gym staff

As we mentioned, there tends to be a lot of staff turnover in the fitness industry. So once you go through all the work of finding and hiring competent gym staff, make sure you keep them. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Recognize your employees’ hard work with both verbal recognition and bonuses
  • Conduct regular reviews and, if possible, raises/bonuses
  • Check in regularly with your staff to get feedback on challenges/suggestions to ensure they feel heard and valuable (that feedback loop we mentioned is not just for new hires)
  • Ask your employees their goals, and if they’re interested in taking on more responsibility or a new role within your gym, work with them to see if it’s a good fit. People tend to stay at their employer longer when the employer invests in their growth and cares about their goals. 

Bottom Line

Building a team of exceptional employees for your gym is an ongoing process that requires careful consideration and dedication. By searching for essential traits in your gym’s applicants, trying a mix of recruiting channels and techniques, and taking your time vetting applicants to find the right fit, you can reduce turnover for your gym and ensure your gym has competent, successful staff. Remember, the success of your gym relies on the high-quality staff your members interact with at every gym visit.

Special note: If you need bookkeeping for your gym(s) and you’re considering outsourcing, feel free to send us a note to start a conversation. 

More for gym owners / fitness business owners:

Blueprint for new gym success
Gym marketing: 4 ways to attract new gym members
Gym expenses: 4 tips to reduce costs for your fitness business
Gym revenue: Increase income for your fitness business in these 4 areas

About the Author

Stephanie Lorntzen

Stephanie Lorntzen

Stephanie Lorntzen is a CPA who has worked for both large accounting firms and small businesses. Her background is in auditing, financial analysis, and financial reporting. For Numberwise, she helps business owners by answering all their questions about where their money is going.

More Blogs to Explore...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Ready to get started?

Stay Informed!

Sign up for our newsletter and stay up-to-date on all things Numberwise.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.