Operations

How to Develop Your Staff to Get Better Every Day

Your staff is everything to your business, so it’s time we start treating them like it - this is how you develop and cultivate their skills on a daily basis.

Sam Karoll
September 2, 2022
TLDR;
Your staff is everything to your business, so it’s time we start treating them like it - this is how you develop and cultivate their skills on a daily basis.

Your staff is the lifeblood of your business, whether you want to believe it or not. Marketing, pricing, and all those systems aren’t the reason that people stick around. In fact, a lot of people don’t even mind paying more as long as they’re getting value, and a lot of value is perceived. When your staff makes your clients feel like they’re the number one priority, like they always have access to quality customer care, that’s something special.

Many businesses (including a lot of gyms) have horrible customer support. It’s actually one of the first things that someone will complain about when discussing a brand. That means that if you want to be ahead of the game, you need to have an amazing staff with excellent communication and people skills, who can solve problems as they pop up. This is how you achieve that.

First Understand the Value and Long-Term Impact of Staff Development

If you don’t develop your staff, they’ll run amok. There will be no leadership and no way to face new challenges as they appear. It will impact your gym from the ground up no matter what, unless you put proper leadership in place first and lead your team to the best of your ability.

Let’s look at the importance of long-term staff development. It’s difficult because you don’t see an immediate payoff, but the efforts will be monumental in the long run. There’s no path to success without it outside of sheer luck (and luck runs out).

Let’s bring in some intense and powerful statistics to show you just how important leadership is for the longevity of your company (and your bottom line). Sources: Zippia, GoRemotely, and ApolloTechnical.

  • A small percentage—just 48%—of employees actually think that the leadership in their company is considered high quality. The study did not specify if these were large or small companies, but suffice to say you don’t want to end up with employees that feel that way.
  • A staggeringly low 10% of people are natural-born leaders. This means many people assume they’re leaders but don’t possess enough leadership qualities. This is why outsourcing and hiring management is such an important task.
  • 78% of businesses allegedly actively participate in engaging with their employees. This means the expectations of your employees will be extremely high, as they should be.
  • Up to 79% of employees will quit if they feel a lack of appreciation. A simple thank-you or mention of something an employee did that you personally liked can go a long way.
  • Up to 77% of businesses state that leadership is lacking. The positions of the 77% of participants in these studies don’t appear to be listed (likely anonymous), so it’s difficult to tell which part of the chain of command feels this way.
  • 29% of employees in a survey stated that they wish their business/employer did something to help them prevent burnout. This is extremely common in high-stress environments, so hopefully this isn’t something you encounter in your gym, but it could happen.
  • Up to 44% of leaders that feel burned out plan on switching to another employer within one year. They believe that a switch will help them with advancing their career, which is hard to do when you’re burned out beyond belief.
  • 91% of millennials (a large part of the workforce) will leave their jobs in about three years.
  • 83% of employees want to develop leadership at all levels of employment. This shows a hunger to learn more and be responsible for more, provided that they have the right leadership in place to help them in their position. Collaborative environments are great; environments that put a huge workload on an individual person with no support system are not.

There’s a staggering amount of data out there, especially with the recent Great Resignation in 2022. Expect numbers that point towards unfavorable outcomes to increase over the next couple of years. The data we used spans multiple years, though most of it is recent.

Train Management First to Spread the Message Better

You want to create a dialogue among your staff and management. If they have problems with leadership of any kind, encourage them to speak up about it. Talk to their manager or directly to you, or write it down for later. In short: you want them to air their grievances to you, because if they don’t, they’ll air their grievances to coworkers (or worse—they’ll talk to customers about your leadership).

These are some tips to help you encourage your management to encourage others to speak up (because you can’t do all the work or you’ll run yourself ragged).

  • Make Accountability Sheets: Make anonymous accountability sheets. Employees can fill this out so they can submit a complaint or report on their leadership. It’s recommended to make these forms electronic so you can’t accidentally inject bias when you notice someone’s handwriting/know it’s them making a complaint. It’s important to preface these forms by saying that legitimate complaints or suggestions are welcome, but if there’s a serious problem with coworkers, harassment of any kind, or anything worse, those must be reported separately.
  • Encourage on Sight: Teach your management to not become another member of those statistics we read about earlier. You can train your staff to be better by teaching your management how to lead. Too many management positions are just glorified staff members who do the exact same job (plus reporting). Teach them to help out, lead, uplift, and appreciate others.
  • Teach Management About Body Language: The number one thing that will make your staff despise their manager is the way they act towards them. If your manager has a tendency to look irritated, tap their foot, cross their arms, and loom over staff while watching them (breathing down their neck), you need to put a stop to it. Your manager should be non-judgmental and unbiased: they’re there to help lead. The trick here is that management will often act disgruntled or upset if they believe their own leader isn’t listening to them or respectful of their effort and hard work. It all trickles down from you.

Focus on the Person First, the Role Second

You hire a front desk staff member, but they’re not just a role with a person in a uniform and sneakers—-that’s Dave. He’s great with customers, bad with keeping the counter clean, but he makes people feel right at home. Dave has good qualities and has an area that he needs to work on in his current position, but he is not his role.

Here’s what you can do to make employees remember that they’re more than their role.

  • Appreciate Them Verbally: “Dave, I was impressed with how you make our clients feel comfortable and right at home.” Lead with that. Talk about what they’re doing right, and do not end it with “But.” Appreciate them, talk to them about what you admire about them. You need to dish out ten times as many complements as you do critiques, even if you’re tactical about them. Nobody wants to feel micromanaged—their effort requires energy and attention, so be thankful for that.
  • Take Their Special Conditions Into Account: Julia is great at her job, but she’s always 10 minutes late because she drops her son off at school. Yeah, it sucks, but it’s not that big a deal. Most things aren’t that big of a deal, if we’re being frank. But you might get backlash from your other employees because you let Julia slide. If you can accommodate that, you can give Nathan an extra 10-minute smoke break each day while you or the manager watches the counter. Read them, understand what’s important to them, and give leniency. Everyone’s out here trying to do their best, and their number one priority is not work; they’re focusing on living, so let them live a little and they’ll work as hard as you need them to.
  • Point Out Unique Appreciations: Saying something like, “I like the way you do a good job” is vague and sounds like you’re just trying to look like a good boss. Don’t do that. Does Nathan clean those restrooms like nobody’s business? Point it out to him, tell him that you always know he’s going to do an excellent job when he does the restrooms. Then make it a point to not give them to him every time. There’s a common (and mostly true) employee mindset that the reward for hard work is more hard work, because a lot of people are used to picking up the slack from a lazy employee. Say, “Nathan, you do a stellar job on those bathrooms, but I don’t want you to get sick of it, so Julia’s going to do them today.”

Give Wide Access to Learning Materials

Not every employee or manager is going to look at optional at-home learning materials… unless you pay them. You can find loads of online courses that help them handle customers better, and you can offer to pay them the same amount of hour’s wage that the course says it takes to complete. Keep in mind you might have to pay overtime depending on which week they decide to do it, but it’s worth it. They learn, they feel appreciated, and your employees do a better job as a result.

There are often plans for businesses to buy access to course and learning material websites with a store-wide license. You can simply list an access code that allows anyone to access it and learn on their own time if you wish, but don’t expect the same level of attendance.

Set Non-Number Related Goals and Track Progress

Nobody likes tests. Do you remember being tested in high school and dreading the number on your paper? What about SATs and what it meant for your future? Numbered results involve massive stress, and nobody wants to be graded—school is behind us, let’s leave it there.

Instead of rating your employees based on how well they’re doing with numbers, do it with fluid goals. You don’t have to say, “Team I’m disappointed in you and how you’re doing,” but you can say something to the effect of “We didn’t quite hit the goals I had in mind. I think part of it was being I (fill in the blank).”

Lead the conversation with humility. Talk about what you could have done better to help your team hit those goals. Those goals need to be non-number specific, so don’t talk about profits or new customers. Talk about how many hours you spent helping your crew and how you want to do more next month or next quarter.

This leads the conversation and opens up a rapport. If you, the leader of the gym, can talk about how he or she messed up and wants to do better, it will make other people feel better about doing so.

Remember this: it takes time to let people confidently come out of their shell without worrying about being fired or saying the wrong thing, so don’t look angry or dole out punishments.

Create an Environment for Your Team to Collaborate

This requires long-term patience to cultivate a space like this. It’s not a simple task. Short and simple, you want to inspire your team to be transparent with one another and create a space where they know how to prioritize tasks and know when to help one another.

If they can handle their obligations while providing assistance or ideas to their managers and/or co-workers and help one another without feeling like they have to pull in more weight than their colleagues, you’ve created a good space.

Develop Your Staff Into an All-Star Team

Your staff is imperative to your success. You want to treat them like the all-star team that they are, and that appreciation and kindness will surely reflect onto how they treat your clients. Be consistently supportive of your staff, appreciate them, and show them how to develop their skills every single day. Whether it’s motivated by money or promotions, just make sure they get value out of what they’re putting into your business.

Sam Karoll

Sam is our Community Manager for PushPress. He also owns and operates Xplore Nutrition, a personalized nutrition coaching service designed "for your lifestyle and goals by a Coach who's always available."

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