gym staff holding hands together as a sign of cooperation and staffing the right people for your kids' gym

The Right People in the Right Roles: Staffing Your Children’s Gym

The quality of your gym’s services and reputation depends enormously on the quality of your staff. The quality of your team depends on you, your ability to hire, train, manage, and lead them. You want to get hiring and staff management processes and program set up from the start. Even though you may only be hiring a couple of people to start, you don’t want to scramble to figure this out when the need for new staff is pressing. 

Setting up your HR framework

Frank Sahlein, CEO of 3rd Level Consulting, has developed an eight-step process for producing a strong HR function at your gym. The first two steps require you to select who at your kids’ gym makes up your HR department and outline how the staff is organized (also called an “org chart”).

Sahlein recommends including senior managers and the person responsible for payroll. Senior managers should be involved as they work more closely with the new hires than you will. More importantly, they’re the ones you’ll hold accountable for developing and managing the staff underneath them. It makes sense they play a role in defining positions and hiring for them, at least for their departments.

Outsourcing vs Hiring Employees

Identifying who is part of your HR framework is the first step. The second step is specifying what roles you need to hire and detailing what each role’s responsibilities are. As part of this second step, you should also identify which functions and tasks may be better outsourced. Hiring and maintaining employees is expensive. However, you have the most control over employees concerning how they fulfill their duties. If a role meets these three criteria, you’re probably better off hiring employees rather than outsourcing the work:

  • Involves direct contact with your students and their parents
  • Delivers gym services to your community
  • Is a revenue-generating position

If a task or role meets the following two criteria, then automating the function and/ or outsourcing it may be the more cost-effective option:

  • There’s limited or unpredictable need for the role. Employees like predictability in their hours and payroll. However, if you only need specific work done on a limited or variable schedule, then outsourcing it will save your business money.

You may find a middle ground by hiring independent contractors. They aren’t employees, but they aren’t as removed from your operations as the person fulfilling an outsourced function. While you have additional flexibility with independent contractors, you’ll also have less control over them, including committing them to a schedule. Hiring employees and independent contractors (ICs) also come with differing legal requirements.

The legal stuff

Payroll and HR legal issues are serious business. Your attorney should be an active participant in setting up your HR framework, including drafting employment and independent contractor (IC) agreements, and advising you on hiring, termination, and other needed HR policies. You’ll work with your attorney and insurance agent to make decisions regarding health care, workplace injury, and coverage for employee and IC “bad” actions occurring as part of their gym duties.

When devising your recruiting and hiring processes, and your contract and HR policy contents, talk to your attorney about:

  • Anti-discrimination and anti-harassment law and policies
  • Non-compete and non-disclosure policies
  • Discipline and termination procedures
  • Whether gifts and gratuities from parents are permissible
  • Child welfare policies

These are just some of the legal issues you’ll need to sort out, in addition to the more obvious HR issues such as defining compensation and benefits packages, and policies and standards for pay increases.

Finding and keeping the best people

Your kids’ gym is only as good as the people you hire. If employees are always leaving and new hires continually coming on, it will be impossible for you to provide your students and parents with a consistently fantastic gym experience. High employee churn is also expensive and draining, both in dollars and your energy level. Avoid high employee churn by making good hires with people who fit with your core values and providing staff with their own fantastic gym experience. That will keep them loyal, and they’ll be more likely to recommend your gym as a great place to work.

You’ll need to verify an applicant’s skill level for their intended position. However, it’s equally important that an applicant fit your gym culture. You establish your firm’s culture through your core values and how they’re expressed in written and unwritten policies and expectations and reinforced through behavior. If you’re creating a collaborative spirit, then hiring someone who prefers a more independent style of working may not be a good fit. Clarify what traits make an applicant a good or bad match for your gym’s culture so you can assess this during the hiring process.

If you want to keep your great hires, then make sure your gym is offering them the pathways they wish for their professional development. This may include providing bonuses (or even financial assistance) for earning new certifications.  You most certainly want an internal mentoring or training program, so new hires get the expertise and experience in your system. An internal mentoring program also provides leadership opportunities for your more experienced staff.

Being a manager and a leader

Your role as gym owner requires you to provide both solid management and be an effective leader. These are two different roles. Solid management covers employees’ day-to-day experience. Their payroll is accurate. They get their work schedules within decent lead time.

Management starts to crossover into effective leadership when you implement a clear program that tracks employee growth and holds them accountable for reaching specified goals. It must also hold them accountable if they don’t comply with gym policies or meet expectations. To support a positive employment atmosphere (and keep those excellent employees), accountability has to be consistently applied.

Tying it all together

Quality staffing all starts with creating and promoting a gym culture based on core values that inspires you and your team to excellence, regardless of what’s written in your policies. This is the realm of effective leadership. Leadership can’t be confined to a policy because your staff needs to see you walking and talking your gym’s values and culture.

If you want a great team, become a great leader.

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