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Hiring & Retaining The Best Employees 

Competition for top talent in the fitness and leisure industry is tough. Your staff are key to the success of your leisure facilities and programmes. You need the right approach to finding, hiring, and retaining the right team.

The right team is critical to retaining members – your employees support your members and provide a friendly face to your organisation. The right team will also make it easier to extend your offering and adapt to the future needs of your local communities. 

Finding, hiring, and, most importantly, retaining the best people is essential. 

Your approach to hiring, onboarding, and retaining employees for the long-term will help you retain members. And you’ll reduce recruitment costs and time spent backfilling roles with fewer employees leaving. 

Get hiring right 

Your hiring process will make sure you attract the right employees in the right roles. If you can get hiring right, you’ll also create a positive impression with new team members. And that can help you retain them for longer. 

1. Write clear, appealing job descriptions 

Job descriptions play an important role in attracting qualified candidates and setting the right expectations from the start of a team member’s journey with you. You need to show why working at your organisation is a good career choice. 

Look to include: 

  • A job title: Candidates tend to search by role. The title should make the role easy to find, as well as showing the seniority level 
  • Responsibilities: Explain clearly what you expect the new team member to do and how they’ll contribute to your organisation  
  • Qualifications, experience, and competencies: Include a dedicated section highlighting any qualifications you’re looking for, desirable work experience, and any technical skills  
  • Soft skills: Soft skills are essential in almost all roles. Examples include communication, teamwork, problem-solving, time management, critical thinking, and decision-making 
  • Personality: To maintain and build the right culture, you need to hire people who are positive and passionate about their role and your organisation. Think about cultural fit when describing your organisation in the job description. This can also help you attract the right mix of personalities for a strong, collaborative team 

You should also consider salary when creating a job description.  

2. Set the right salary (or salary bracket) 

The leisure, fitness, and wellbeing industry attracts the most incredible individuals who are passionate about improving the lives of others. Yet, salaries have typically been lower than in other industries. This in turn creates an attrition risk with many employees unable to afford to stay in roles long.  

53.3% of UK workers say “making more money” is the main factor in a job search. So, it’s important to carefully balance the need to work to a budget with matching market expectations.  

Market rate will differ depending on where in the UK or Ireland a role is located. And if you want specific qualifications or past work experiences, you may need to offer a higher salary. 

As a rule of thumb, here’s how much potential new hires might expect to earn: 

Average UK salaries for fitness staff 

While you are not obliged to, including the salary within your job description and advert can: 

  • Establish trust right from the start  
  • Increase the number of applications you get 
  • Help attract diverse candidates and close the gender pay gap 
  • Save you and candidates time by attracting those in the right salary bracket 

3. Search for the right talent 

Once you have your job description and salary details, it’s time to start searching for the right candidates. 

You could place adverts in the local job centre and the careers pages of your local newspaper. Yet, if you want to find the best people who will stick with you for the long-term, consider also looking further afield. 

A starting point is to let your current employees know about the role and ask for recommendations. Many organisations offer a bonus for any employees who successfully refer a candidate who is hired. You should also use your own network of contacts for recommendations. 

Social media is a must for most organisations these days. 92% of companies use social media to attract new hires. Post a job advert on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other platforms, to attract candidates. Consider which platform your potential hire for a role will be actively looking at. 

Post an advert on fitness specific job boards, such as LeisureJobs and Leisure Opportunities, to find potential new hires who are actively looking to work (or keep working) in the industry. If you have budget available, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency who specialise in roles within the leisure industry, for example Love Recruitment

4. Fine tune your interview process 

Particularly for personal trainer and fitness instructor roles, it’s common to get 100s of candidates apply. Set aside plenty of time to review CVs and create a short list of candidates. 

Armed with that candidate short list, start the interview process. Exactly what the process looks like will depend on your organisation and the role. Generally, there are four stages to an effective interview process: 

  1. Pre-screening call – aim to speak to each candidate, learn more about their skills, and get a first impression to see if they seem like a good fit. A short call at this stage saves everyone time and helps you refine your short list 
  1. Interview and skills test – for many leisure roles interviews will happen face-to-face. Think about who needs to conduct the interview (keep it to 1-2 people) and whether you need a test element to check for relevant skills. Also consider how you support those who need additional help at this stage 
  1. Post-interview follow up – following interviews you can refine your short list of candidates and organise any additional interviews if needed. Then, get in touch with those you’re interested in to make sure they’re still available, discuss any notice periods and discuss salary expectations (if this has not already been made clear) 
  1. Make an offer – when you know who you want to hire it’s time to offer them the role. This can be a verbal offer, written up afterwards to make everything clear. Confirm their right to work in the UK. And provide an offer letter with the job title, confirmation of the offer, details of any conditions to be met, terms of employment, start date and probationary period, how to accept or decline the offer, and how to get in contact with questions. 

Once the successful candidate has confirmed their acceptance in writing you’ve made the hire. 

Remember throughout the interview process that it’s a two-way street. Candidates need to know that joining your organisation is the right choice for them. And you need to create a positive first impression. 

Tip: Invest time to follow up with those candidates who haven’t been successful this time round. If appropriate, provide constructive feedback. Unsuccessful candidates may be right for a future role (and an existing or prospective member), so this follow up can help show you care. 

Onboard new team members effectively 

How you onboard new employees is just as important as how you onboard new members. Get it right and you’ll set them up for success. A consistent approach to onboarding that covers the right things for a particular role will save you time in the long run. 

Onboarding starts with the right preparations 

Think about everything you can to do to make each new employee’s first day run smoothly and create a positive impression:  

  • Identify any documents you’ll need from them (for example, a copy of working visas for any non-citizens, a P45 form or P46 form) 
  • Set up a personnel record in your system covering salary (or wage and time record) and leave/holiday entitlement and record 
  • Let your new employee know ahead of time the information that you will need (for example, full name, address, and contact details, emergency contacts, any special medical needs, bank account details) 
  • Obtain any cards/codes needed to gain access to any restricted areas 
  • Set up any equipment and logins 
  • Organise times to meet key colleagues  
  • Make sure you are ready to cater for any special medical needs 

Plan out the first few days 

Onboarding can take place in a day, or you may choose to spread it over a few days to cover everything at a suitable speed. An effective onboarding will include: 

  • A warm welcome – providing any equipment, uniform, and welcome gifts  
  • A show-round or tour – organise a tour of your facilities or their place of work, talk them through any typical routines they should be aware of, and provide a health and safety briefing 
  • More about your organisation – tell them about the history of your organisation. Run through your purpose, values, and culture. Talk about your membership base and offering. You may repeat content that was covered during the interview stage but it’s worth re-iterating now you’ve made the hire 
  • More on their role – run through their new position in a way that explains how it fits into wider organisation. Explain duties and responsibilities, setting clear expectations and specific goals 
  • Introductions to the rest of the team – take time to introduce your new staff member to your team. Arrange one-on-ones with key stakeholders for their role – a meeting or coffee works well 
  • Initial training – for example, make sure they can use your leisure management software if they need to 
  • A buddy – setting the new team member up with a buddy can help them feel welcome, answer questions, navigate the organisation and feel a sense of belonging faster 

Retaining your best people 

Recruiting and onboarding new employees can be costly and time intensive. Especially if you are replacing employees who are leaving. It’s estimated to cost between 6-9 months’ salary to replace an employee. 

Common reasons why employees leave include: 

  • Inadequate salary 
  • Lack of career progression 
  • Boredom 
  • Poor work-life balance and unsuitable hours 
  • Stress and heavy workloads 
  • Lack of recognition 

Look across your organisation at why former employees left to identify any trends. Then create a staff retention strategy to address the leaving reasons you are seeing.  

Typical employee retention initiatives include: 

1. Encourage open communication 

Employees who feel heard and understand why what they do matters to your organisation will be more engaged and motivated to stay. 

Regular 1-2-1s will help encourage every employee to share ideas, ask questions, and raise concerns in a safe space. Leaders in your organisation should proactively connect with their direct reports on a regular basis to get a sense of their workload and satisfaction in their role.  

Find ways to share what’s happening throughout your organisation with all team members, so everyone feels informed. Ask for ideas and feedback, and act on suggestions where appropriate.  

2. Invest in training & career development 

Employees want to be supported in growing their career. Leaders should discuss short- and long-term goals with employees. Provide constructive feedback and help employees visualise their future in your organisation. Realistically talk through a career advancement plan. 

Once you’ve identified a plan, support employees with appropriate upskilling so they can gain new abilities and help your organisation evolve. That might mean supporting them to work towards specific qualifications and to take part in continuous professional development. Organisations such as CIMSPA and Active IQ, offer qualifications and education for leisure industry professionals.  

Investing in training and upskilling for employees (and even reskilling as the industry evolves). Along with providing the opportunity to progress within your organisation, will help you retain your best people.  

3. Recognition & reward systems 

Everyone wants to feel appreciated for the work they do. As an employer, showing your gratitude can make a big impact on retention. Leaders should regularly thank direct reports for good work and explain how they’re helping the organisation.  

Consider a formal rewards system to incentivise great work, loyalty, and innovation. That could mean: 

  • Celebrating milestones (like long service) with a gathering or gift 
  • Publicising contributions in an internal newsletter (or similar) 
  • Time off or extra annual leave for strong performance 
  • New opportunities such as a promotion 
  • A one-time bonus or financial incentive to reward success 

4. Competitive compensation 

If you want to retain top talent within your organisation, you need to evaluate and adjust salaries regularly to stay competitive.  

If pay increases are not an option currently, consider other types of compensation like performance-linked bonuses, health care provision, pension contributions, flexible working, additional annual leave entitlement, or wellness benefits. 

Set your employees up for success 

Finally, set your team up to succeed with the right software. Having an effective, all-in-one leisure management system in place will free up time for your team and keep your organisation running efficiently.  

Employees stay in roles where they feel happy and supported. Reward your people, praise them, invest in their careers, compensate them fairly, and provide the tools they need to succeed.  

Request a demo to see the value that Legend can bring to your leisure organisation.