Creating an environment of cooperation and teamwork among your staff can positively affect members' experiences at your club and, in the long term, member retention. Lack of teamwork, on the other hand, can be detrimental to a club, says Brenda Abdilla, general manager at Colorado Athletic Club Downtown in Denver, CO. Abdilla recently had to let an employee go because of teamwork issues.

“If someone has been given every opportunity to gel with the team and they don't and they are sabotaging the work flow, they have to go,” Abdilla says. “As an example to the team, you have to demonstrate that you are willing to let go a valuable member because they are sabotaging the team.”

Sometimes it can be difficult to get staff as disparate as the front desk, sales people, swim instructors, personal trainers and the pro shop to feel like a team. However, if you infuse them with the same club goal and teach them how they can help attain that goal, then teamwork follows, says Ann Gilbert, director of personal training at Shapes Total Fitness for Women, which has 11 clubs in Florida.

“The goal is member retention and member service from the point of sale through every workout the new member participates in,” Gilbert says about her club. “Teams have become companions in service and work together daily to combat the normal fitness dropout rates seen in years past.”

Nowhere is that more evident than in the personal training department of Shapes Total Fitness where Gilbert says personal trainers are seeing value in encouraging their clients to use all the resources that the gym has to offer including specific group fitness classes and group training opportunities. In fact, most trainers encourage participation in other trainers' specific workout plans such as Pilates, boot camps, studio cycling workshops and boxing group training, she says.

“Most have found that they will actually get more longevity in one-on-one sessions when clients cross train throughout the gym,” Gilbert says.

Here are suggestions about how to create a team environment at your club.

  • Retention

    “One of the most important elements to keeping a team working together is to keep a team together,” says Abdilla. To do so, a club should have an employee retention program in place. You can't always give raises, but you may be able to do trade outs to get employees coupons to restaurants, movie theaters or tickets to sporting events.

    Employee turnover has a ripple effect from the front line all the way back. High turnover makes remaining employees feel uncertain and insecure.

  • Teach standards

    Shapes Total Fitness teaches corporate standards to all employees from day one of employment. That includes teaching systems of inspection, which are performed by a joint supervision team.

  • Teach value

    All employees are taught the value of each job description at Shapes Total Fitness so that the respect for fellow employees and their roles within the club are increased. Seeing the value of their job increases staff member self esteem, which allows all staff members to be better member service experts, says Gilbert.

    “There is now a more professional understanding of the job descriptions and job duties of all staff members in the club lessening any competition and opportunities for negative criticism amongst employees,” says Gilbert.

    Value and teamwork are also stressed at Colorado Athletic Club Downtown. During an employee orientation, Abdilla stresses the importance of teamwork at every level in the club.

    “I tell them we are a small team here and each job is really vital,” Abdilla says. “They are not alone. It's important to speak up if they have questions.”

  • Educate the staff

    All the staff members are taught the fundamentals of fitness, as well as sales techniques at Shapes Total Fitness. This education not only increases the value of each employee, but it also increases employee self-esteem and ensures that everyone in the club is on the same page when it comes to fitness fundamentals.

  • Staff participation

    Trainers at Shapes Total Fitness are encouraged to be present in the facilities even when they are not training a client. This marketing technique can improve their chances of getting new clients. The company also encourages trainers to teach group fitness classes so they can become general fitness leaders and coaches within the facility. In addition, all staff members are encouraged to participate in all aspects of the facility, including a requirement to train with a trainer and attend group fitness classes as part of the training process.

  • Allow employees to resolve conflict

    Abdilla forces employees to work out their conflicts rather than harboring ill feelings. She starts by helping them understand the position of the other person. She then tells them they need to address any remaining feelings with the other individual so that they don't end up with secret vendettas.

  • Allow the team to make decisions

    “If there are decisions where I can get their buy in and I can concede to their perspective, I involve them in that decision,” Abdilla says.

    For example, when hiring a sales person, Abdilla and the sales manager narrow the choices and then allow the sales team to interview the finalists and pick the candidate. In that way, the sales team takes responsibility for making sure that that person fits into the team since they picked him or her.

  • Hold joint meetings

    Shapes Total Fitness plans to begin holding joint meetings with sales and fitness professionals as another way to improve teamwork. The teams will formulate promotions together keeping in mind all aspects of the facility. These joint meetings will allow profit centers such as group fitness specialties and personal training to be marketed at the point of sale unlike in the past when individuals marketed such businesses, says Gilbert. It will also make the sales team more comfortable about introducing prospects to group fitness instructors and personal trainers during the facility tour, thereby increasing a new member's familiarity with the club staff.