The following are key things a health club owner can do to improve on poor staff performance:

1. Improve communication. Lack of communication and follow-up from the boss is the top problem I hear about from health club staff. What would your employees say about you when it comes to communication and follow-up? Do they feel that their voice is heard and their opinions matter?

When I conduct an operational analysis of a facility (typically, a struggling facility), I interview all key people. One of the first things I ask them to do is to describe to me what they do in their job. I then go back to the club owner to ask for that same person’s job description. It’s rare that I hear the same job description.

2. Review your expectations. What do you expect of your employees? Are your employees clear about what is expected of them? When doing health club turnarounds, we often see that the health club owner has a specific expectation but has failed to properly communicate it to the front line. How do you know if you communicated your expectations clearly? It’s never as simple as just saying it. You have to train your staff properly, and you must follow up with more training.

When evaluating staff expectations, ask yourself this question: Am I setting them up for success or failure? High expectations should not be a distant goal held over their heads, but instead a belief in their ability to get the job done.

Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on the trivial details at the expense of what really matters in your health club. Get into the habit of celebrating achievements when staff meets goals.

3. Re-evaluate your health club systems. The key to a successful health club is installing proven systems that make it near impossible for your staff to fail. Does your health club system meet this criteria? Over time, it’s easy to start cutting corners or missing steps in the process.

Don’t let the natural skills and abilities of top performers convince you that proven systems aren’t important. The idea is to manage the system. Perfect this, idea and you can have new employees producing much quicker and for much longer.

4. Review your compensation plan. Do you reward outstanding performance in your health club so that the best producers get the most benefit? Are you offering daily, weekly and monthly contests and bonus opportunities to entice better performance? Do front desk and administrative staff get to participate in bonus and incentive opportunities?

When it comes to compensation, many health club owners look at their employees as an expense, and they are always looking for ways to cut expenses, right? Given that your staff is really your most valuable asset, you would be well advised to treat them like any valuable asset.

5. Do you trust your health club staff? When we get involved in a health club turnaround, ownership and management often do some finger-pointing about staff (and vice versa). Here’s the truth: If you want staff to trust you, you better trust them. If you can’t do this, it’s time to find new staff. The best way to establish trust is to be consistent in your behavior and staff training.

Of course, some genuine issues may be causing problems. You must continue to work through them, but don’t allow this to get you off course and cause you to adjust the system or lower production standards.

Never give a poor producer in your health club preferential treatment. If you do, you’re giving permission for everyone else in your health club to act this way.

Now, let’s start performing.

Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops on the practical skills required to successfully build teamwork and market fitness programs and products.

We recently took on a new health club client, and his first words to me were, “These people aren’t getting the job done, and I want you to train them.” I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes: “Sometimes, the followers aren’t following because the leaders aren’t leading.” If it was as simple as saying “go do it,” there would be no need for management. Of course, the key job of health club management is to create an atmosphere that allows a motivated person to act.