The health club industry is in the business of making a credible return on investment. However, as you sit down to analyze your club's financial accomplishments, you should make sure that you take a hard look at how your organization evaluates human capital (as in our people and employees). While it's true that the success or failure of our business may be financially driven, we unfortunately tend to lose track of the contribution provided by our human capital.

Not only do our employees successfully deliver the message of our brand, but they also deliver the programming substance that makes the successful club successful. These employees, these messengers and these service-delivery specialists are loyal to your brand. They live it, they breathe it, and they practice the brand. However, these employees are not born; instead, they are made. And it's up to you to make them.

Take a look at your current club environment. Just how are your employees motivated to improve their job-related skill sets so that they can do a better job and give better service to your members? How do you increase your employees' ability to demonstrate and practice the skills they may not use everyday? How do you increase the programming depth of your club services so that they meet your members' ever-changing needs? And more importantly, how do you create/stimulate employee loyalty?

A Study of Success

Investing in your employees by offering staff training can be one of the answers to the above questions. Just ask Jeff Zwiefel, the senior vice president of Life Time Fitness. When asked why his publicly held company had opted to focus on employee staff training, Zwiefel stated, “Staff training is not just a one-time or short-term occurrence. It involves a strategic, ongoing investment in our future. Because Life Time Fitness is not just a health club but rather a comprehensive sports, professional fitness, family recreation and resort/spa experience, we proactively deliver team-member development and training initiatives, such that they are able to consistently deliver the highest possible quality product and services to our members.”

Life Time Fitness team-member training programs are designed with both club members and team members in mind. The curriculum is led by staff at Life Time University, which is the team-member development organization for Life Time Fitness. The curriculum is structured to produce six outcomes among team members:

  • Increased professional competencies and skill-sets

  • Stimulation of an entrepreneurial mind-set

  • Stimulation of a member-point-of-view mind-set

  • Stimulation of the development of innovative programming options, when appropriate

  • Stimulation of the development of relationship-building skill-sets

  • Increased loyalty

Life Time University is able to accomplish these outcomes due to the comprehensive nature of its curriculum content. That content includes six components:

  • a business-development rationale
  • sales and marketing
  • relationship-building
  • customer service
  • membership-retention
  • a career development opportunity

Since Life Time University made the priority to incorporate team-member career development into its program and training, the company has, in effect, reinforced the success of its training programs.

The major return on investment associated with a well-trained staff includes facilitation of establishment of member goals and the identification of programming options and needs that will not only support diversified member goals but also support the modification of programming options as members' goals change. If this is done correctly, staff training will potentially enable your club to manage member wants, needs and interests. Then, as this happens, the members will get their results. And if they get their results, why would they leave? Sounds like a pretty good plan, right?

Now take a look around. Who is the person, department and/or team that makes sure that your club connects with your low usage and non-usage members? Who is making sure that your frequent users remain frequent users, that your low-usage members become frequent users, and, more importantly, who makes sure that your new members are “connected-with” so that they do not become an industry “drop-out” statistic?

If you don't have answers to these questions, then it's time you figured them out because chances are your competitor already has.


Bob Esquerre, MA, MES, NSCA-CPT is a fitness consultant and owner of the Esquerre Fitness Group. He is a Reebok Master Trainer with certifications as a medical exercise specialist from AAHP and personal training from NSCA.