Competition can chip away at your membership base if you haven’t been investing time, energy and funds into your greatest asset: your team. Your company’s ability to attract and retain top talent is a critical link to member satisfaction and loyalty. That’s why the following practices should be standard at your club:
• Hire well. Even if you desperately need to fill a position, take time to screen applicants carefully. Individuals should have the requisite education and experience and should be intrinsically friendly, have a positive attitude and be passionate about helping others. You can’t teach employees who lack these basic traits to become outstanding service providers.
• Offer top pay and benefits. You can no longer hire minimum-wage employees to operate the front desk or staff the fitness floor. Service superstars in all departments, from maintenance to group exercise, deserve excellent compensation for their passion and commitment to fulfilling their club’s mission. Many members of ACAC’s housekeeping team have been with the company for more than 10 years. Historically, this team receives high marks for friendliness and club cleanliness on our annual member survey. A high level of remuneration to motivate and retain these valuable employees has been a smart investment.
• Create an exceptional work environment. Foster an atmosphere of trust and respect in which all employees are expected to act according to the Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity. Employers can also support team members by offering workplace flexibility and encouraging work-life balance.
• Keep the lines of communication open. Effective communication is at the heart of every successful organization. Employees, especially younger generations, desire transparency. Ensure that employees can give and receive constructive feedback about their performance and the company’s operations.
• Invest in employee education. Establish the expectation that learning is an ongoing part of employment in your organization. In-house training programs, education reimbursements and other development opportunities increase your team’s knowledge, productivity and loyalty to the company. Give team members access to resources, such as a senior employee mentor, a peer advisor and/or a library of professional materials.
• Recognize employee achievement. Reward team members for behaviors that reflect the goals and values of your organization. Provide your team with specific examples of their colleagues’ accomplishments so it is clear what actions have been rewarded. In addition to excellence in service and sales, recognize employees for new ideas, initiative and creative problem-solving. At ACAC, we honor team members throughout the year for adhering to the organization’s cultural imperatives: sales, service, lifelong learning and leadership. Awards are given by the company’s senior leaders, are peer nominated or are based on member surveys and comment cards. In addition to public recognition, recipients receive a $1,500 cash bonus.
• Develop career paths. Employees leaving a company often cite lack of professional progress as a reason for their departure. Make sure that positions in your company do not dead end. There should always be the possibility for a next step, whether it is a promotion or an opportunity to learn a position in another department.
Recruiting and retaining a high-performing workforce sets off a chain of events that result in increased member retention and profitability. If your company consistently delivers superior value, it will earn customer loyalty, which in turn will increase market share and revenue. With greater profitability, the organization is in a position to pay better wages, attract high-quality candidates and provide working conditions that boost employee morale. In this scenario, overall job satisfaction is high and employee turnover is low. As employees mature in their respective roles, their advanced skills and experience lead to greater productivity, reduced training costs and lower attrition rates.
Member loyalty begins with employee loyalty. A company that believes that its team members are its most valuable asset is not only a great place to work, but it is also a great place to do business.
Phil Wendel is founder of ACAC Fitness and Wellness Centers, Charlottesville, VA. The four facilities have an annualized attrition of 25 percent. Christine Thalwitz, ACAC’s director of communications, contributed to this column.