7 questions to ask yourself when searching for a new corporate fitness center staffing and management partner

When you joined the ranks of the 75% of U.S. employers who offer wellness resources or a general wellness program, your corporate fitness center was shiny and new.

Employees may have been excited for new offerings, updated equipment, and the opportunity to fit their health and wellness commitment into their workday schedule. However, as time went on, the membership and program engagement your corporate fitness center management partner delivered started to lag.

Now you find yourself consistently underwhelmed with their ability to engage your employees in a meaningful way, and you’ve even noticed a few red flags that tell you it’s time for a change. But where do you start? We’ve answered seven questions to keep in mind as you start your search for the right corporate fitness center management provider.

How do I find the right vendor?

Start by identifying what you’re looking for. Are you looking for guidance from an experienced national or international provider or a smaller firm? Do you want a partner who can provide innovative technology and solutions to reach your whole population, or is your main priority staffing a fitness center? Answering these questions can help narrow your search.

Another way to optimize your search is to work your network. “Ask friends, family, and your network about their corporate wellness experience,” suggests John Davison, director of account development at EXOS. “Whether it’s good or bad, word-of-mouth is a powerful testimonial.”

Once you’ve narrowed your search, make sure you’ve outlined what a potential partner needs to provide to win your business. “I advise clients to be sure they have a clear set of expectations,” says Casandra Blakewood, director of account development at EXOS. “And while price certainly plays a part in choosing the right partner, the quality of services and cultural alignment are key.”

Whether it's good or bad, word-of-mouth is a powerful testimonial.

Speaking of price, how do I handle the budget?

Ask for help. Whether you’re looking for fitness center management and don’t know where to start or you’re working with a fixed budget and want to get the most for your money, the right provider should be able to help guide you in the right direction. “Just talk to us,” says Davison. “Through conversation, we can provide a good estimate of what the budget is going to be from top to bottom relatively quickly.”

And top to bottom could be wildly different from client to client. From towels and laundry service to operating costs, preventative maintenance, and highly trained staff, the potential options – and the budget line items – are endless.

But before you get too excited about all the possibilities, it’s important to have potential providers help you understand the fixed and variable costs that come with the level of service you’re looking to provide. “There are so many different ways we can optimize the budget,” Davison says. “If you’ve got more than enough for a fully staffed fitness center, great. But if not, maybe we talk about virtual options like EXOS Journey (offered as part of EXOS’ fitness center management services) or fitness resources that don’t require staff. Other options might include streaming group exercise technology like Wellbeats or online workout programming through BridgeAthletic.”

What does success mean to us?

Of all the steps ahead, properly setting expectations for what success means to you and your employees might be the most important. “Make sure to discuss program performance expectations from the beginning,” says Blakewood. “And don’t forget to make it clear which metrics you’d like to see and how often.” This way if engagement isn’t as high as you’d like over a certain time period, there’s data to show where adjustments might need to be made.

Davison recommends first determining what you’re trying to achieve with your corporate fitness center and overall wellness program. Your goal may simply be to increase employee participation and improve health outcomes. Or you might be seeking innovative solutions that will impact your employees and their families beyond the fitness center.

Whatever you’re looking to achieve, the transition from one fitness center management provider to another is a good time to reassess. You can start by considering which areas of concern with your current provider are most important to you and use those as conversation starters with your new partner. “We seek to understand the population and their unique set of circumstances so we can recommend programming and amenities that will encourage maximum employee engagement,” says Davison.

Once I find the right provider, what’s the process like?

While the details vary depending on size and scope, the biggest factor that determines the transition process might be which provider you choose. T.J. Merritt, a senior performance manager who helped facilitate the fitness center management transition for EXOS at The Alexandria at Torrey Pines, was relieved to find out that choosing a larger, more experienced provider meant he’d have a team of experts to lean on.

“First, we developed a list of high-level needs and paired them with an associated EXOS resource,” Merritt explains. “Then I connected those resources with internal stakeholders to begin creating a shared vision for proposed upgrades to the current wellness configuration as well as gain an understanding of existing vendor contracts and EXOS’ corporate culture.“

From there, bi-weekly or even weekly transition meetings with a project implementation team drive the process. It’s during these meetings that timelines are set, updates are provided, and any obstacles that arise are discussed. “We really try to make it as easy as possible,” says Davison. “Our goal is to create as little impact as possible on the employee population, and for what little impact they do feel to be positive.”

If you’re concerned about losing valuable staff members, let your potential provider know.

What about the current fitness center staff?

Because many corporate fitness centers serve as social gathering spaces, it’s common for fitness center staff to build relationships with the employee population. If you’re concerned about losing valuable staff members, let your potential provider know.

“Every situation is different,” Davison says. “We work closely with the transition team to ensure that if there’s mutual interest to bring over employees, we’re taking the right steps, providing the opportunity to apply for positions, and making those staff members that are hired with us feel welcomed and valued.”

How do I share the news with the rest of the company?

Think about your employee population and how they react to change. Does it cause stress in the workplace? Or are your employees resilient and open to change? Once you’ve determined your best recommendation, communicate with your new provider.

“Most of the time it’s a really exciting announcement,” says Davison. “We’ll talk about new offerings, what to expect, and work to create a buzz around the transition.” But keeping the transition as quiet as possible so employees experience little to no interruption is also an option, and the right provider will be flexible enough to be able to accommodate both.

The transition process is done, now what?

While you’ve gotten through the hard part, the work is never done. “It’s critical to keep your hand on the pulse of the client and their employees at all times,” says Merritt. “Our program continues to grow with the population, and we’re challenged to adapt the employee experience to keep it fresh.”

On any given day, you can find Merritt in brainstorming meetings, researching ways to stay ahead of the latest corporate wellness trends, or seeking advice from EXOS leadership on ways to evolve the program. “I always put myself in our members’ shoes,” he says. “It’s the best way to make sure I’m meeting or even exceeding expectations.”

Are you ready to make a change? Check out EXOS' corporate fitness center management capabilities.

About the Author

Kara Hawking

Kara Hawking is a Phoenix-based freelance writer.

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