How to create the right culture for your corporate fitness center

February 26, 2020 Kara Hawking

Successful corporate fitness centers become employee sanctuaries. Whether they’re building camaraderie in a group fitness class, achieving fitness goals with staff support, feeling empowered after a cardio session, or finding peace in a dedicated meditation spot, employees appreciate having the opportunity to fit self-care into their already packed schedules.

But how do corporate fitness centers become employees’ sanctuaries? It takes time, patience, and a lead-by-example approach. Use these tips to help create a culture that drives employees to the fitness center.

Create a community, not just a workout crew.

Fitness and wellness programs are often senior leadership’s way of showing employees that they’re valued, and an on-site fitness center plays a pivotal role in bringing that feeling to life – inside and outside the fitness center walls.

“There are some employees who are going to work out no matter what, they’re not the challenge,” says Ann Martinez, senior program manager at a tech company whose fitness center is managed by EXOS. “Go after the people who don’t work out. How do you convince them to become part of the community?”

Whether it’s bringing group fitness classes into the courtyard, hosting a themed open house, or getting creative with fitness challenges that welcome participants of all fitness levels, let the employees see that the fitness center can provide more than a great workout.

No matter how successful a fitness center may be, there's always room to get better.

Don’t wait for feedback, ask for it.

No matter how successful a fitness center may be, there’s always room to get better. Engaging employees in the improvement process helps foster a sense of community and belonging. Martinez suggests regularly soliciting feedback through surveys, feedback cards, or even just conversation.

“We value customer feedback in everything we do, so it comes natural to us,” she says. And they ask for more than thoughts on equipment or programming. “We want to get to the bottom of what’s stopping employees from achieving their fitness goals and how we can help.”

For new fitness centers, being proactive about asking members what they want from your programming can help build a strong foundation of satisfied members. Once the novelty of a shiny new facility wears off, what will keep employees coming back? The only way to find out is to ask.

Create an experience people can’t live without.

Fitness center culture isn’t just about inviting decor or a friendly staff; it’s about creating an environment in which employees feel welcomed, motivated, and encouraged. And that means never letting customer service take a backseat.

“We not only take pride in providing superior customer service; we dedicate ongoing training to it,” says Shannon Johnson, director of account development at EXOS. “It’s our goal to provide a personalized, high-touch experience for employees from the moment they walk in the door.”

Johnson leads a staff that meets members where they are, provides highly customized action plans, and builds trusting relationships that help people achieve their goals. And she encourages all staff to stick with employees until they’re comfortable on their own and continue meaningful interactions as time progresses, no matter how long it takes. “This personalized experience feeds right into the positive, healthy culture we’re trying to create,” she says.

Creating a culture and generating buy-in takes time, but attracting and retaining the right staff can help speed up the process.

Get picky about staff.

Creating a culture and generating buy-in takes time, but attracting and retaining the right staff can help speed up the process. “A healthy culture starts with the on-site team,” says Johnson. “Their energy, passion, and expertise for helping others cultivates a community that people want to be a part of.”

Johnson also recognizes the importance of teamwork, suggesting that the staff’s ability to work together to help employees achieve their goals is one of the most important factors when it comes to building a positive, healthy culture. And it also helps them get creative about bridging the gap between the corporate culture and the culture within the fitness center, creating a seamless experience for employees and staff members.

“I have people tell me all the time that they didn’t realize the staff was employed by EXOS,” says Martinez. “I think that speaks to what a great job they’ve done blending in. The company has embraced us, and EXOS has embraced them.”

Find the right partner.

No matter how strong the corporate culture may be, inviting a fitness center management team – or any outside vendor – into your organization can sometimes throw a wrench in the vibe. That’s why it’s important to find a partner whose value system and culture closely align with yours.

“The EXOS team deeply understands and embraces our culture,” says Martinez. “They meet us where we’re at, understand what we’re trying to accomplish, and make sure they’re designing programs that address our key priorities.”

Want to show employees you’re prioritizing their health? Learn more about fostering a healthy environment.

About the Author

Kara Hawking

Kara Hawking is a Phoenix-based freelance writer.

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