It’s not uncommon for companies to attract and retain talent by offering perks, from flextime to tuition reimbursement to free snacks. Another one is gym memberships, and in some cases, a company might have a corporate fitness center on-site.
It makes the perk more direct, but companies are left with the question of whether to staff their corporate fitness center with trained fitness professionals or stick with a do-it-yourself space. The former entails extra costs. The latter doesn’t, but then, “It’s just four walls with equipment,” says Linda Wolfenbarger, EXOS program manager at the Jacksonville, Florida, fitness center of a financial services company.
An unstaffed center leaves it up to the employees to figure out what to do. Some will, but others need help. A trained staff does that by making sure that there’s always someone there to provide guidance because, fundamentally, “People like human interaction,” says Nicholle Bankston, EXOS senior program manager at the San Jose, California, fitness center of a Fortune 500 company. Beyond that, a staff offers these four benefits to a company’s on-site fitness center.
1. Coaches bring in hesitant people.
There’s a percentage of self-motivated people who will always find a way to work out with whatever is available. Wolfenbarger estimates it at 10%. But there’s another group, about 20-25%, that want to use a fitness center but won’t even walk in if there’s no help. “A dedicated staff can reach beyond those four walls and recruit fence-sitters,” she says. Once they’re in, one-on-one sessions can be done to evaluate fitness levels and provide foundational instruction. “Staff members can help employees figure out where to start,” says Bankston, adding that it doesn’t end there, as, “There’s accountability. Employees are regularly connecting with someone who can help them.”
The ability to attract new members and make them feel comfortable takes more than a friendly demeanor. Corporate fitness center staff need the proper background and training to be most effective. At EXOS, we look for fitness professionals with a four-year degree and nationally recognized, accredited certifications. We also offer on-site and online continuing education opportunities to our employees.
2. Coaches provide a high level of relevant programming.
Programming is tied with outreach. Machines and weights are enough for some employees, but others only want classes. “Classes offer the group dynamic and motivation, and they’re often the gateway into the fitness center,” Wolfenbarger says. But an impactful class schedule doesn’t just happen. It needs to be carefully crafted to meet the needs of the population. A trained staff can customize programming and schedule classes that are productive and fit into the workday. “Staff members can also set objectives and create team challenges, making exercise fun and further engaging employees,” Wolfenbarger says.
Trained professionals use their understanding of members to determine the value of a new offering, and then promote it, ensuring it’s a worthwhile investment.
3. Coaches keep getting feedback.
Trained staff members understand that they’re most valuable when they’re on the floor of the fitness center, providing continuing instruction and seeing what employees are using. But eyeballs only catch so much. Successful companies invest in surveys; a trained staff can send out questions to quantify how employees are feeling about the programs and find out what they would like.
“We get the feedback, respond to it, and member involvement grows because we’ve shown that we care about what they want,” Bankston says. As an example, Bankston says that monthly visits have increased from 4,500 to 6,000 since 2015, when EXOS took over the San Jose center, with approximately the same employee headcount.
4. Coaches keep things fresh.
You can’t stand still with anything fitness-related; the industry is always moving onto the next trend. Employees can see or hear about something and want it for their corporate fitness center. It could be a new class, equipment, or a game like cricket or pickleball. “A trained staff can see how to reconfigure space, or find a new space if needed, like with cricket or pickleball,” Bankston says. But trained professionals also stay up to date on the science, use their understanding of members to determine the value of a new offering, and then promote it, ensuring it’s a worthwhile investment. “It keeps it a vibrant place,” Wolfenbarger says.
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About the AuthorMore Content by Steve Calechman