How to Attract and Retain Top Fitness and Yoga Instructors
Hiring the right instructors– and retaining them - is one of the most important factors in the success of your group fitness or yoga business. It’s not purely about technical acumen, or dependent on celebrity. The most valuable teachers and trainers have a combination of classroom savvy, passion for improving the lives of others, and the desire and skill to build community.
“The key is having a heart for people, simple as that. Find the people who love to teach group exercise, but who love changing lives even more,” said Dana Monson, national group exercise director for VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa. “You can always coach someone to be a better instructor when they’re truly focused on the member experience. You can’t coach those who can’t see past themselves.”
Here’s how to identify, attract, and retain fitness and yoga instructors who will grow your fitness business and have your students coming back for more!
How to Identify Top Fitness and Yoga Instructors
Whether you’re an established gym or studio or you're going from a solo practitioner to hiring your first team members, you can find instructors who will elevate your business by:
- Word-of-Mouth. Talk with your regular students who’ve taken classes around town & ask them which instructors they’ve had a great experience with. If you have a team of teachers or trainers, ask them for recommendations. Keep in mind that you want instructors who are both inspiring and capable in the classroom and who have a reputation for being responsible, outgoing, and supportive team members. Find out who chronically subs out their classes, and who is known for always being there for others.
- Social Media. Search for and follow instructors in your local area on Facebook and Instagram. You can easily tell who is building an authentic, heart-felt community and providing supportive information to their student base, and who’s a bit too self-aggrandizing. The most effective instructors are the ones who obviously care about others and actively promote their classes and a healthy lifestyle through their networks. You want your teachers and trainers to promote your classes, not just their own name. Remember, when they work for you, they represent your business everywhere they go – including online.
- Secret Shop. It can be fun to be incognito. Venture to other gyms or studios and – if you can – remain anonymous and try out potential new teachers by taking their class. Pay attention to the entire experience from how the instructor greets you, to their charisma and technical abilities during class, to how they leave you feeling afterwards. Did the instructor care about you personally, and did they make a point to tell you about how to purchase more classes and come back again? Chances are, their behavior will be the same if they work for you. The beauty of this approach is that if you like what you see, you can privately invite the instructor to audition with you later. If you’re not impressed, the instructor won’t know, and there aren’t any hurt feelings.
- Hold an Audition. It’s always a good idea to experience how potential new teachers will conduct a class, and how they interact with other instructors and you during an audition. You can either post a public invitation online or privately invite instructors you’ve identified. Be ready to manage expectations, and know that you’ll likely be eliminating some teachers. They may ask for feedback on why. A good rule of thumb is to always thank a perspective for having the courage to audition and give them some truly helpful pointers for improving their instruction. You can always let them know that they can audition again in the future if they’ve worked to improve.
Create Loyalty and Engagement from the Start
Your onboarding process is essential in creating instructor relationships that work and last. As a fitness business owner, it’s your job to set the tone for behavior and values from day one. It’s a good idea to:
- Be clear about expectations and get agreement at the time of hire. Let your potential new instructor know before they say “yes” to working for you if you expect them to attend regular team meetings, have requirements for advance arrival and departure times, have class pass and/or membership sales goals, want your teachers to help promote your business by posting online, expect teachers to invite in new students to classes, and if there are class size minimums. Let the instructor know about your training and orientation process, how much time it will require and schedule their onboarding. Have them sign any required tax forms. This way you’ve got an agreement up front, and can remind the instructor of his or her agreements when you evaluate them and talk about performance later on.
- Promptly and efficiently train your new instructors on your fitness business or yoga studio’s processes. With the right studio management software (like Punchpass!) training instructors is quick and easy. Give your new instructors inspiring coaching on how to warmly welcome all of your students – both new and returning – and make sure they are clear on how to sell class passes and memberships, and encourage students to keep coming back! Punchpass offers a way to email specific students right after class, so consider encouraging instructors to send a quick thank you and welcome to any new students.
- Pay Your Instructors Well. It’s not all about the money, but even small or start-up fitness and yoga businesses will find that investing in your people is worth it in the long run. Find out what the going rate is for classes in your area and make sure that you are offering competitive wages. If your budget is tight, one great way to reward your instructors is by offering performance bonuses, like a higher rate per head after a class size minimum is met, or a quarterly bonus for hitting certain class size or pass sales goals. You can easily track class sizes by instructor using fitness business software like Punchpass. Be sure to reward top-performing instructors with periodic raises.
- Create Opportunities for Professional Growth and Advancement. Support your instructors by offering to help pay for advanced trainings and workshops, inside and outside your gym or studio. This is a win-win because your teachers will love you for it, and they’ll bring their new skills to the classes they teach for you. Also, find out the personal desires of each of your instructors, and honor their creativity. For example, one instructor may have a great idea for a special workshop, while another may aspire to lead a teacher training. You might find that one of your instructors would just love to help you out with social media posts. Consider designating a lead teacher as a title of honor for a stand-out instructor who wants to create new programs or help you review the performance of your team and get everyone excited about participating in events and classes.
- Take Your Teachers’ Classes. Build community and share the love by taking your instructors’ classes. Not only will they feel special and loved, but you’ll have the opportunity to give constructive feedback and see first-hand how your teachers and trainers are interacting with students. Encourage all of your team-members to take each other’s classes as well. A fun idea to try is to host a class of the week or month where all of your instructors are invited to work out together – the energy can be off-the-hook, and your students will love it!
What amazing hiring and retention practices have you discovered? We’d love to hear from you!