Yeah, THAT Happened at My Gym: A Lesson on Identifying & Cultivating Your Staffing Talent

Yeah, THAT Happened at My Gym
A Lesson on Identifying & Cultivating Your Staffing Talent

For those of us that have been in the fitness industry a while, it’s no secret… finding AND keeping staffing talent is an absolute challenge.

Landing a “superstar” doesn’t come along so often. Motivating, educating, and empowering staff post-hire requires continual effort and a willingness to learn a thing or two about human relations.

I remember the first time Kaylar and I spoke. Her voice was shaky and her words fumbled. She spoke on how she married straight out of high school, had three kids, didn’t have a college education or vocational skills and had never been employed. 

She gathered herself and nervously asked, “Would you ever hire someone like me?”

Having endured wee hours and late nights opening and closing the gym – including but not not limited to – working the front desk, selling memberships, washing mucked-up gym floors and lockers… my immediate thought was ‘if you’ve got a pulse, you can start right now’.

To my credit,  I remained poised and asked for a good time for her and I to meet. 

Kaylar’s interview was splendid. She was fit with a smile that lit the room. She was articulate, good humored, witty, polite, and notably eager to work in a gym. I had a front desk shift available and offered it to her. She quickly learned the ropes, overcame her fears and soon became extremely efficient in her role.

Almost immediately, members complimented and acknowledged her professionalism and demeanor. Current staff gravitated toward her and elevated themselves in her presence. She came to work early, stayed late, worked out every day and always offered to help wherever needed.

It was like hitting the hiring jackpot. After a few months, I knew I couldn’t let her get away. A sales position became available and I couldn’t wait to award it to her. 

After a week of training, Kaylar gave her first tour and sold her first membership. The commission she earned in 30 minutes was three times more than her hourly wage.

In her first two months, she sold more memberships than any other sales person the gym had. She was bringing home the wins and the Benjamins!

So it came as a HUGE surprise when she asked if we could speak – in that same, shaky voice from our initial call so many months ago…

We sat down in the office and in a whisper, she uttered, “I don’t like selling memberships. I feel like I’ve lost my mojo.”

In that very moment, I realized that I had never taken the time to ask what made her happy. This wonderful employee, a gem, had not been given the opportunity to define her best space.

All I could do in that moment was apologize.

She confessed to wanting to be a personal trainer. We talked more about her ambitions and I shared my experiences from my time as a trainer. On that day, we went from awkward employer-employee to friends.

When the time came for Kaylar to begin her career as a personal trainer, a superstar was re-born.

What did I learn?

The gym is a wonderful environment with so many opportunities to develop who we are – professionally and personally. Had this employee not the grace to tell me that she had ”lost her mojo” she may have quit working in the gym like the many before her. I might have continued to make the same mistake I did with her (and likely others).

Kaylar owns a successful personal training business. Many years later, we are both still in the fitness industry. And, we are still friends.