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How to Motivate Staff at Your Fitness Business

how to motivate staff

Every year, 80% of fitness staff leave their job. That is a whopping number and a huge problem for you as a fitness business owner or manager.

Answering the question of how to motivate staff and create a more collaborative and wholesome employee experience is not easy – but there is an answer.

Throughout this guide, we’ll explain exactly how to motivate staff to a level where they are boosting member retention rates, community feeling, and just making the most of their time as a member of your team.

But first, there are a few questions we need to cover.

What is a Staff Retention Strategy? 

Basically, this is the method you and your business use to keep your employees happy and working for you. It’s quite a simple equation, but the lower the staff morale is, the quicker you’ll see employees walking out the door.

Creating a staff retention is the first step in improving your employee experience. We’ll show you exactly how to create this strategy shortly, but first, we need you to hear something.

It’s not them, it’s you.

If you are seeing a constant turnover of staff in your business, it’s nobody’s fault but yours. You need to create a deep and forensic audit of your business and managerial style, ensuring that you are creating an experience that leaves your team happy, encouraged, and motivated.

Read More: 9 Strategies For Boosting Employee Retention

Why Do Employees Leave? 

There are a lot of obvious reasons why staff quit, but some can be a little more nuanced. Let’s go through the main contributors to staff leaving fitness businesses.


This is the go-to reason as to why staff leave a job and, although it can often be the case, it’s not entirely true. More and more people are choosing to work in places that encourage growth and motivation rather than salary. Think about it: would you rather be miserable every day and earning 3% more a year, or motivated, surrounded by friends, and learning everything you need to succeed but at a lower salary?

You’re a fitness business owner, so it’s likely that you’ve already chosen option B, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a look at your pay rates and how they match up to the local market.

A far more contentious issue for staff is equal pay within the business. If people find out they’re being underpaid in relation to other staff, you’ve already lost them. Make sure you have those difficult and uncomfortable conversations with your team around pay, because if you don’t they’ll have them without you around.

Overworked and Unsupported

Working in the fitness business is not for the faint of heart, and it does require a lot of passion and even more energy. Make sure that all of your staff are working at sustainable levels. Sure, your star trainer can push and do 60-hour weeks, but for how long?

Remember, fitness professionals are often very fond of pushing themselves, it comes with the industry, so don’t just take their word for it when they say they’re fine. Take a look at everyone’s work schedules, understand exactly where the pressure points are, and make sure everyone is taking their fair share of work.

Finally, make sure there’s room for criticism and ideas. Setting up an anonymous feedback system can ensure that you hear about the small problems before they become major fires. Even just a box in the break room where people can drop their thoughts on a piece of paper can have a huge effect on your staff morale.  

Lack of Opportunity

Let’s face it: there is nothing more soul-destroying than a dead-end job. Give your staff the opportunity to grow and develop; it could be a major benefit to you in the long run. If you have a passionate, committed staff member, go the extra mile and pay or partly fund

their training or certification. After all, you’re most likely planning on setting up an additional location in the near future, and you’re not going to be able to manage both locations on your own.

Give people the chance to impress you, and to impress yourself, and you’ll often be surprised at how quickly you see results.

Read More: How to Open a Second Location

Work-Life Balance

Unless the building is on fire, don’t reach out to your staff on their days off. It’s illegal in some countries, and it is a major contributor to bad morale. If you find that there is an unavoidable reason to contact someone on their day off, it’s often your fault because you haven’t set up the right communication methods for in-office collaboration.

Secondly, listen to your staff and find out what responsibilities they have outside of work. Childcare, elderly parents, second jobs, volunteer work – there are a myriad of reasons why people may need some extra time outside of work, and you need to provide that space, otherwise they’ll find somewhere that will.

Lack of Employee Recognition

36% of global employees find this the main reason they leave a company. Find out who is putting in the extra work and reward them for it. In the fitness business, people work hard, because they have a deep passion for fitness and wellness – recognize that. If you see a trainer going the extra mile with a member, staying late to do that extra load of laundry, or just checking in on the newer staff, call them out and celebrate them.

This ties into the need to give your team the room to grow. In some companies, people don’t even know that they’re allowed to go that extra mile – they feel railroaded and confined by rules or protocols: you can change that through encouragement.

Read More: April Fisk’s Guide to Hyper-Motivated Staff


Check in, sit at reception, smile at the members, secretly check your phone for hours at a time, look up different job listings, and hand in your notice – this is the scenario for a lot of fitness staff, especially in larger franchises. This doesn’t have to be the case.

Encourage your staff to have fun, to relax, and to distract themselves when they need to. If they’re doing something tedious or boring, maybe pair them with a team member that you know they get on well with. If you notice them dragging their feet on certain projects, you can ask them why, or you can just assign them to something different.

Stuck doing tedious admin jobs for hours at a time?

We have the solution

Lack of Company Culture 

Some gyms and studios are just plain boring: we’ve all stepped foot in one – your business doesn’t have to be the same. Setting up monthly socials, asking people for their ideas on how to improve morale and experience, and even just showing up more relaxed and at ease yourself can have enormous effects on your staff.

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Create an environment where people look forward to coming to work – whether that’s through learning, engaging work, or just great benefits and facilities, you need to make them feel welcome and included in your team.

Hates Their Boss

It happens, and it happens far more often than people think. People can quickly grow angry and resentful towards their boss or manager, and it’s often down to poor managerial styles.

Take a deep look at how you interact and encourage your staff – how often are you passive-aggressive? How often are you seeing issues weeks too late to be addressed? How often do you hear a lull in conversation when you walk into the room?

As a business owner or manager, you need to be a motivator and coach, not an enforcer. Create an environment where people feel that your managerial style is helping them to learn, develop, and thrive. Otherwise, you’re just going to become their enemy, and then it’s only a matter of time before they leave.

Why Learning How to Motivate Staff Makes You Money

Boosts Member Retention

If you have a revolving door of staff in your business, your members will never be able to create a rapport with your staff. By creating a close-knit and collaborative team, you can create a more engaging and community-focused experience for your members.

In the modern fitness industry, there is nothing more important than that community feeling. It can make or break businesses, and it’s a lot easier to develop than you think.

Read More: How to Build a Fitness Community

Lower Hiring Costs 

There is nothing more time-draining for managers than finding new staff. Sifting through applications, hosting interviews, going through onboarding processes – these are actually losing you a significant amount of money. Every hour that a manager spends on hiring is an hour they’re not spending with members or in maintaining your business. This hour is going to be added in somewhere else, and your manager isn’t going to be as effective as they’re distracted or tired from the hiring process.

This isn’t even mentioning advertising, agencies, and all the other costs that come from new hires.

Keeping a staff member in-house can save you months of lost time and productivity.

Read More: The Top 10 Barriers Stopping Your Business Growth

6 Key Tips For How to Motivate Staff

Learning how to motivate staff can come in a wide variety of forms, but its implementation should always be the same: through humility, understanding, and active listening. You’re going to be experimenting as a business owner, it’s the only way to truly learn the perfect recipe for you and your team, but you need to be able to hear and accept the feedback when it comes to you.

That being said, here are the best ways of creating a motivating environment for your staff.

1. Career Development

There is nothing more poisonous to a job’s longevity than a lack of career development. We mentioned it before, but you need to be a champion of your staff: encouraging them to develop themselves both personally and professionally. By encouraging training and fulfillment within your business, you’re creating a team of highly experienced individuals who can help take you and your company to the next level.

2. Health Benefits

If you are a fitness club owner or have a business in this sector, you should want the best for your staff as you do for your current members.

This isn’t just about providing health insurance to your staff, but also including other benefits and perks for being a part of your team.

You’re a fitness business owner, managing fitness professionals: health and wellness should be at the core of everything you do. Along with providing free membership or classes at your own business, you should see if you can provide discounts or free experiences from your business partners or in other areas. Small touches can go a long way in this regard.

3. Work-Life Balance

Keep an active tab on your staff’s outside needs and requirements. If they have childcare, eldercare, or any other type of need outside of work, you have to ensure they are able to cater to it. You also need to stay on top of work scheduling, ensuring that one person isn’t stuck in the gym or studio all weekend, every weekend.

Again, feedback is everything in this regard, make sure to listen to your staff.

4. Retirement Plans 

Nobody can be a fitness professional forever. By including a retirement plan into your employee policy, you can create a large amount of loyalty within your staff. Not only do they appreciate the benefit, it also shows that you see them as a long-term investment, not just a temporary employee.

5. Stay Interviews

At a minimum, you should be having a review with all of your staff every quarter.

Sometimes, people find it hard to bring up issues that may be important to them, and these interviews can be the perfect opportunity. Create an open and engaging space where your staff can explain their passions, likes, dislikes, and complaints. You may surprised at what they have to say.

6. Effective Communication

Leaving the best til last: this is by far the best way of learning how to motivate staff in the long term. Educate and train yourself on how to effectively communicate with your team members. Without it, your business will crumble.

Along with in-person communication, ensure that your staff always have the opportunity to provide anonymous feedback. Anything from a suggestions box to an anonymous online survey can provide you with all the info you need to create a more positive and engaging work environment.

Don’t Just be a Boss, Be a Mentor

Creating a clear and open relationship with your staff is not the easiest task in this world, but it is possible. You can learn how to motivate staff by practicing empathy, encouraging feedback, and taking time to audit your current work practices.

There is no faster way to improve the energy and atmosphere of your gym than by ensuring you have a team of inspired and motivated staff.

Having difficulties tracking your staff’s behavior and activity?

The Top 10 Barriers
Slowing Your Fitness
Business Growth

In this e-book, we will list the most common barriers that
slow fitness business growth and list some of the tips to
help overcome them.
Discover more

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Mehdi Elaichouni
Owner at Carpe Diem BJJ

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