Jean-Ann Marnoch is the Instructor Experience Director at Les Mills, the world’s largest supplier of group exercise programming. The instructor-turned-quality assurance expert is a firm advocate for making Instructors feel valued, and she’s adamant that most gym owners today are missing a trick. We spoke to Jean-ann about:
- How gyms can hire and retain the best Instructors
- How you can know if your Instructors are performing to a high standard,
- How PTs and Group Exercise Instructors can work together, and
- How a great Instructor can improve member retention and business growth
Instructors are critical to the group exercise experience. How can you ensure you’re hiring the best ones?
Like the hiring process in any industry, having a clear set of criteria with which to evaluate your Instructors is key. In addition to their technical skills, evaluate their soft skills, like self-confidence, performance and connection to the members in an audition. At Les Mills, we focus on performance, enhancing the enjoyment of the member and connecting with class members. In an audition, I would want to see all these things and not just an impressive technical performance.
If it’s Les Mills Programmes you are delivering, look for group exercise Instructors who have Les Mills Advanced Instructor Module (AIM) Level 1 and 2. This is part of our ongoing education journey for Instructors and in addition to the initial training, AIM Level 1 and 2 are designed to help
Instructors boost their coaching skills and technique, so they can strike the right balance of energy, emotion and encouragement, filling their classes
How do you know your Instructors are performing to a high standard?
Go in and observe them. Watch how your Instructor engages the class and check membership and class numbers regularly. Good Instructors will develop a following and you’ll start to see occupancy increase with the word of mouth marketing from other members.
It’s also important to have a system of development for your Instructors. You may have Instructors from all different backgrounds, with varied strengths and weaknesses. As an operator, try to support and grow all your Instructors. In addition to AIM 1 and 2, Les Mills also has quarterly workshops, Tribal Gatherings and other ongoing education opportunities. Make sure you invest in the ongoing training of your Instructors.
How can a great Instructor improve member retention?
Great Instructors create a buzz. Because each class allows an Instructor to impact many people at once, they can have a much broader reach than your average PT. A great Instructor will increase class occupancy exponentially. For example, our clubs in Auckland who have been offering Les Mills classes for 50 years run classes at half past 5 in the morning with a studio that can hold 200 people. It’s packed every time, often with a queue. That’s the value of a great Instructor.
Also, great Instructors can have a big impact on the rest of the club too. Our recent research with ukactive shows that members that attend group exercise classes three times per week also increase their uptake of everything else at a gym.
How can PTs and Group Exercise Instructors work together?
In many clubs, PTs and Group Exercise Instructors are often challenging each other for member visits. However, when working together, PT and GX can help increase member visits, boost retention and ultimately drive revenue. Group fitness is not the enemy of PTs, together than can meet the many and varied needs of individual members. People like to workout in a variety of ways, and while they may see a PT, they will also do a class and train on the gym floor. The reality is that if someone is seeing a PT and doing a group exercise class, they are more likely to stay on as a member.
And remember, only 10-12% of members take up PT in the average club. This means around 88% of members are interested in other options.
What can operators do to retain their best Instructors?
Pay them a wage that is commensurate with the value they bring to your business. Some Instructors have been paid the same wage for the last 15 years and I think if we truly valued the role they play in increasing participation, that would have changed by now.
Also, reward your great instructors. Ensure they are aware that you value them. Take notice of their contribution to your business. It’s not just a line at the bottom of a spreadsheet. Support your Instructors in the same way you would your sales team and endeavour to foster an environment where your Instructors are working with you, not for you.
Finally, consider other models around you. For example, many boutique studios are paying Instructors based on the number of participants in a class.
Ultimately, remember that people follow their Instructors. If a good one leaves and joins a nearby club, your members will likely follow.