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    Research reveals most undervalued resource

    Les Mills

    The great group fitness Instructor pay debate is brought into sharp focus by a new report, which sees fitness experts explore the true value of Instructors to clubs and how the industry can create better progression pathways to raise standards and boost staff retention.

    The old adage of needing to speculate to accumulate has never been truer for health clubs than when it comes to our people.

    In an age of automation and digital disruption, inspirational individuals remain the only USP in the gym that rivals can’t copy. A single great Instructor can attract and retain hundreds of members to a club over time, while a team of them can transform a club’s future.

    However, many club operators continue to undervalue the impact of Instructors and risk weakening their bottom line as a result.

    That’s according to a new research whitepaper The Impact of Instructor Quality In The Physical Activity Sector, which examines the impact of Instructors on key club metrics and looks at solutions to raise the overall quality of Instructors and provide greater pathways for progression in a fast-changing landscape.

    The report from Les Mills and not-for-profit health body ukactive comprises insights from a range of fitness industry experts including mainstream and boutique club operators, academics, training providers and multiple industry bodies.

    Concluding that group fitness Instructors are among the most undervalued assets in the gym, the four-part report spans topics including: the core skills of great Instructors and and how to teach them; the impact of Instructors on member experience; how to maximise the value they bring to clubs; and how Instructors can be better remunerated while helping clubs to increase revenues.

    The report also draws insight from relevant in-club examples, including a case study of Village Gyms, which saw class attendances across its 29 clubs increase by 40% after investing in greater training and pay for Instructors.

    Here are 5 key insights from the whitepaper:

    1) Instructors continue to play a central role in the success of clubs

    From member retention, right through to club marketing, the sector cannot afford to undervalue the role of the Instructor. Many members are more loyal to their favourite Instructor than they are to a facility, and the soft skills of an Instructor remain more important to members than knowledge of the industry or high-level qualifications.

    2) Group workouts are key to the future of clubs

    Classes are a major selling point for the new generation of gym members. 52% of Millennials and 50% of Gen Z club members engage in group workouts, preferring to exercise with others to tap into the social benefits of ‘the group effect’.

    3) Development of soft skills should not be underestimated

    By understanding that soft skills in a rockstar Instructor will attract and retain members, the industry must close the skills gaps at qualification level and invest in quality in-house training and continuing professional development (CPD) for Instructors.

    4) Rewards and recognition

    Financial recognition of Instructors has barely increased in 20 years. While pay is not all that Instructors care about, it remains a significant motivator (and demotivator, if lacking). Operators should explore ways to reward their Instructors, not just through increased pay, but also by investing in learning, rewarding with CPD points and giving titles and awards.

    5) Retaining high-quality Instructors remains key for clubs

    Instructors form the frontline of mainstream clubs and studios. They possess the most up-to-date and first-hand insights into member experience. Operators who interact well with Instructors (specifically freelancers) can harness their feedback to understand how to improve member experience and boost retention.

    Reflecting on the findings, Les Mills International Executive Director Phillip Mills said: “Instructor pay remains one of our sector’s biggest challenges and it’s where boutiques have stolen a march on traditional clubs. US$27 is still the average Instructor fee per class in a traditional club (IHRSA) – this has barely changed since the 1980s. It’s difficult to recruit a new generation of Rockstar Instructors when personal training and boutiques pay 2-3 times as much.

    “I believe it’s necessary for traditional clubs to pay more to attract great Instructors who can compete with the boutiques and low-cost clubs. This can be done on a win-win basis in which pay is linked to qualifications and results. We’ve created detailed systems for that – along with non-financial incentives – in our new Group Fitness Management (GFM) training that launches in August.

    “In the meantime, we recently published insights on five practical steps clubs can take to unlock the extra cash that can safeguard star performers and attract new talent.”

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