How to Strategically Onboard Personal Trainers at Your Gym

Finding and keeping personal trainers isn’t easy. Newtown Athletic Club’s Kate Golden shares insightful tips on how to set up new trainers for success.

Question: Once I hire a new personal trainer, what can I do to ensure that they’ll be successful at my club?

Personal training (PT) is a major revenue driver for many clubs, but holding on to quality trainers isn’t easy.

A methodical onboarding program is critical to the success of new trainers. This process isn’t a one-time 30-day or 90-day affair. It’s an ongoing system that you need to implement and maintain.

Personal Trainer Onboarding: Getting Started

It should begin before the new hire’s first day. Send them a welcome letter via email that details the basics so they know what to expect. What should they wear? Where should they park? Should they bring a lunch? And so on. ...

Send them paperwork to fill out in advance. I also send biographical questions for them to answer, so that, from Day 1, I’m able to share a story or two about them with staff and members.

“A methodical onboarding program is critical to the success of new trainers.”

Kate Golden, Director of People & Fitness Operations

Newtown Athletic Club - Newtown, PA

When they walk through the door, you want them to feel as though they’re prepared and are already doing some things right.

Make them comfortable, but don’t neglect to set expectations from the start. Non-negotiable items include such things as showing up on time, being in uniform, and, once they begin working, sharing equipment, re-racking weights, etc. Make sure they sign off on all of the protocols.

Let them know that they’re your priority.

Training, Tours, and Mentors

Day 1 is all about human connections. Don’t put them in front of a computer; technology is great, but “high touch” is more important than “high tech” at our club. Introduce them to a mentor. I pair the new arrival with a trainer who’s been with our club for three-plus years; they establish a rapport with the newbie and shadow their performance. Conduct a consistent 10-minute check-in with them each day, and formal, sit-down meetings with them once a week for the first three weeks.

Ask them how things are going. Reassure them that you want them to do well.

It’s important that the new kid in town become as familiar as possible, as quickly as possible, with all that your club’s about—e.g., the facility, programs, staff, standards, and operating procedures. You want them to know about your group fitness programs, for example, and what services are offered in your salon, so they can recommend options to members.

Staffing Precor Consultation Column

We have an employee who’s been here for over 30 years and knows everybody. He’s like the “mayor” of the club. We have him give all the onboarding tours to our new hires. He introduces them to members, as well as other employees, throughout the building. Having that one-on-one connection from the start is key.

To add a bit of fun, you also might think about conducting a scavenger hunt, which requires them to visit different areas of the club in order to answer a set of questions.

To season green additions, we have them shadow our sales team to experience what a prospect goes through when joining. They also shadow a member’s first workout. We schedule them for “lobby” time or an interactive demonstration, and have them assist group fitness instructors to correct form or help coach students.

We encourage our trainers to be social ambassadors, not only in person, but also via social media, because content shared by employees produces eight times more engagement, and is shared 25 times more frequently, than content circulated by brand channels. We have a social media policy for all of our people.

In the final analysis, if you let your trainers know that you’re invested in their success—they’ll invest in yours.

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This article was a team effort by several IHRSA experts.