Welcomed Workers Work Wonders, Part 1

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So, you have a new employee or intern. You’ve carefully interviewed this person, checked references, established requirements and negotiated compensation. You are convinced that you have hired a great employee who will come to work and become instantly productive. But there is still some major work ahead to ensure this venture will truly be a win-win situation. What’s the key? Make the person feel welcome and part of the team.

Beyond the nuts and bolts of hiring new employees and setting up internship programs lies a set of subtleties that are crucial to getting new hires and interns to work wonders for your facility. The manager holds the key to this set, which will make new workers top performers instead of models of mediocrity. New employees and interns who feel good about their new jobs will pass this attitude to other employees and members. You just can’t buy this kind of public relations.

Remember when you were the new kid on the block or the new employee in an organization? Think back for a moment. How did you feel? Excited? Motivated? Disappointed? Disillusioned? Depressed? New hires will be more productive if you can get them excited, energized and motivated.

Keeping new hires productive

Be approachable. A supervisor who is rarely available can make new hires feel alone. The time invested in new employees in the beginning will pay off exponentially for you in the future. Take an interest in their career and academic goals. Where do they want to be in five years? Do they plan to pursue advanced degrees? Many fitness professionals change jobs out of boredom and go in search of new challenges. Invest time and energy to keep staff members interested in the facility and willing to help.

Balance “grunt” work with more involved projects. Interns are often considered low- or no-cost short-term labor. And, new employees are often given the administrative tasks that no one wants. But new hires will be much more productive if they feel like contributing members of the team, instead of indentured servants.

Mike Leal, president and club manager, and Chuck Girard, vice-president and program director, of World Gym in New Braunfels, Texas, have developed a model to create a long-term win-win situation for their interns. “We feel interns should not only complete their scholastic assignments, but finish the internship with a hands-on feel for every aspect of club management,” says Leal. Leal and Girard design the interns’ schedules on an individual basis. On average, the interns spend 25 percent of their time researching projects, 55 to 60 percent on the floor helping members and 15 to 20 percent at the front desk. The intern’s time is also spent shadowing the management and sales team to gain experience in every aspect of running the club.

One of the most important features of the Leal and Girard internship model is the research project segment. Two recent interns were asked to research and develop a nutrition profit center for the club. They were required to formulate a final goal (the implementation of the chosen profit center), break it down into sub-goals and target completion dates for each goal.

The interns designed a feasibility study through written and phone surveys with current and prospective members. They researched nutritional systems over the Internet, called different types of clubs across the country to inquire about their systems and travelled to various clubs to speak with nutrition directors.

After narrowing the field down to three programs, the interns completed the necessary paperwork for a loan application (profit and loss statement, balance sheets, start-up costs, etc.).

Each intern provided marketing strategies for the new profit center and designed strategies to help sell the program.