How to handle a pay raise with gym staff in a challenging economy

I speak with many gym owners and operators who have concerns on how to hand out pay raises when times are tough. Although… difficult times can be nothing more than an excuse not to offer a pay raise even though there’s merit. My answer normally will surprise the concerned gym owner when I tell them my solution to pay raises is the same no matter if it’s good times…or not so good times.

Gyms need talent. There is a shortage of talent. Talent will cost money otherwise you will lose your best people to other industries.

As we all know, sales can have a way of being a moving target…so if you continually compensate your staff around a fixed compensation plan, you are setting yourself up for a fall. I like to see gyms offer some form of a guaranteed opportunity, but with plenty of upside based on production and job description.

· You have a budget, right? Give staffers responsibility for certain line items. Say the budget for towel service is $2,000 per month…any savings they can generate in that line item would result in a 50% bonus off the total savings. So, if they save the club $500, they would receive a $250 bonus. It’s a win-win.

· Additional compensation does not have to come in the way of direct dollars. Work a half day on Friday, but receive compensation for a full day.

· Make childcare available for a reduced cost or even free. This offers a potentially significant savings for the employee plus the added bonus of convenience.

· Where it’s possible, offer flex-scheduling. This is a nice perk for those who have children or simply like the idea of beating rush hour traffic.

· Everyone is in sales…or they should be. Have a commission plan for every employee in your club. And then teach them how to promote and sell.

· Offer more training and continuing education that’s job related. Help make them more valuable to you…and increase their confidence and self esteem at the same time.

· Have a monthly contest. Of course, a sales contest would work in many departments, but you could also have a cleaning contest based on daily inspection scores. How many more memberships would you sell or how many members would you retain with a cleaner facility?

· Combine duties. When someone leaves your company…instead of hiring someone else, take a look around, maybe you have someone who deserves more money and they can pick up some of these duties. The club will save and the employee will get an increase.

· A common mistake in evaluating compensation is to view the employee as an expense…if you can learn to view the employee as your most valuable asset, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

· A final reminder…the most expensive person you have on staff is the lowest paid person who’s worth it.

Now, go give someone a raise!

An Outsourced CEO and expert witness, Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting, turnaround and brokerage firm specializing in the gym and sports industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars, webinars and workshops across the globe on the practical skills required to successfully to overcome obscurity, improve sales, build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. In addition, his company will buy gym equipment from gyms liquidating or closing. Visit his Web site

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