The true understanding of a problem is to break it down into its smallest components. When we look at retention, it boils down to three keys:
Environment: the club itself has to be well-designed, well-equipped, and clean.
Community: creating a true community where members are connected to each other, or to at least one member of the staff, in some way outside the walls of the club.
Results: quantitatively demonstrating on a consistent basis the results a member is achieving.
The three components to Environment:
(a) as an industry we have tried to be all things to all people – we have designed environments that resonate with some, but leave the majority of people feeling cold and alienated.
(b) in terms of equipment, we have it all – more than the consumer even understands or could ever use. Generally, people don’t leave our clubs because we don’t have enough equipment.
(c) the last component, cleanliness, has been a huge emphasis in the industry for the last 10 years and has made significant progress; it’s rare now to walk in a gym and find it unkept or unclean.
Community is all about connections. The industry has tried to be efficient and use technology solutions (email, text communications, etc.). Those tools are good for branding, marketing and sales, but at the end of the day, do little in the way of promoting deep connections. The promotion of deep human connections needs to come from the members feeling a sense of community where they are all striving for the same goal of becoming healthier and more fit. Connecting members together around a common goal, so they can support, encourage, and inspire each other, is how true organic community is formed. The role of the fitness staff in helping form the community is that of a leader showing a clear path to goal achievement, (i.e. personal training staff leading team training). The other role of your fitness staff is to be a connector, by encouraging member participation on the club’s social media platform. Now, this is where technology can assist clubs with social media platforms that can bond your members together – all focused around members supporting, encouraging and inspiring each other.
Results are the differences – think about that. If one of our keys to retention is showing results, that means we have to demonstrate to members the differences. So, what are the differences? Unfortunately, now, we let the member determine the differences, (i.e. Their goals, weight loss, the shape of their body, dress size, feeling better, blood pressure, etc.). These are all good overall outcomes, but they are poor lead indicators of results. We need to make sure we are celebrating with our members lead indicators of results when they achieve them, (i.e. increasing the weight, increasing reps, lower heart rate during exercise, increase number of push-ups, increase flexibility – the list can go on forever). These lead indicators of success are what we should be celebrating with our members. With almost every visit to the club there is some measurable level of improvement with almost every member. We have to have a systematic way of demonstrating results so the member has the ability to celebrate with the other members of the community. It starts with a clear assessment during the fitness consultation, understanding the member’s goals, where their level of fitness is currently, and what small individual milestones they can achieve over the next few weeks.
So, as Albert Einstein said, we have spent the last 59 minutes analyzing the problem. Now, what is the one-minute solution? I know it sounds simple, but as with most great answers it is simple – Team Training.
Think about it. Your club is probably already well-designed, well-equipped and you spend a great deal of time making sure it’s clean; so, check off item number one – environment. Now, we can spend the remainder of our one minute coming up with solutions for community and results. Nothing fosters community better than people working around a common goal (i.e. team training), and nothing has been proven to yield greater results than high-intensity interval training. Your team training instructors can direct people to a social media site where all the members of the team can encourage and support each other, at the same time celebrating their results. With team training, our trainers have the opportunity to point out, celebrate and encourage the small victories members achieve during the class, (way to go, you did four more push-ups in 60 seconds than you did last week, your box jump is increasing, you did 10 Burpees today – that’s amazing). When team instructors can point out and celebrate with the member every small achievement, quantifying results for the member is no longer a problem.
Members who like the environment, work out with friends, see results and receive encouragement with every work out are not the members leaving your gym.
Can team training really solve the industry’s retention problem? No, nothing will ever completely solve the retention issue, but it provides an opportunity to significantly help improve retention rates.
If you’re already running team training, congratulations! If you need help starting a program or getting a higher percentage of members involved, contact a VFP consultant.