The key to transforming Fitness First’s service lay not in the gym equipment, but in the company’s staff. Enter Anne Jaakke, who was brought in as Fitness First’s HR director three years ago. Jaakke knew that reshaping the franchise wouldn’t happen overnight. But she was sure an engaged staff would translate into a larger, more energised and satisfied customer base. Jaakke and her team looked at four critical elements to engage staff: ‘my manager’, ‘my company’, ‘fair deal’ and ‘my leader’. “You can work in any great company but if your direct line manager isn’t somebody you connect with, the chance that you’re going to be really engaged is not going to be very high,” says Jaakke. “So we had to address this as one of the first elements to create higher engagement.”
- Examined how people perceived the Fitness First brand.
- The team worked to create pride in the company by introducing new products and creating mission statements that staff could buy into.
- One included recognising that Fitness First staff can make a big contribution to people’s lives.
- Looked at where Fitness First sat in the industry.
- Jaakke and her team knew if they started introducing competitive remuneration packages they would not only attract people from outside the industry, but retain the talent within. Jaakke says ‘My leader’ centred around trust.
- “We asked: do staff actually trust the individual that is most seen as the head of the organisation and do staff trust his or her leadership team?”
During the assessment process, in which time the leadership team made it clear to staff they were keen to lead Fitness First into a new era, each of the club’s managers at its 100 fitness clubs were offered redundancy. “We had 30 per cent of our management base leave the business,” she says. “The people that remained within the company felt really proud and really confident that they met the new standard,” she says. Building trust throughout the process has been paramount in ensuring staff continue to stay engaged. Fitness First is also in the process of rolling out a culture of change called Raise the Bar. The training program looks at what encourages people to get started to exercise, how people can continue exercising, and what motivates them. But Jaakke says success will be measured by the response from those outside the organisation. “For me the ultimate reward would be that our members are rating us with a higher member satisfaction score,” she says. “To get the fact that members are truly seeing the difference and enjoying our new ways of working would be an absolute celebration.”