Now that fitness facilities around the country are embracing mind-body fitness, they are finding that it can be quite challenging to find qualified, dynamic teachers. A Pilates instructor can either make or break the experience for their students. When a Pilates instructor teaches a class, he/she needs to be able to draw the members in by using visual imagery and superb cueing. In traditional fitness classes, the music or choreography is usually enough to motivate the group, which is why choreographed group exercise programs are popular. You can almost guarantee the same experience for the members, no matter who instructs the class.
As a director of a Pilates program, how do you guarantee the same quality session each and every time? First start by looking at your program; do you have a business plan and mission statement ? Have you set goals for the program financially? Do you have a service standard for staff to meet?
Your program mission statement should mirror the company’s overall mission and should be simple and easy for staff to remember. All employees of the program should go through an orientation and be made aware of the program vision and goals. A service standard should include things such as how long it should take you to return a call to a member, cancellation policy and registration deadline for members. By organizing your department in this fashion, you can get all of your employees on the “same page” from the beginning. Members are extremely fickle when it comes to program participation, so it is important for staff to know how to service your members.
When you hire a Pilates instructor, they should have a vast knowledge of the Pilates repertoire, but that doesn’t mean they know about business. They need to be schooled in your employee orientation on how you want them to service your members and how to sell the program. If you have an instructor who arrives to teach just in time to start the class, who doesn’t teach other classes or programs within the center or only teaches one or two classes within the program, are they really helping the future of the program? Ideally, the best Pilates staff is within your existing staff. Your existing group exercise instructors and personal trainers make the best Pilates instructors because the members already know them and their knowledge base is not just about Pilates exercise. However, if your staff is already overloaded with classes and appointments, then they may not have time to devote to a Pilates program too. If in-house recruiting is not possible and you do find the need to recruit from outside your core group, then you need to draw the Pilates staff into your program via your employee orientation.
In addition to this employee orientation, you should set monetary goals for the program. The financial goals should be shared among the employees by giving them their flat rate per class or private session plus a bonus of the overall goal. Their percentage of the bonus is determined based on their individual contribution to the program. This enables you to negotiate individually with instructors to reward those who need it, but it still keeps the overall goal a group goal. By being a group goal, instructors will be more willing to have another instructor train their private clients when they are taking a vacation or off day, because the bonus revenue will still be reflected back to them.
The next step in building your Pilates team is to require instructor-networking meetings. Ideally, if you were starting a program from the beginning, the best advice would be to train a variety of instructors from your facility in the same training program. This would ensure that they are speaking the same language. However, for some programs, you may have instructors who are already coming in either fully or partially trained in Pilates mixing in with brand new instructors. Regularly scheduled instructor meetings are crucial for the program growth because your staff learns from each other. The meetings need to be required as a part of program participation, and each employee should be responsible to come prepared to teach a new exercise or demonstrate a new way to cue on an old exercise. It helps to have an agenda for the meetings listing out each employee’s responsibilities to keep the meeting on track and organized. As a manager of the program, these networking meetings give you a chance to see how your staff interacts with each other and also how they present in front of their peers. The information you gain in the networking meetings can also be used for performance or salary reviews. These regular sharing meetings may eliminate the need to fire a mediocre instructor, because they will either ramp up to meet the rest of the team or leave on their own.
In addition to meetings, regular team-teaching is a great way to mentor new instructors to your program. Assign a senior member of your staff to take a new instructor “under their wing” and team-teach a class to members. The benefits of this system are that it gives the senior staffers ownership of the program by making them responsible for the growth of new instructors, and it introduces the new instructor to members in a supportive way. As a program director, this eliminates the need for you to work individually with each new staff member, which can become a daunting task if your program is growing significantly. As the director, your efforts would be best served by promoting the Pilates program to the members and other employees. You should attend the meetings of other departments to introduce them to the program and also offer free classes for the employees to attend. By getting the entire facility on board, your program is almost guaranteed to grow!
All in all the best Pilates staff is one that works together and is consistently moving forward toward the same goal. By building a team approach to your department, you encourage learning and this creates excitement within your staff, which then leads to a more content member to your facility.