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Nicole Bloom shares strategies for retaining staff by becoming employee-centric.

The community recreation industry is not exempt from the labor issues we are experiencing across the country right now. Fitness centers, gyms and YMCAs across the country are all struggling to find and hire the right candidates. With such a hiring “shortage,” it’s easy to shift all of your energy to the recruitment process, but what about your existing staff?

Investing into your current staff is another way of playing defense to today’s labor challenges. Plus, the way you treat your staff is a direct reflection on the way they will serve your members. How do you make sure they are engaged and committed to your facility so they stay with you and provide your members with a great experience?

Become employee-centric, and focus on the needs for your staff with these three strategies:

Pay Employees More Quickly

One of the biggest challenges for community rec centers face is maintaining a competitive pay scale. While adjusting the wage plan may not be an option for your organization, getting your employees the money they’ve earned in a timely manner is.

Offered with many time and labor management systems or a payroll systems, On Demand Pay will allow your employees to access their earnings virtually as soon as they clock out of their shift – sometimes with no extra expense to them. This allows the part-time employee who needs an extra $100 for an unexpected bill to be able to access their money immediately, rather than wait for the traditional pay day. Plus, the ability to access earnings instantly can eliminate pay day loans and overdraft fees for your employees. Recent studies show companies who use an On Demand Pay feature have a 72% increase in employee retention.

Recognize Success – Digitally

Research shows an employee who is recognized for their work is 63% more likely to stay at their job for the next three-to-six months. Plus, 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt like it was appreciated.

In the fast-paced fitness industry, it’s easy to let the little wins and successes of our teams pass us by. However, using technology is an easy way to provide immediate positive feedback to your staff. Create a culture of digital recognition by looking for tools that are already at your disposal.

For example, if you use a member survey tool, set up a rule that highlights all positive feedback, and a step further, allows members to name and celebrate individual staff. Then, immediately forward those survey responses to the appropriate members of your team and congratulate them on a job well done. Or, create a digital recognition board on your employee portal or time and labor management system that allows supervisors and employees alike to post and recognize each other. The key to making recognition digital is it can happen quickly and effectively, allowing you to capitalize on showing appreciation for your team.

Empower Your Team

Your employees are more than capable. Read that again: your employees are more than capable, and in fact, they are ready to rise to the expectation. So many times, community recreation centers hire for a part-time position and it is viewed just as that – part-time.

Sometimes we don’t want to ask our staff to do “too much,” which ultimately can under-value a role. But what if every position in your facility held the same value? What if every staff in your facility had the ability to solve problems and provide great customer service without having to ask for permission to do something a little out of the norm?

Empowering staff is an important strategy in keeping them engaged in their work and making them feel like they are contributing to the success of the organization. Studies show 77% of employees believe they do their best work when they are challenged and engaged, and 65% of employees say they perform better when expectations and goals are clearly defined. Let’s empower staff and give them the tools, guidelines and expectations they need to go above and beyond with members. Trust them to do the job you hired them for, and then get their feedback on how they can raise the bar and overcome frequent challenges on their own.

Ultimately, staff retention comes down to shifting your focus to being employee-centric, and figuring out how you can create the best environment for them. By becoming employee-centric, you will not only strengthen your facility’s culture, but you will also increase your staff retention and member experience.


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Nicole Bloom

Nicole Bloom has more than 15 years of experience in the community recreation industry. She is a former executive director of the Frank DeLuca YMCA, a large suburban branch of the YMCA of Central Florida. During Nicole’s tenure, the branch was recognized by SEER analytics as one of the top five YMCAs in the country with member satisfaction scores. Nicole also successfully led a $2.5 million capital campaign to build a Sportsplex for the Frank DeLuca Y – an open airnasium that allowed the branch to expand programming options for sports, fitness and youth development in a safe, outdoor environment post pandemic. In addition, Nicole’s responsibilities included providing leadership for the association’s health and wellness programming, including oversight of group exercise, fitness trends, program implementation, personal training, and new member onboarding. During the pandemic, Nicole launched virtual group exercise and virtual personal training for the association, among other web-based solutions for kids, adults, and seniors. Nicole specializes in relationship-building and is a visionary for program development and health and wellness solutions. Nicole started working for REC Business Solutions, Inc. as a Senior Consultant & Coach earlier this year to support the reestablishment of stronger, healthier, and more connected Community Rec Organizations for today’s growing digital economy. Follow: LinkedInFacebook and Instagram.

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