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Retention seems to be the buzz word when looking at fitness facility metrics. We know it is less costly to retain members than recruit new ones. One of the many influencing factors that will affect the retention of members is how well we engage members, and group fitness is one of the top methods.

How do we know if we are running the right classes for our members? Are you tracking attendance in your classes? If you are not keeping class head counts, you are missing a key metric for tracking the success of your individual classes. Class headcount will provide the metric needed to calculate cost per head (CPH).

CPH is a simple calculation that allows you to compare the amount you pay your instructor with the number of participants in the class. CPH levels the instructor’s playing field in terms of expectations for class attendance. It gives newer instructors the opportunity to build their class numbers without being held to the same level of attendance as your seasoned, higher paid instructors.

For example, let’s take an instructor who makes $30 an hour and has an average of 20 participants. To find CPH, we divide the instructor pay by the number of participants. The CPH for this class is $1.50. If a less experienced instructor making $18 an hour averages 15 participants, the CPH would be $1.20. While the first scenario seems like a more successful class, when looking at CPH you can see that it is not as successful as it appears.

The lower the CPH, the better. Keep in mind CPH should not be the only consideration when determining which classes stay and which classes are on the chopping block. A class that targets a specific population may be expected to have a higher CPH than a class that services a broader demographic.

For example, if you are running a class geared toward prenatal, you can expect the class to have a higher CPH due to the narrowed demographic. The timing of a class can also affect CPH. Late classes may have a higher CPH than a class that runs during a prime class time slot. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Also keep in mind the value the class adds to your schedule and to your participants.

Use CPH to recognize instructors who are consistently performing well. Conversely, CPH can also identify instructors who may need an action plan that helps them grow their class attendance. If a class is consistently performing poorly over a period of time, it may be time to step in and cancel the class, change the format or change the instructor.

Watching CPH trends over time can help you to make more educated schedule decisions based on the metrics. Don’t focus on a limited amount of data, and don’t kill a class after one or two unsuccessful classes. CPH can become a powerful metric that will teach you more about your participants and instructors.

Sandy Wiedmeyer is the fitness manager at Pleasant Prairie RecPlex and WIFA Midwest Global Ambassador. 

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