Identify Your Next Hire Before You Need to Make It

If you’re looking to make a hire today, this blog post probably wont be much help in getting the job done.

This is a post about taking a proactive approach to staffing issues. If you’re beginning your search for a good coach because a spot just opened on your staff, you’re already behind the eight ball.

In my 10+ years of engaging with fellow gym owners, I’ve come to realize that the businesses with the best teams are the ones who always know who their first call will be directed toward when an opportunity arises. My good friend Mark Fisher refers to “the bench” when talking about candidates for future hires, and we call it the “the short list” here at CSP. Ours consists of our top-five former interns in the running for a job at any given moment in time.

With this in mind, I have three strategies you can consider employing as you begin your proactive search for employees. Here’s a short-term objective, a medium-range option, and a bigger-picture long-term solution to your hiring problems:

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Short-Term: Network Electronically With Online Communities

The first thing you can do to build “your bench” is to network your ass off. Due to the nature of the continuing education calendar, and the high costs associated with travel and accommodations, attending large seminars and summits on a regular basis isn’t a sustainable solution for networking purposes.

Instead, consider joining a collaborative online community like The Strength Faction or Lift The Bar. These groups feature a collection of ambitious and accomplished fitness professionals who are interested in sharing knowledge and appreciate the fact that a rising tide lifts all ships. I had a hire to make and a distinct lack of candidates, I’d start here.

Engage in the online forums, participate in live Q&A’s, and soak up every opportunity you can to connect with other people. When the time comes to make a hire, you can announce to the group that you’ve got payroll dollars to spend. At that point you’ll know who knows their stuff, and how committed they are to ongoing learning.

Medium-Range: Identify the Talent Developers & Propose Collaboration

The gyms with productive internship programs rarely have job opportunities for the majority of the coaches who come out of their systems. They all want to be able to assist outgoing interns in securing employment, but they rarely have “go-to” gyms that they funnel talent toward. 

We routinely receive emails asking for candidates when gyms have a spot to fill, but I can’t think of a single gym that proactively worked to establish a relationship with us that would position them as a logical employment destination for the great coaches who we don’t have room for.

If I had an up and coming gym with aspirations of growth and no internship program, I’d make extra effort to engage with the fitness businesses I admire. I’d request the opportunity to shadow at places like CSP, MBSC, and IFAST so that I could demonstrate to the staff there that I care about great training models and methodologies. I’d attend seminars and mentorships at their facilities and always make sure to say hello to the entire team and stay on their radars. I’d produce content that positions me as a potential thought leader. And, most importantly, I’d identify the internship coordinator at each site, and let them know that I’d love to connect with every quality outgoing intern in search of work, regardless of my current staffing needs. There’s no such thing as being too friendly or too accessible in this circumstance.

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Long-Range: Build a Productive Internship Program of Your Own

The only way to guarantee that you never make a bad hire (from a cultural “fit” perspective) is to select exclusively from candidates who have coached extensively alongside your team in the past. Every intern on our short-list of coaching candidates has completed a minimum of 300 coaching hours in our space and demonstrated a personality fit with the team and athletes.

Identifying competent coaches is easy using resumes, but the only way to confirm chemistry with the team is by giving it a test-run. A well-structured internship program will give you the opportunity to “try it before you buy it.”

This is listed as a long-range solution because there isn’t a manual that will take you from no internship offering to established program in a brief period. You’ve got to put in the work to establish your own systems and curriculum. It will feel like a grind assembling the pieces and attracting candidates for the first year or two. Take comfort in knowing that our program took three to four years before we began thinking of this as a business within our business. Nothing happens overnight.

Don’t Have a Hiring Need? Start Today Anyway

The important lesson here is that the best time to prepare to make a hire is before you need to make one. Staff members who are the product of proactive hiring strategies will outperform reactive ones 100 times out of 100.

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