One of the most important aspects of managing a fitness studio or gym is finding and retaining high quality instructors. We chatted with Mark Page, Founder of ZYN22 in Dallas, about their recruitment and training process, plus how they support their instructors to ensure both their wellbeing and the ongoing quality of rides at the studio.
WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU LOOK FOR IN AN INSTRUCTOR?
Our instructor program is pretty rigorous, so to become an instructor at ZYN22 you have to be a special breed. Most of our instructors are or were elite athletes, and many have dance backgrounds as well. If you can’t keep the beat, we’re not the right spot for you, no matter how good of an instructor you are. So we recruit those that are athletes and who have rhythm and dynamic personalities. That’s a pretty difficult trifecta of qualifications to find, honestly, so once we find them we pour our own time and resources into them to set them up to succeed.
DO YOU REQUIRE ANY SPECIFIC TRAINING, CERTIFICATIONS OR EXPERIENCE? WHAT IS YOUR OWN TRAINING PROGRAM LIKE?
We don’t require any specific training before entering our training program, except that you have to be an expert rider. So many that express interest in instructing get to ride our front row for months, perfecting their riding skills, before they can even enter the next training program. That seems to be a pretty good weeding out process as well to see who is really committed. Most people want you to put them up on the podium in a quick turnaround, especially if they are experienced trainers already. We find instructors who couldn’t get through that process of riding and training with us go to our competitors instead. We don’t take shortcuts at ZYN22 and that doesn’t work for everyone. Our training program is hard–there’s no easy way around it. Our Director of Instruction, Denis Morton, himself an elite instructor with many years of experience, takes our training classes through multiple weeks of training to even be able to get on the podium in front of our staff or “friendlies.” By the time that happens, they have had multiple weeks of riding and training. I know, as my wife Melissa is one of our ZYNstructors, and I witnessed the rigorous training program firsthand. But Denis doesn’t settle for anything short of really good, and I think that makes us somewhat unique. If you get on the podium at ZYN22, you know you have accomplished something.
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST PRACTICES FOR RETAINING HIGH QUALITY INSTRUCTORS?
We retain our instructors by paying them at the top of the pay scale for elite fitness instructors, supporting them in any way we can, promoting them both internally and on social media platforms, and paying for healthcare benefits once they teach enough classes weekly to be full-time employees. We work with them to incorporate their personal schedule into our schedule. We run a lot of classes, over 50 a week, so we are looking for dedicated instructors who can open their schedule up. We are going to bring them a lot of riders, pay well to fill their classes, and we want instructors who are committed with their time as well. Denis (and others on our staff) are consistently riding our classes and giving constructive feedback to our instructors. They all know they are evaluated and regularly at that, but they are such an awesome group that we rarely have quality issues. We are committed to them, and we put our resources up to support them and make their lives better. It’s not easy being a fitness instructor, even at the very elite level, and so we want to partner with those that are and give them a fitting home.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES FITNESS INSTRUCTORS FACE? HOW DOES ZYN22 WORK TO COMBAT THEM?
I think our ZYNstructors have a few different challenges. Many fight the fight of work and career balance, struggling with working at ZYN while having another career. They can do that, but the struggle seems to be that many really want to make being a ZYNstructor their full-time job, so how do they transition to that? We try to work with those that want to make that transition, because in the end what we are looking for is full-time instructors. There is not a cookie cutter plan that solves these problems. We as management have to be good business people and evaluate the situation, and make the right decision for that person or moment. In addition, I think our instructors, like all instructors at other brands, face their own wellness issues. They are leading classes every day, many days teaching multiple classes, so their own workload is physically rigorous. We try to help them in their own wellness program, supporting them with alternative fitness/stretching /massage programs that will keep them healthy in their own right.
HOW DO YOU MARKET YOUR INSTRUCTORS?
We market our instructors heavily through social media, through our weekly “newsletter” that goes out to all ZYNers, internally in the studios on our message boards around the studio, and creatively in their communities so that they are highlighted as the rock stars they are.
WHAT ROLE DOES SOCIAL MEDIA PLAY FOR YOUR INSTRUCTORS? DO YOU ASK THEM TO PARTICIPATE IN ANY PLATFORMS AND HOW DOES THAT IMPACT YOUR STUDIO?
Social media plays a big part in our ZYNstructors’ lives and those that are proficient in using social media see the results, I believe. And not all come to us proficient in social media, so our social media team is there to help them in setup, to get them going and headed down the right path to success with a lot of eyes on them. We use social media heavily at ZYN22, so the combination of our own promotions over these platforms, added by the instructors’ own initiatives, seems to be a pretty good mix. Our ZYNers seem to like to interact with both of us, the brand and the ZYNstructor.
WHAT MAKES ZYN22 INSTRUCTORS UNIQUE?
The ZYN22 instructor is unique in that he or she has gone through a rigorous training program, one very few would sign up for, and dedicated themselves to a great cause. Our goal at ZYN is to make a difference in the lives of others, and this message is delivered daily by our awesome corps of ZYNstructors. When you come to a ZYN class, you know that you’re not only going to experience a class that day from an elite instructor, but you’re also going to meet a person that has signed up to do good in the world. And that’s where the good stuff lives.