The aim of this short piece is to explore the differences between staff education, training and development, that hopefully will support a rethinking of why, what and how staff learning should be planned and executed to ensure exerciser experiences are enjoyable, unique and consistent.
NB:This article is not meant to be a deep educational piece of work around fitness industry standards, or the roles and responsibilities of staff. It is purely a personal view on how a facility could create an education, training and development pathway or process that has purpose, meaning and direction. One that truly supports the facility, the facility staff, and more importantly the facility members, in being successful.
With the expansion of the fitness industry, and the number of facilities offering the general population an opportunity to exercise, the need to create a unique exercise experience, is becoming a huge talking point. Experiences are measured in emotions and we know that emotions, not logic, drive behaviour.
An individual may say that they are going to ‘take more exercise’, or ‘become more active’, but saying something and doing it are two very different notions.
There are many factors to consider when exploring what will affect emotions. Facility design, equipment layout, colours, lighting, sounds [music], smells, the exercise offering, equipment choice, equipment functionality, exercise choice, exercise order [sequence], exercise intensity, exercise complexity, exercise simplicity, facility engagement strategy, staff interaction, staff’s knowledge, staff behaviours, staff skills….
As many experts inform us; it’s not ‘what ‘we do [every facility does fitness], it’s ‘how’ we do it.
Fitness is just the content; the content is NOT essential to the facility meaning, everyone can do content. What is important is the facility story [the context], how every single thing is used to impact on the facility’s meaning, a uniquely framed staged experience that generates positive thoughts and feelings in the exerciser, which in turn drives exerciser behaviour back to the facility, increasing adherence and the possibility of better retention.
Another way to look at it is that fitness is not the product, the exerciser is the product, as the environment [meanings] that the facility creates, has a direct impact on the exerciser’s behaviour.
What matters is the connection between the exerciser and the facility, between the experience of the visit and the feelings elicited within the exerciser. Staff education, training and development is fundamental in terms of the facility experience.
Staff need to understand the facility’s story, the target audience, the methods, systems and approaches used by the facility to ensure and maintain consistency of the story, and how that imprints on the exercisers mind, and in turn affects the exercisers behaviour.
There is a difference between staff education, training and development.
Education is defined as; ‘the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, that develops knowledge and understanding’.
Training is defined as; ‘the action of teaching a person a particular skill or type of behaviour, that is required for a particular job’.
Development is defined as; ‘the process in which someone grows or changes and becomes more advanced’.
In order to achieve a unique experience, there will need to be a mix of all three, however staff development is the vital component within staff learning and the exerciser experience.
There is no such thing as ‘natural talent’, people may be born with abilities or attributes, but talent is developed! Practice is the key to staff success, and facility success; practice, hard work, learning from mistakes, evaluating, reflecting, and continually improving.
All education and training should be planned and delivered to have a direct effect on staff behaviours, no-one should think about education and training before thinking about the outcome of the education and training on the staff, the exerciser experience, and the business.
Getting staff to act differently requires a different approach, to getting staff to think differently. Once the education and training has been delivered, the next stage is to build staff confidence with the new information/material, as confidence goes up, their motivation goes up, and they [staff] change their behaviour.
Staff development is all about the follow-up, it’s about building staff confidence to act in a way that supports the facility’s meaning, tells the facility’s story, that in turn affects the exerciser experience, which drives exerciser behaviour.
The connection is between the exerciser and the facility, and between the experience of the visit and the feelings elicited within the exerciser.
Written by Keith Smith