Labour shortage in fitness studios: causes and solutions

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Many qualifications and employee profiles are currently not available in sufficient numbers. Since the Corona crisis, it has become increasingly difficult for fitness studios in particular to find sufficient staff - also because many companies in the fitness industry are now expanding again. Nevertheless, supposedly "safer" industries currently seem more attractive.

Here's what's happening in the job market

In the Corona pandemic, the number of employees in the German fitness and health industry has already fallen by 40,500 to 176,900 in 2020 (DSSV key data). This corresponds to a decrease of 18.6 percent. Mainly affected by this development are honorary staff and marginal employees.

This year, many positions are vacant, especially in the fitness studios themselves: Fitness trainers, studio managers, dual students, sports scientists. For example, on "Joborama" alone, almost 900 jobs in fitness studios are advertised in December 2021. The job exchange specializes in the areas of fitness, health & wellness, among others. The field of fitness is one with good prospects.

It is looking for

Growing companies such as the FitX studio chain have a particularly high demand. There are currently around 200 jobs advertised here. "A small part of this is for our headquarters in Essen and Berlin, there we are looking for example in the areas of construction and IT. The majority of the vacancies are, of course, in the studio world. These are mainly course instructors and fitness trainers, but also service staff, with different numbers of hours. Many of the vacancies are due to our ongoing expansion," says Markus Vancraeyenest, FitX Managing Director.

Hiring is also underway in the European fitness industry. For example, the Basic-fit studio chain, with branches in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Spain, usually has vacancies in the triple-digit range. Depending on the region, the number of applicants varies.

Cause Corona

Loss of income as a result of the pandemic, uncertainty due to contacts with members, the perception of the industry as an employer, working hours in the evening and at weekends, and earning potential: There are many individual reasons why there is a shortage of workers. The largest share is certainly due to the consequences of the lockdown.

For Florian Kündgen, executive director of the DSSV, the reasons for the decline in the job market fitness clearly lie in the Corona crisis. "Until 2020, our industry was able to show steady growth in all areas. A look at the job market also shows that - above all - qualified employees were the focus. I.e. also the numbers of university entrants increased from year to year or the graduates were always taken on. As a result of the crisis, it is quite clear that the number of freelancers and mini-jobbers has fallen sharply. Because of the employment relationships, employers can part with these employees more easily than with employees in other employment relationships."

Uncertainty on the part of employees

It's an assessment that Markus Vancraeyenest, FitX managing director, clearly agrees with, "The fitness industry was extremely affected by the lockdowns. Even though our membership numbers are back to a stable level and we have seen a good increase in new members, there is still uncertainty in the perception of gyms as employers. We could see employees moving out of the industry to presumably safer other lines of business that are less affected by potential lockdowns."

Working differently than before

In addition, he says, the scope of work for trainers, for example, has changed due to numerous regulations and requirements. Implementing the Corona Protection Ordinances means more cleaning, entry checks, limited enrollment in classes. "It's not always fun and one or the other is looking for a new job because of it," Vancraeyenest continues. So not only uncertainty about job security is one of the reasons, but also professional reorientation. Maxime Moszyk, HR Basic-Fit in France: "Because of the pandemic, many people have put their lives in question, including their jobs."

Increase in jobs

Structural reasons also lead to fewer applicants. For example, Basic-Fit Talent Manager in the Netherlands Willemijn de Moor reports a tight labour market due to the growing number of jobs and a well-functioning system for the unemployed in the country. In addition, she says, the GGD, the municipal health service is a player that targets the same group of professionals.

Solutions could look like this

From employer branding to professional recruiting and improving working conditions, the list of possible tackling points for HR managers in the fitness industry is long. Positioning oneself as an attractive employer depends on many factors. This is how Talent Manager Willemijn de Moor describes it: improvement of working conditions, employer branding through the closer integration of HR and marketing departments, hiring employees based on qualifications and less on experience, recruiter training, genuine openness to all and data-driven HR work.

The framework

Certainly the framework, pay and hours, are among the most important factors. If, in the Corona crisis, it understandably doesn't work out immediately with a higher salary, however, perspectives can be shown. However, one thing is clear: if the company is in trouble, higher salary demands are utopian.

This is also where the state comes into play. "First of all, we have to see that the continuing aid packages (Ü3 Plus, Ü IV, short-time allowance) function as a shield against insolvencies," says Florian Kündgen. "As far as the bridging aid is concerned, it is important for the political decision-makers to improve it. So it must be clearly regulated that membership fees - not only in closure periods - are harmless for a subsidy. We as an association are fighting for this. In addition, recognition as a health service provider and a move away from classification as a leisure service provider is our top priority. If this is recognized politically, fitness and health facilities will also be treated differently in regulations. Thus, the industry would be able to recover faster."

Confidence in the industry

Everyone wants job security. Due to the lockdowns, the fitness industry has hit rough waters in this regard. The industry therefore needs to collectively show its relevance and growth prospects. This is also an important topic for Markus Vancraeyenest: "We are pursuing various strategies with which we are actively addressing our employees, but also potential candidates. The goal is to show that FitX is an exciting, but also secure employer - for example, to date we have not laid anyone off due to the pandemic and have voluntarily topped up short-time benefits during the lockdowns. We continue to expand: in 2022 we plan to renovate 15 of our studios and open ten new locations. Those are numbers that simply speak for themselves."

Employer branding internally and externally

Showing one's own company as an attractive employer is what employer branding is all about. This is how one's own company is to be strengthened as a brand on the job market. The basics are well thought-out personnel marketing and recruiting. Social media channels are certainly playing an increasingly important role in both of these, but so are the company's own website, press relations and Google ratings. FitX is intensifying its measures here: "We want to broaden our employer branding and personnel marketing in order to position ourselves even better in the future - even in areas that are not directly associated with the fitness industry, such as engineering, IT or finance," says Markus Vancraeyenest.

Employer branding also affects the existing workforce. How can employees identify with the company in the long term? How can they be inspired in the long term? For Manuel Baltar of Basic-Fit in Spain, it's about creating a sense of belonging. Maxime Moszyk, Basic-Fit France, also stresses "We try to retain our employees through our corporate culture (Orange Family), employer branding, training, internal mobility and promotion (e.g. Cluster Manager)."


Another strategy to be strong in the long term certainly lies in promoting diversity in the industry - at all levels. Promoting women and creating better conditions for work-life balance is just one example. In addition, one key is to open up for lateral entrants and low-qualified or partially qualified employees, depending on the position to be filled.

It is most valuable if everyone pulls together to present the fitness industry as the exciting and diverse field of work with future potential that it is.

Source: FIBO

Image Source: WavebreakMediaMicro / AdobeStock, Bojan /AdobeStock

Published on: 28 December 2021

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