The fitness trainers that I’ve worked with over the years have been a very diverse range of people. They share a love of fitness and the drive to help others achieve it. Of course, I’m speaking in very broad generalizations here, but there is another thing that all too many certified fitness professionals have. I’m talking about student loans.

It could sometimes be that they followed their dreams and went all out on a bachelors degree relating to fitness, followed by fitness certification. Alternatively, perhaps they majored in something like real estate management, only to find out that they didn’t want to work in that career. There are far too many graduates who have significant student loans outstanding. That is a consideration that you’ll have to deal with in working with them as an employer.

Another Brick in The Wall – The Indebted MindsetStudent chained to and dragging behind him the word's Debt with diploma on top

Many fitness trainers came to the field after making other choices that didn’t work out or they just decided to finally follow their passion. Either way, the core concern around student debt is the fact that it accrues silently for years as students study. Suddenly, once they’ve been out of school for six months, a stern notice arrives telling them just how much they must pay each month and to please start doing so immediately.

If graduates have a high loan balance, and far too many do, the numbers can be shocking, as described in this recent Bloomberg Business Week article. This can be very distracting and undermining to the commitment of young graduates, for whom this may have come as an ugly surprise.

You may not know if you enjoy an activity or career until you’ve tried it. After an unhappy career, who wouldn’t want to work as a fitness trainer? You get to be a teacher, leader, councilor and helping people become healthy. It’s very rewarding. However, it’s tough to do if you are constantly looking over your shoulder or being hounded by debt collectors. This may influence them to leave your gym to go work at a bank or the big box branded gym down the street, all for the promises higher earnings.

Murphy’s Law For Fitness Trainers

When trainers resign from your business there is always the possibility that membership will follow them, regardless of any contractual restrictions you’ve contrived. In the other hand, how often do new trainers bring in clients with them? Not often. In any case, you have to put in the time and effort to train them and bring them into your way of operating. It seems to costs gym owners both to hire them and when they leave.

Staff turnover is expensive and it undermines customer service. Anything that you can do to consolidate the commitment of your staff to your gym will help to save costs and improve the workplace atmosphere. Helping trainers and other employees to break out of the cycle of debt that is one of the best things you can do to support their career development. When you know the scope of the issue (or scale of the problem) you can gauge how much it matters or is likely to impact their employment decisions.

Cuts Cost And Wins Loyalty

There will always be a variety of influences on your staff retention and this may be a very minor one, or not even rate at all. It’s just another thing to be aware of in the effort to increase retention and minimize the cost of hiring and training. Look at it as a low cost method of staff retention. A little help on organizing repayments or deferments might help to refocus your student debt bound employee on the job. A reminder of the potential for commissions on classes and services can help to encourage a higher standard of sales-craft.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t a huge issue in the scope of your gym enterprise. However, the high cost of student loans is a big issue to anyone who’s got them and making a payment every month. Being aware of issues that directly impact your employees can help you retain them, when they’re looking for the best plan of action to repay their debts. So on one side of the coin student loans can be a distraction, on the other, they can be a motivator. It doesn’t hurt to be aware of the scope of student debt among graduates and use it to motivate them and drive sales.

Over to you…

What incentives can you bring to the table to help alleviate student loan debt for your personal trainers and encourage high retention rates?

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