Staff Ascension Model: How to Develop and Retain A+ Team Members

A man in athletic apparel prepares to run up a long flight of concrete stairs.

By Joleen Bingham, Certified Two-Brain Business Mentor

Have you ever wondered what sets the most successful gym owners apart from the rest?

The answer is that top gym owners create a precise plan to hire, develop and retain excellent team members.

As a gym owner, have you ever:

  • Felt frustrated by the lack of good candidates?
  • Found it difficult to retain good staff?
  • Struggled to communicate your vision and get team members to implement it?
  • Trained staff only to have them leave for better opportunities?

To solve your problems and get to the next level, you need a system—a Staff Ascension Model.

The Staff Ascension Model

Your model should contain standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the following periods:

Hiring—Identify individuals who possess the necessary qualifications for the job, have a genuine passion for fitness and wellness, and share values similar to those of your gym. 

Onboarding—Train and get new staff up to speed. Staff are taught SOPs, learn the expectations for the role, and start to learn more about the gym’s culture and values.

Development—This is a crucial period for nurturing, improving skills, and setting the stage for long-term progression in your business. Career Roadmaps will help you identify areas where development is needed and plan for it. As staff members take on more responsibilities, retention can be improved by recognizing their hard work in ways that make them feel truly appreciated. A good resource: “The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.”

Growth—Now it’s time to focus on their leadership abilities, careers and contributions to the business. This is a period in which many gym owners struggle to help their staff continue to grow, and it’s often when team members leave for better opportunities.

Exit—Staff leave for any number of reasons, including firing. In the exit stage, you’ll work to ensure a smooth departure from the business, continued momentum for the rest of your team, and maintained or even improved service for clients.

Getting the Model in Place

Here are the steps I used to get a Staff Ascension Model in place at my gym:

1. List each stage and what you want to happen in it.

2. Write the names of SOPs and tools needed in each stage.

3. Pick one stage and start writing SOPs. Finish that one before moving on.

4. Put everything together in one big document.

5. Most important: Start taking action to implement the model.

By investing in your team’s growth and providing clear pathways for advancement, you can create a strong culture that ensures team members buy in, understand and implement the vision of the business, know how to grow the business and generate revenue, and stay in your business for years to come.

Other Media in This Series

“Cheat Code for Gym Growth: Buy Back Your Time”
“The Career Roadmap: The Secret to Staff Ascension in a Gym”
Video: “Staff Ascension: From Mistakes to Managing 20 People at Two Gyms”


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.