HR in the hot seat: Sarah Sammut, head of HR at Fitness First Australia

Sarah Sammut talks about winning the Best Use of Tech award, working with a casual workforce and parasailing in Mexico

HR in the hot seat: Sarah Sammut, head of HR at Fitness First Australia
rong>What is your job title and what brought you into this role? 

I'm the head of human resources at Fitness First Australia. The desire to help people is what brought me to this role; making a real difference in the lives of people. My background in L&D and organisational development, combined with the opportunity to work for an industry I found interesting is what brought me to Fitness First. It’s an industry that provides a greater good for the community, and that was important to me.
What motivates or excites you the most about your current position? 

What I really love about my role is the ability to create solutions that empower our employees, exceed the expectations of our shareholders, and delight our members. I believe that where you put your energy really shows; developing and delivering these initiatives from start to end, while achieving the best possible outcomes for these groups, has been an exciting and rewarding aspect of my position with Fitness First.
What is unique about HR at Fitness First? 

Our employee structure is so unique. Around 50% of our workforce is casual – many of our wonderful instructors come in to our clubs to teach one or two classes each week – while others have fulltime, lifelong careers with us. This diverse mix is also reflected in the way we ensure we have the right mix of talent, to meet the varying needs of our clubs across the country.
What will your biggest HR challenges be for the coming year? 

In an industry that’s continuously showing trends of significant growth we’re looking to create a platform for our people to share their ideas and bring their unique skills to the forefront. This helps employees have variety in their role, be a part of an environment in which they helped to create and being brave enough to create roles that don’t conform to the text on a job description. This will help us to be exceptionally agile, which in turn breeds a culture of innovation to our evolving and growing business.
Why did Fitness First win ‘Best Use of Tech’ at the recent HR Awards? 

With more than 65 sites across the country and only 15% of our workforce with access to work email, we were facing a challenge to engage our people through communications, and provide access to meaningful L&D. 

Our solution, Inspire, provides the experience of an app, while remaining compatible on different devices such as desktop and tablet. So regardless of whether they are in an office, club or on-the-go, our people have access to register and complete L&D modules, connect with their colleagues across the country, and stay up-to-date through a central newsfeed.

We were honoured to be recognised through the Australian HR Awards for the quality of our solution, the breadth of the change and its positive impact on the business. The involvement of our wider teams, input from all areas of the business throughout the project as well as the engagement strategy was key to our success.
What hobbies and interests do you have outside of HR? 

I love to travel and have been to over 40 countries so far, and have a real passion for adrenalin sports. I have a paragliding pilot license and recently spent some time in Cancun, parasailing and completing a zip line circuit over the jungle.

Where’s the best place to go for dinner/drinks in Sydney? Why? 

I recommend Bouche on Bridge. It’s a new restaurant with amazing food and service as well as a focus on sourcing ingredients locally. The director of Bouche on Bridge also works in the community, and as such, the restaurant has a strong philanthropy focus and will collaborate with new charity Daisy Darrouzet to employ staff with mental-health issues.

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