Australian HR Awards winner profile: Fitness First

by Chloe Taylor05 Mar 2015
In 2013, Fitness First launched a global program to reshape its methods of doing business. Prior to this, the company was known colloquially as “Finance First”, with a reputation for putting profits before people.

That all changed with the launch of the company’s ‘Raising the Bar’ program, which helped it to win an Australian HR Award for Best Learning and Development Strategy in 2014.

One of the aspects included in the program was improving Learning and Development (L&D) opportunities for the organisation’s 4500 strong workforce.

Fitness First’s L&D offerings allow staff members to develop serious careers in the industry, which echoes the company’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP): “Live Life, Love Work”.

Last year, the company set itself the following L&D objectives:
  • Provide a learning and development framework that supports the induction and on-boarding of new employees.
  • Build a learning framework that supports talent management and succession planning and provides employees with a clear career progression
  • Reduce the annual attrition levels in specific roles and increase employee engagement levels in Learning and development.
A development framework, dubbed the “certification map” was introduced in an effort to achieve these objectives, with three key outcomes:
1. Develop employees from induction to expert (frontline manager)
2. Develop experts to Club Manager
3. Develop Club Managers to State Manager (operational support)
L&D programs were developed with research partners including Bournemouth University, and included blended learning techniques such as classroom training, online learning, self-paced development and mentoring frameworks.

The company also sought feedback from employees, subject experts and business stakeholders to ensure that the programs were periodically enhanced.

“The real reason we won the award is because of the Raise the Bar program, which was a culture change program that we used to change the company from the inside out,” said Sarah Sammut, head of HR at Fitness First. “The senior management team dedicated their time to training all of our staff, and we received a ‘nine’ on our net promoter [employee satisfaction] score.”

Since winning the award, Fitness First has continued in its quest to provide top quality L&D opportunities to employees.

“We’ve developed a unique employee app which staff will be able to use on all devices as well as computers,” Sammut said. “The reason behind this is that we have a unique workforce with many casual workers who don’t have a Fitness First email address. The app will provide one pure communication channel that can be used to connect employees across our multi-site, multi-state workforce.”

The app is also intended to be used as tool to boost engagement, and will include a newsfeed, blogs and communities to ensure that this is achieved.

“It’s a great L&D offering,” Sammut added. “The app can assign people to courses, assist people in attending paid courses and we can also run course content on there.

It will also allow employees in Victoria to share best practices and stories with employees in Queensland. The communication aspect was designed to entice employees’ engagement with the app so that they continue to use it – it’s a blended solution.”

While employees will also attend face to face training sessions, the app will assist the company in cutting costs and reaching a wider audience.

The app, which is due to be launched in June, is unique in Australia.

“No one else is combining L&D and communication in this way,” Sammut told HC. “Eventually, all of our employees will have an internal qualification or certification as we use several techniques to bring them up to speed with their fitness knowledge.”

Fitness First is also recognising the role that all of its staff can play in L&D.

“We recognise importance that our operators have in the business and their ability to share real life examples in training,” Sammut said. “So we’ve selected high performing employees to become trainers. We have strong operational leaders at all levels in the company who run training sessions. This has delivered operationally savvy trainers and facilitators, engaged employees and improved overall performance and the bottom line.”