British Swim boss is all-in on retention
You have a very young staff in general, but you communicate on their terms. How?
That’s something I’m always looking to find out. I think in this past year I’ve used more online services, apps and tools to connect with my staff than I have in my whole career. That’s how they want to connect. It’s quite a learning curve for me, but it’s always about staying ahead of that so I can maintain that contact at every touch point.
Why work so hard to meet them on their terms?
Well, the average 25-year-old has had 18 different jobs, that’s insane. I did a self-audit on my business about how many employees I on-boarded and where they came from and how long they were with me. It taught me a lot about how much it costs to on-board employees and made me want to push for a higher rate of retention.
What did you decide to do after that audit?
There wasn’t one big thing, but I do my best to give everybody the face time they need and the resources they need to be successful. It all came down to putting in growth incentives and growth plans for employees to invest in them and their longevity. That’s something I work on diligently—how to incentivize this young generation to stay with me.
What does that look like for a new employee?
I’m now taking longer to train our employees; I train mine longer than most in the system. I’m also putting in more incentives and spending some cash upfront during the on-boarding process to measure their competency or their skill—not waiting until after training to find out how invested they are in our product or our children.
You also partner new people with a fellow employee. Why is that?
When I on-board a new employee they have a superiors and trainer, but I also align them with a peer mentor. The peer mentor will probably—for younger staff—be able to connect with a new member better than a supervisor or trainer can. They can get help from within the team.
And what about later on?
We do a lot of in-service training, but I give them the opportunity to actually check themselves before a manager checks them. I’m very upfront about what my expectations are. I will not keep someone on staff just because they are a brilliant swim instructor; they have to be an equally good employee. If they cannot be a good employee my system fails. So I’m very transparent in what my expectations are from hiring on.
Staff writer Nicholas Upton asks what makes multi-unit operators tick—and presents their slightly edited answers in this column in each issue. To suggest a subject, email email@example.com.
Young workers will always mean higher turnover no matter what. How do you manage that?
I am always hiring, recruitment is a huge line item on my budget. We’re always recruiting whether we need people or not. By increasing that budget and always hiring, I don’t have to accept an employee that I’m not sure about because I’m getting a larger field of recruits, and it allows me to be more choosy.
What have you done to push customer retention?
As each of my territories mature, I’m seeing a shift in my overhead and my profitability. It just increases year-to-year because I’m able to retain students. You kind of see that through year three. After three years we spend more on retention than on getting new students. Our best source of new customers is word of mouth, and the only way we’re going to get that is by retaining our customers.