Steal These 3 Strategies To Improve Trainer Retention By 8x

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The annual turnover rate for personal trainers runs between 80-90%.

Think about it – the turnover rate for trainers is 8x the national average rate for employees across all industries. That’s a scary statistic, and even scarier when you consider the high cost of turnover. Research suggests that the average replacement cost of a staff member can be up to 6 months pay. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

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There are a few key factors that contribute to trainer turnover, time and time again. And there are strategies that you can employ to greatly reduce the impact of those factors. The result? 

Higher trainer retention rates, which results in a reduced cost of staff replacement. In short, you’ll keep more trainers, and more money in your pocket as well. 

Related: Staff Payroll + Management Software 101


Strategies to Reduce Coach and Trainer Turnover


Trainer Retention Strategy 1: Evaluate your employee compensation

There’s a high cost to low wages. In a 2006 Harvard Business Review article, Wayne Cascio dissected the difference between Walmart and Costco when it came to how they paid employees. 

To sum it up, Walmart paid their employees an average of $10/hr, while Costco paid their employees an average of $17/hr. At first glance, it looks like Walmart saved almost double the cost of labor by paying their staff minimum wage. 

But that theory has one major flaw: it doesn’t factor in the cost of turnover. 

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Higher pay, along with better holistic employee benefits, kept employee turnover incredibly low at Costco. And because, as mentioned in the beginning of this article, replacement costs for churned employees can be up to 6 months’ pay, Walmart ended up spending $368 million more per year than Costco on labor costs. 

The moral of the story? Pay your employees fairly. You might just see staff retention grow, turnover reduce, and labor costs drop. 

An Orangetheory member turns to Reddit to vent about staff turnover

Trainer Retention Strategy 2: Create opportunities for internal career advancement 

At Equinox, a popular luxury gym group, their trainer retention strategy centers around opportunities for career advancement within their organization. Trainers are rewarded for their hard work and high performance through a tiered system. 

In addition to receiving over 160 hours of paid education through the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, personal trainers have the opportunity to advance to Master Instructor, Fitness Manager, or Personal Training Manager. 

They believe in a “promote from within” philosophy, and highlight this as key to their retention strategy. They communicate that “most of the senior PT Department leadership, both at the national and regional levels, started as personal trainers with Equinox. A trainer who shows the ability to excel in our culture, while also demonstrating key managerial and leadership attributes and behaviors, will have escalating opportunity for growth both at the club and regional levels.”

So why is this a successful tactic in increasing trainer retention, and how can you replicate it? 

Clearly defining opportunities for growth within your organization, no matter the size, is key to fueling inert drive in your employees. It gives them a goal to work towards, and rewards hard work in a big way. 

Related: 6 Staff Management Tips for Your Sports + Fitness Facility 


Trainer Retention Strategy 3. Find and eliminate blockers to daily success and satisfaction

The Conference Board reports that 53 percent of Americans are currently unhappy at work. And it’s no secret that unhappy employees are unlikely to stay at their job for the long haul. 

Have your trainers or coaches voiced concerns about processes or daily hurdles that block them from performing their job well? Are there cultural concerns that leave them dissatisfied? Seeking out the factors that could be dragging your trainers down is the necessary first step in creating a happier environment that improves staff retention rates. 

Here’s how you can seek and eliminate these blockers:

  1. Create a channel where trainers and coaches can voice their concerns. Ensure they have the opportunity to remain anonymous, with the understanding that depending on the seriousness of their concerns a private conversation may be necessary. 
  2. When they gripe about problems they run into with daily tasks, listen. What may be a small hurdle now (like issues with your gym management software) could turn into a bigger problem down the road. Ask clarifying questions to find the root of these problems. 
  3. Allow them the opportunity to propose solutions that would satisfy their needs. This will ensure they’re heard, and give you a better understanding of how you can make the issues right. 


Ultimately, you can’t make everyone happy. But if there are things that can be done to improve trainer retention and overall satisfaction, they’re far more likely to stay and grow within your company. 


So what does this mean for you?

The trainer retention rate is far lower than the national average for employees, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Implementing these strategies can greatly improve staff retention rates, and their overall quality of work. When coaches and trainers grow within your organization, they can flourish, pulling up your business as a whole, and saving you money in the long run. 

Upper Hand is what studios, gyms, and academies use to deliver better client experiences. Get a demo today.

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