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Staff shortages hit the industry

A series of new research projects have shed light on the significant challenges faced by leisure operators and group exercise instructors in finding short-notice cover for classes, as well as its impact on members.

One study, conducted by Leisure-net Solutions on behalf of on-demand group exercise cover app, CoverMe, finds that sourcing high-quality freelance cover when instructors fall sick or are absent is one of the most-significant challenges faced by club managers. Another survey conducted by EMD UK found that group exercise instructors avoid taking time off due to the stress of finding cover, with almost a quarter of instructors (24%) juggling up to seven different WhatsApp and social groups for the different classes they teach. According to Leisure-net’s Operator Report, a staggering 63% of leisure operators offering group exercise programmes reported spending valuable time each week trying to source replacement instructors to cover classes and prevent cancellations that would disappoint their customers. Even more concerning, nearly one-fifth of operators (17%) said they have to allocate time every single day to find class cover. Despite their best efforts, operators often face difficulties in securing adequate replacement instructors, leading to unavoidable class cancellations or changes. In fact, 41% of operators are forced to cancel or change their group exercise classes every week due to their inability to find suitable cover. And the impact of disrupted and cancelled classes is far reaching. Researchers also surveyed individuals who had participated in group exercise classes within the last six months and found that a third (33%) regularly or quite often experienced disruptions or cancellations to their classes. As a result, 36% of participants stated they would not recommend a club to a friend if they encountered frequent disruptions to the group exercise timetable, while 16% said they would cancel their club membership altogether.

Bad news

Sue Wilkie, head of instructor support at EMD UK, said: “It’s hardly surprising that group exercise instructors feel so stressed about finding cover for their classes when they are sick or go on holiday. “Research shows that half of instructors regularly view one to three different social groups when trying to source cover, while 7% keep track of eight to 14 social groups. And almost a quarter of instructors (23%) say they don’t know where to source cover, which increases the risk of class cancellations and is clearly bad news for instructors, clubs and clients.”

While today’s operators benefit from advances in technology in almost all areas of club management, when it comes to sourcing freelance instructors, managers still rely largely on substitute instructor lists and seeking help from other instructors through messaging platforms like WhatsApp. And, very often, club managers are forced to accept whatever cover is available, rather than the ideal cover that would ensure a great member experience. But there is support available.

Help at hand

The CoverMe App’s algorithm matches inspirational, qualified and insured freelance instructors, vetted by CoverMe’s own in-house team, with gyms and studios, factoring in skills, proximity, and availability – all in real time – so managers can source and book class cover in less than 30 seconds. “Sourcing high-quality group exercise cover is one of the most-time-consuming and challenging aspects of club management. That’s why we are delighted to be working with an increasing number of club operators, including Nuffield Health, Serco and BXR, to solve this problem, improve efficiency, enhance member satisfaction, and eliminate the frustration and operational time consuming activity of class changes,” said Rosanna Tucker, chief executive of CoverMe.

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