“Emotional intelligence may be your staff’s greatest client-retention tool,” proclaims Club Industry

However, many fitness business owners are unaware of the power of this soft skill, why it matters, and tips for hiring for emotional intelligence (EI).

Defining Emotional Intelligence

“Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others,” according to Psychology Today. While there’s some variability between experts regarding what, exactly, emotional intelligence comprises, the consensus is that it includes three basic components: emotional awareness; the ability to harness those emotions and use them in decision-making; and the ability to manage and regulate emotions — both their own and those of others. 

EI and the Fitness Industry

EI has many personal and professional applications, including in the fitness industry, where so much hangs on making members feel valued. Yet, many clubs are falling short in this measure. 

PFP editor Lindsay Vastola said in a Club Industry webinar, “These challenges, these frustrations, are not a problem of technology or the client management systems that we’re using — these are people problems. These are emotional, deep-rooted problems between people. The more we can start paying attention to the [employees] actually delivering the technology, delivering the fitness programming classes, that’s where we start to bridge the gap between those frustrations of [clients] and the outcomes that we want.” 

According to Vastola, these concepts are applicable to many aspects of the fitness business, including sales, marketing, fitness training, quality assurance, and client and staff retention. 

Hiring for EI

How can you incorporate EI into your hiring strategies? Interviewing for emotional intelligence can be tricky as people can be vague and or, intentionally or otherwise, misrepresent their characteristics and how they’d behave in certain situations. Conversely, behavioral event interviewing can yield more meaningful insights into people’s competencies. 

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) explains: “Behavioral interviewing focuses on a candidate’s past experiences by asking candidates to provide specific examples of how they have demonstrated certain behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities. Answers to behavioral interview questions should provide verifiable, concrete evidence as to how a candidate has dealt with issues in the past. This information often reveals a candidate’s actual level of experience and his or her potential to handle similar situations in your organization. Behavioral interview questions tend to be pointed, probing, and specific.”

Another tactic? Not only getting references but actually talking to them. “When you actually talk with a reference, you can ask specific and pointed questions about how the candidate demonstrated various EI competencies. Get lots of examples, with lots of detail. Specifically, ask for examples of how your candidate treats other people,” advises Harvard Business ReviewGroup of people giving high fives at a gym.

One additional thing to keep in mind about hiring for EI is that while it may come naturally to some people, it can also be taught and learned through EI training and developing. According to EI expert Daniel Goleman, this can include employee self-analysis of their own EI levels; encouraging employees to embrace stress management, such as meditation; modeling active listening; and promoting empathy building through team building events. 

In addition to boosting EI among their staff, fitness businesses can support member retention and recruitment in other ways, including by endeavoring to provide more of what people are looking for in terms of products, services, and programming. Enter wearable technology.  Download the catalog today to learn more about how fitness monitoring technology can help your business succeed.