Personal Trainer Qualifications in the Hotel Fitness Center

By Kurt A. Broadhag President, K Allan Consulting | July 16, 2010

Fitness instructors play an integral role in health club operations. The effectiveness of this employee base is directly correlated to the success of the gym. They not only have the potential to drive a large percentage of the profit center via personal training but also serve as the “ambassadors of health” responsible for dispensing health advice to members as well as being part of the front line of customer service team. However, with this responsible also comes risk.

The number one responsibility of the hotel fitness center is to provide guests with a safe workout environment. This safety can be compromised when the training staff acts in a way that increases the risk of liability. Trainer negligence can stem from a number of different instances all resulting in the injury of the client. Harm caused by unhealthy supplement recommendations, improper instruction on exercise technique, and oversight of contraindications may all result in litigation against the fitness center.

Although health clubs cannot completely protect themselves from personal trainer negligence they can drastically decrease their exposure by hiring qualified personal trainers. Unfortunately the term “qualified” is highly subjective within the fitness industry. Since personal training is neither licensed nor regulated (although a few states such as California, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are considering legislation), those involved in the hiring process must use their best judgment in weighing personality, experience, and education as qualification criteria.

The knowledge on the subject of exercise personal trainers possess is multi-faceted. They must have a broad understanding of the different areas of sports medicine such as exercise form, function, and prescription, sports psychology, injury prevention, and nutrition to name just a few. This knowledge begins with a college degree, either an AA, BA, or BS, in an exercise-related field. From there graduates then go on to obtain some sort of certification which is required to measure the knowledge and skills in real word applications. This credentialing validates that the individual is minimally competent to work unsupervised in the field. From there they can further go onto to specialty certifications and pursue continuing education credits which serves to keep them informed on the current research and up-to-date on their knowledge and skill level.

Certification is a must when hiring a personal training staff. Since not every fitness related degree offered in college translates to personal training practicality certifications fill the void by testing levels of competency, knowledge, skills, and abilities. There are over 300 certifying bodies in the field each varying greatly in terms of prerequisites, program content, testing procedures, and CEU requirements for recertification. Since some have little requirements and only test basic knowledge of exercise while others require years of schooling and testing protocol where only the most knowledgeable pass it is easy to see that not all certifications carry the same weight.

One distinguishing factor with the top fitness certifications is they are all accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The NCAA is a third party accrediting which takes a non-biased approach in evaluating the certification process used by each organization to make sure each properly discriminates between those who possess the knowledge to pass the test verses those that do not. The NCCA requires these organizations to meet 21 standards. In addition it requires the certification organization allow them to examine the certifications role and content, develop exam content, and administer testing and scoring.

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Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.