Become A Member   |   Newsletter Sign-Up   |   Print Page   |   Sign In
Thrive - A Climbing Business Blog
Blog Home All Blogs
The Climbing Wall Association's newly-launched blog is a place for indoor climbing industry professionals to find useful and relevant information from industry and business experts. Stay on top of best practices, thought leadership, and trends by subscribing to Thrive - A Climbing Business Blog! www.climbingwallindustry.org/lines

 

Search all posts for:   

 

Top tags: company culture  customer service  human resources  customer experience  standards  belay lessons  certifications  climbing culture  community development  customer satisfaction  diversity  employee engagement  job hazard analysis  leadership  management  member acquisition  operations  OSHA  risk management  staff training  van life  women  work-at-height  workplace diversity 

The Dirtbag Dilemma: Evaluating Van Life on Gym Property

Posted By Marley Jeranko, Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2018

Counterculture has long been in the fibers of climbing, so is it any wonder that as the sport becomes more mainstream, the two have started to butt heads? As the climbing population explodes, indoor climbing gyms have become havens for urban van-dwellers, which begs the question – how should the industry respond?

 

Do you create new policies that support the modern business model but deny its dirtbag roots; or do you make room for the dirtbag as a part of your business model – and if you do, what might be the risks to your the business? Hear what a few climbing gym professionals have to say on the matter…

 

Rich Breuner, Director of Operations at Bend Rock Gym in Bend, OR, takes a neutral approach. He says, “Having folks park their vans overnight in our parking lot has been more or less inconsequential in the grand scheme of the general operations of our business.” Breuner is in a unique position that allows a flexible policy without a lot of consequence. Depending on the season, Bend Rock Gym sees anywhere from a couple to a dozen vans a night, Breuner reports. Not only does the gym have a lot of space to accommodate a crowd like this, overall, most people who come there to stay in their vans aren’t doing it long-term. “Right now, it works given the dynamics of our business, users, and community; however, as we continue to evolve as a business, our policies around overnight visitors are likely to change.”

 

His position is a common one. Like several other gyms who responded anonymously, he describes a desire to appeal to community values while remaining wary of the potential problems they could create. “I can see both sides of the equation,” Breuner acknowledges. “It depends on where the gym is, the owner’s comfort level, land use policies, the dynamics of the community, and environment [city versus small town]. I can easily see gyms not being open to it like we are, and I respect that. Any time you have people sleeping in a parking lot, unfortunately it tends to create an opening for people you wouldn’t necessarily want to be there – I can understand not wanting to perpetuate that.”

 

Like Bend Rock Gym, the Boulder Rock Club’s philosophy is geographically dependent. But unlike Bend, the subject was a bit more pressing. “We’ve known for well over a decade that if we were to allow overnight camping, we would be overrun," says Kevin Bains, General Manager. With 53 parking spots, 10 percent of which are occupied by staff – the only group with permission to be there overnight – van life would create a logistical nightmare. “As a part of their agreement for living here, the staff help monitor that.”

 

The reason behind this is purely circumstantial. "We have a popular morning crowd,” Bains says , “so if you’re sleeping in until 10 o’clock – we need your spot because we have other paying customers that want to be in here."

 

Now, some would argue that it opens up a can of worms to allow overnight parking for staff but not members. "Part of allowing staff to stay here is tied to employee retention and job satisfaction,” Bains explains. “I would assume in a lot of places, Boulder in particular, there’s no camping close to city limits – you have to go pretty far to get to a campground. We live in tough rental market, so we try to listen and make accommodations.”

 

Despite these challenges, Bains views van life as a unique opportunity for climbing gyms. “If you’re in a city that doesn’t have as many climbers as Boulder does, you might have a policy that allows your members to stay overnight – that might be a really great way to give back to your membership. If we could service our membership with overnight camping, we totally would, but [for us], there are too many obstacles.”

 

Zach Mathe, Adventure Rock’s Desk Staff Supervisor, agrees, but points out an important distinction. “Although there is a strong link between van-living, climbing gyms, and climbing culture, customers, members, and friends of climbing gyms shouldn't feel owed or entitled to their own allocated space on a business's property, even if the business is connected to the lifestyle associated with that practice.” He continues, “If a climbing gym supports van-living, it will be a nice service offered by that gym.”

 

Regardless of your current situation, “It is important to think about because ... the growth in the climbing industry only seems to be going up,” says Mathe. “Along with the rise of minimalist lifestyles, many people will be coming into a sport that glorifies the dirtbag lifestyle, which could lead to more people pursuing van life.”

 

Ultimately, it comes down to listening to your staff and membership and finding out what their needs are. The best way to find out? Talk to them. Communicate openly with customers and inform your staff so that they can respond appropriately. “We verbally communicate our expectations to those staying in the parking lot: where to park, where not to park, cleaning up trash, noise, inappropriate behavior, etc. More often than not, people ask or in some way communicate with us that they intend to [park their vans here], and that’s when we have that conversation with them,” explains Breuner.

 

He also advises, "When it comes to communicating with staff, it’s just like any other change in policy – you use the communication channels you have and make sure it’s well-documented and reinforced on a regular basis. Everybody needs to be aware, comfortable, and confident [in their understanding of how] the business is meant to operate.” Without consistency, it could become harder to maintain a respectful relationship between the business and its van-dwelling customers.

 

Here’s the bottom line: van life doesn’t have to be the enemy of the indoor climbing industry. Regardless of the position you take, it’s up to you to establish fair boundaries. And most importantly, don’t wait to address the subject until it becomes a problem. Failure to educate could be the determining factor for the positive or negative circumstances that happen outside your doors.

 

Marley Jeranko Head ShotAbout Marley Jeranko

Marley Jeranko is a freelance writer and editor in the Bay Area. With her combined experience in business-to-business media and the outdoor industry, Marley aims to help educate and provide useful solutions to indoor climbing gym professionals.

 

Tags:  climbing culture  community development  operations  van life 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Making Lemons Into Lemonade: A Step-by-Step Guide to Handling Mistakes in Your Organization

Posted By Chris Stevenson, Monday, November 5, 2018

Mistakes will happen. Nobody is perfect. No matter how hard we try, and how well our companies operate, there will be a time when something goes wrong and we need to take steps to turn lemons into lemonade. And we’re not alone; even the best brands and the most efficient companies occasionally drop the ball. To maintain good standing with our customers, we need to take swift and specific action.

 

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I have two examples of customer service experiences I’ve had on recent business trips, one good, one bad.

 

I recently flew to Japan on… let’s call them Airline X. Upon my arrival to this foreign country, after an extremely long plane ride and faced with a major language barrier, I learned that Airline X had lost my luggage. I was to present (ironically on customer experience) in less than 24 hours, and I had no clothes or toiletries. When I called the airline, I was reassured that my luggage would be delivered the next day, that I would be reimbursed for any purchases I had to make, and that my frequent flyer account would be credited for the trip. Though it wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience on the phone, my expectations were set for the situation to be handled reasonably well.

 

In the end, my luggage came late and I was never sent the claims form for reimbursement. While I tried following up a few more times, I was stonewalled and eventually gave up. It seemed like the airline made it intentionally difficult for me to get reimbursed, and to top it off, they never credited my frequent flyer account with the flight miles. They set specific expectations for how the situation would be handled but did not meet those expectations, and then failed to be responsive or follow up. Airline X dropped the ball.

 

A few weeks after that, I flew Airline Y. I had a connection in Detroit and the connecting flight was late. I was bummed but I understood – delays happen. Airline Y, however, did a few things right away. They over-communicated the delay via text and email, keeping me up-to-date. They also apologized several times at the gate, making me feel like they truly understood the inconvenience and took it seriously. Finally, they brought out free beverages and snacks for all of the people who were disrupted by the delay. While a small gesture, it was thoughtful and appreciated. Airline Y did not drop the ball.

 

To keep customers happy, handling shortcomings effectively and efficiently is key. So when the unavoidable happens, there are a few keys to handling mishaps externally and internally.

 

When your company makes a mistake or fails to meet your customers' expectations, follow these steps to communicate with the customer:

  1. Sincerely apologize. Customers will feel heard and appreciated.
  2. Over-communicate. Keep customers in the loop as much as possible. Let them know why the shortcoming happened, what you are doing to remedy it, and what steps you will take to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Providing too much information is NEVER a mistake.
  3. Don't over promise. Make sure you fully deliver on whatever you intend to do to fix the situation. The worst you can do is to fall short on your action plan.

After dealing with the situation externally, you need to take a few steps internally. There is no worse experience for customers than having to deal with the same mistakes over and over again. Here are three things that we do at our facility when we fall short:

  1. Forgive ourselves. It is important to recognize the mistake, but it is unhealthy to dwell on it. Great organizations focus more on the present and the future than dwelling on the past.
  2. Talk through the situation. Look at it from the customer’s perspective. Figure out why it happened and how it happened. Brainstorm ways to prevent it from happening again.
  3. Implement new systems or procedures. Once you’ve collaborated with your team to brainstorm solutions, make a plan to implement them. Provide staff training to prevent the same mistake and similar mistakes from happening in the future.

When your company falls short, and it will happen even to the best of us, take action externally and internally. While no company is perfect, companies that handle mistakes well are healthier inside and out. The best way forward for yourself, your staff, and your customers is always to make lemons into lemonade!

 

Chris Stevenson Head Shot About Chris Stevenson

Chris Stevenson is the owner of Stevenson Fitness, a full-service health club in Oak Park, California. The club’s success is based on providing an unparalleled member experience, which centers on proper staffing, systematic operations, and world-class leadership. This success is reflected in the club’s Net Promoter Score, which is consistently in the high 80s (industry average is in the 40s). Chris is an international speaker who presents viable, applicable lectures that resonate with every audience.

 

Tags:  company culture  customer experience  customer satisfaction  customer service  staff training 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Beyond Fall Protection: Risk Management for Climbing Wall Workers in the Gym Environment

Posted By Aaron Gibson, MS, Monday, October 22, 2018
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2018

Safety in the workplace is important in all working environments, including climbing gyms. The General Duty Clause of the 1970 OSHA Act mandates that employers have a legal responsibility to present a safe working environment [1]. Climbing gyms often focus their risk management policies on fall protection, and rightly so, but are there weaknesses in other areas that present hazards to workers? This article will go beyond fall protection to help you consider other possible workplace hazards associated with a typical climbing gym, and introduce a technique for enhancing your workplace safety program as a whole.

 

The best time to address potential hazards is before they occur. A good starting point is the use of a Job Hazard Analysis or JHA [2]. A JHA is a technique that helps with the identification of hazards and examines the relationship between the worker, a particular task, and potential hazards. The JHA process is commonly applied in industrial work settings to address specific tasks that present hazardous conditions, but the same techniques can be effectively applied in a climbing gym setting.

 

The first step of a JHA is identification. First identify and prioritize tasks in the gym to be analyzed. This can be based on a preliminary review of accident/incident/near miss reports, feedback from staff, or experience with gym tasks. Some front-desk tasks may not be necessary to examine in depth. However, consider that infrequently performed jobs may be the ones that present the greatest hazard to workers. Things like changing air filters, removing a t-nut from behind a wall, accessing an electrical panel, power-washing handholds, even changing a high-bay light, have hazards associated with them.

 

Next, list the individual steps to accomplish the task. Think in terms of sequence of events. Make notes on what is done rather than how it is done. Start each entry with a verb, for example, “Turn on power washer.” This part of the process is often done through observation and documenting of the task while it is being performed.

 

As you progress, identify potential hazards. You are looking at possible areas of harm to the worker: risks to life, limb, eyesight, hearing, etc. Address questions like: What can go wrong? What are the consequences? How likely is it that the hazard will occur? What are other contributing factors?

 

List preventive measures and consider ways to eliminate or reduce the hazards. Is there a smarter way to do the job? Consider changes to equipment, changes in tools, changes to work processes, changes to access methods for work-at-height, or changes to the personnel doing the job. Often there will be a combination of controls used. If engineering controls and administrative controls are not enough to address the hazard, use personal protective equipment (PPE) (ex: hearing protection, eye protection, gloves, etc.).

 

The preventive step requires a trade-off of sorts, usually based on larger factors like time and money. While elimination of a hazard is the most effective solution, it can also be the most expensive, and often times impractical. Administrative controls and PPE tend to be more cost effective but require more management, training, and continuous monitoring. Maintaining accident, injury, illness and near-miss reports is an important part of continuous monitoring to ensure your program is effective.

 

The final steps include correcting hazardous conditions, communicating with staff about the findings, and re-training staff if necessary. A periodic review of your JHAs is necessary as tasks or equipment can change over time. Involve staff in making the gym a secure workplace – they are often in the best position to identify what the risks and hazards in the workplace are as they evolve over time.

 

Example Job Hazard Analysis

Removing a stuck t-nut (at ground level) behind a climbing wall.

 

Sample Job Hazard Analysis

Resources and References

  1. https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/oshact/section5-duties
  2. https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3071.pdf
  3. https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/getting-started.html

 

Aaron Gibson Head ShotAbout Aaron Gibson

Aaron Gibson holds a Masters of Science Degree from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and has over fifteen years of work experience in workplace and environmental safety and health. He’s worked with local, state, and federal agencies as well as private industry. Since 2007, Aaron has applied his experience to the indoor climbing industry as a gym owner/operator, coach, routesetter, instructor, and industry consultant/expert. You can contact Aaron at aaron@rockislandclimbing.com.

 

Tags:  job hazard analysis  OSHA  risk management  standards 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

What Makes a Great Manager?

Posted By Emma Walker, Thursday, October 18, 2018

An excellent manager makes any job seem worth doing. This rings true across all industries, from retail to finance to your local climbing gym. The opposite is true, too: poor management can wreck morale and drive great employees away.

 

Running a climbing gym means managing in tons of different capacities. On a given day, a gym manager might run interference in a customer service setting, help instructors manage groups of kids, and even operate a small retail store, not to mention the responsibility of risk management.

 

While it may be challenging, great management means less turnover, happier climbers, and a thriving gym. Here’s what employees at gyms across the country had to say about the qualities they love about their favorite managers—and one thing they could do without.

 

DO role model a positive attitude

Employees find it demoralizing when their bosses lack enthusiasm. A positive attitude is infectious and makes even those slow weekday shifts fly by.

 

“I don’t mean relentlessly cheerful,” says Tom*, a gym employee in Colorado, who notes that he once had a manager whose at-work moods were unpredictable. “It’s just nice to know my manager will always be professional and positive at work.”

 

DO lead by example

“I’ve seen my manager do everything from retail inventory to a belay check to replacing soap in the bathroom,” says Amy*, who works at a gym in Milwaukee. Sometimes, managing means being a Jack or Jill of all trades. That’s not to say managers always have to take the jobs nobody wants—but when employees see you stepping up when the need arises, they’re more likely to rise to the occasion next time, too.

 

DO set clear expectations

“I never have to wonder what I’m supposed to be doing, even when things are slow,” says John*, who works a Pacific Northwest climbing gym. His manager knows there’s always something to do at a climbing gym, from stocking retail shelves to checking ropes and harnesses to dozens of other daily and weekly tasks. He keeps a running to-do list in a place where employees will see it when they begin their shifts, so there’s plenty to keep staff from twiddling their thumbs when there’s not much traffic.

 

DO give regular feedback

Even well-intentioned employees can’t improve if they don’t have guidance. Sometimes it’s just a nudge (”Don’t forget to greet every person who walks in!”). Other times, it means a tougher, more specific conversation, like the one Tom’s manager had with him when he struggled to keep a group of kids under control. “My manager watched me a few times and gave me some really specific pointers to improve my group management,” he remembers. “I’ve used them ever since!”

 

DON’T micromanage

It’s hard to build trust within your team when they sense they are being micromanaged. “One manager I had would constantly correct even the littlest things, like how I arranged the pens on the desk,” recalls Amy. It’s demoralizing for employees to feel like they’re always being criticized, especially when they’re putting in effort to do a good job. When you do ask for an adjustment in behavior or protocol, explain the reason behind the change. It’ll stick.

 

Looking for more tips on how to take your management to the next level? The Washington Post recommends 10 great books on leadership, including Tommy Caldwell’s The Push.

 

*names have been changed

 

Emma Walker Head ShotAbout Emma Walker

Emma Walker is a freelance writer, editor, and an account manager with Golden, Colorado-based Bonfire Collective. Emma earned her M.S. in Outdoor and Environmental Education from Alaska Pacific University and has worked as an educator and guide at gyms, crags, and peaks around the American West.

 

Tags:  company culture  human resources  leadership  management 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

An Interview with Jesse Williams, Work-at-Height Trainer

Posted By Laura Allured, Monday, October 8, 2018

With our annual Certification Summit coming up next month, we wanted to answer some of the most frequently asked questions we get about the Work-at-Height program, and there's nobody better to ask than Jesse Williams, one of our top Work-at-Height trainers! Read on to learn about the background of the program, what the various levels cover, and the future of the Work-at-Height standard.


 

Climbing Wall Association (CWA): Jesse, can you tell us about your professional background and what got you connected with the Work-at-Height program?

Jesse Williams (JW): In college I climbed regularly on an early 90’s generation plywood & plastic climbing wall, before graduating into a 23+ year outdoor climbing career. I started as a local rock & ice climbing instructor in the Adirondacks, and eventually became a fully certified AMGA Rock, Alpine, and Ski Guide (IFMGA Mountain Guide).

 

In 2015 I moved to Salt Lake City to work for Petzl America, which opened the door to training in the industrial safety, rope access, and fall protection industries. Salt Lake City is also on the leading edge of the indoor climbing industry, with both the Front and Momentum climbing gyms in town.

 

At that time, the CWA began to recognize a need for industry-specific training in Work-at-Height for climbing wall workers, because rope-access training and certification was thought to be too onerous. CWA partnered with the Petzl Technical Institute to provide ‘awareness’-level instruction and developmental workshops for the climbing gym industry.

 

I’ve stayed involved through the adoption of the standard and development of curriculum because I like the combination of sport and work environments, and I support the career professionalization of ALL climbing workers, indoors and out.

 

CWA: From your perspective, what is the purpose of the Work-at-Height program? What is it intended to accomplish for the indoor climbing industry, and why is it needed?

JW: Climbing wall workers have often relied on an informal mix of techniques for access and work positioning, mostly based on simple recreational climbing systems and a recreational climbing perspective on assumed risk. But this is work, not play, and as facilities have gotten bigger and taller, and more workers are employed in the industry, several factors are apparent:

  1. Workers exposed to a fall hazard are required by federal law to be protected from the hazard. Compliance with this is not optional. The Work-at-Height standard is intended to assist and support climbing gyms by making their duties clear, by defining terms, by defining a recognized set of industry standard practices, and worker training processes.
  2. Work practices in climbing gyms may not be immediately recognizable to regulators or inspectors from conventional industries, route forerunning might be an example, but if we can define what climbing workers do in the context of similar applications that have been standardized in professional climbing, industrial rope access, and fall protection programs, then we (as opposed to external regulators) can determine the best practices for our work, and thereby demonstrate our compliance.
  3. Climbing Wall Workers can benefit from learning to use and apply industrial access and work positioning systems like work seats, full body suspension harnesses, and mechanical advantage rope systems. These systems not only provide a higher degree of security, but are purposefully designed for work at height, allowing workers to work smarter and more efficiently, with less injury, over a long-term career.
  4. Commercial climbing gyms have changed the traditional path of climber development in terms of progressive technical skills and movement abilities. Many gyms already have their own culture of skill mentorship, and the Work-at-Height program defines common technical skills for climbing wall workers everywhere, and provides a structure and path for a worker to develop deeper technical proficiency beyond simple sport climbing skills.

 

CWA: Who should take a Work-at-Height certification course?

JW: Any climbing facility workers who are assigned job tasks that include ‘working at height’ (basically higher than 6 ft off the ground as defined by OSHA), such as routesetters, inspectors or maintenance workers, will benefit from the practical training with explicit instruction in the tools and techniques recognized in the standard, and insight into how other industries access and position for work and rescue.

 

Managers, owners, and operators benefit from an orientation to the regulatory environment, and instruction in the administration and management of a Written Fall Protection Program.

 

CWA: What are the applications of the Work-at-Height training for indoor climbing professionals? Why is it relevant to a climbing facility?

JW: The courses are taught in progressive steps – Competent Person and then Qualified Person.

 

After reviewing workplace safety regulations and relevant industrial and equipment standards, participants in the Competent course get into practical skill sessions, including:

  • Conducting a job hazard analysis
  • How fall protection controls are used to protect workers
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for work at height – selection and care
  • Comparison of sport and industrial fall protection systems
  • Improvised anchor construction
  • Belay management and load transfers
  • Rope ascending and descending systems
  • Selection of standardized access and work positioning methods
  • Tool & material hauling and positioning systems
  • Worker/Partner rescue

After mastering the practical skills, participants in the Qualified Person course also review the primary components of a Written Fall Protection Plan, Rescue Plan, and Worker Training Program and work with fellow participants to develop a template for their own operations.

 

CWA: What is the difference between Work-at-Height for Competent Persons vs. Work-at-Height for Qualified Persons?

JW: In industrial safety, the terms ‘Authorized’, ‘Competent’, and ‘Qualified Person’ are often used to define workers and their respective roles in a managed safety program.

 

Authorized Workers are those currently trained by their employer in the specific methods to be used for work at height within their facility/operation. Competent Workers are trained and assessed in standardized methods to access all of the potential work zones in a facility and to perform rescues of other workers (or participants) from those work zones. This course focuses primarily on those practical and applied aspects.

 

Qualified Workers are supervisory level - they should already be Competent Workers (or have the equivalent experience & abilities) and have taken on additional responsibilities for the management of a Written Fall Protection Program for their facility. This course focuses more on those administrative aspects.

 

CWA: What are the pre-requisites for Competent?

JW: Participants in these courses are often commercial and competition routesetters, Climbing Wall Instructors, and ‘hands-on’ operations managers in smaller facilities.

 

Adult (18+) Climbing Wall Workers taking the Competent Person course should:

  • have good modern belay technique on lead and top-rope (and it will be required by the host gym/training facility)
  • be able to comfortably lead 5.9 on artificial terrain, and to comfortably perform physically strenuous work at height
  • be familiar with the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they use and the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to properly use, inspect, and care for it
  • be able to ascend and descend a rope
  • know how to construct an improvised two-person anchor on a climbing wall

 

CWA: What skills do students learn in Competent?

JW: Participants learn how to use a selection of recognized access methods, from belayed lead & aid climbing to industrial dual rope systems, for work on the front of a climbing wall.

 

On the back of the climbing wall, participants learn how to properly use industrial fall arrest systems for access and positioning, and the real challenges presented by confined spaces.

 

Participants also learn how to use rope systems to safely position larger tools and materials, and methods to rescue someone from an elevated work zone.

 

CWA: What are the pre-requisites for Qualified?

JW: Participants in these courses are often head routesetters, operations managers & directors, or very hands-on owner/operators.

 

Adult (18+) Climbing Wall Workers taking the Qualified Person course should meet ALL of the Competent Person course prerequisites, in addition to:

  • two-years work-at-height experience routesetting, or equivalent experience
  • “Work at Height for Competent Persons” certification or equivalent training and experience
  • knowledge/experience with the industrial fall protection hierarchy of controls
  • the technical ability to tie commonly used knots & hitches
  • the ability to ‘tie off’ a belay device for hands-free operation
  • the ability to haul material using a drop-proof rope system

 

CWA: What skills do students learn in Qualified?

JW: Participants first review the Competent Person technical skills and access methods, as the Qualified Person’s role is to perform a hazard assessment and then prescribe appropriate equipment, methods and training for their Competent Workers. They need to have already applied those skills at some point in their career.

 

The second half of the course is more classroom-based and focuses on the formal process of Job Hazard Analysis for various common work-at-height tasks in climbing facilities. The participants work together in a workshop format to develop a common template for their own Written Fall Protection Program.

 

CWA: Does the course provide equipment? What equipment do I need to provide for myself?

JW: The course provider will provide appropriate equipment for the course from an inspected and managed PPE inventory. Participants may use their own equipment, provided they have documentation that it has been inspected, is fit for service and is compatible with the application. Closed-toe shoes are required. Participants should bring their own gloves and eye protection and can use their own helmet if appropriate.

 

CWA: What does a facility need to be able to host a Work-at-Height course?

JW: A suitable host facility has:

  • a private ‘classroom’ or meeting space with tables and digital AV capabilities (projector or display screen) and guest WiFi access
  • an isolated training area on the front of the climbing wall with access to both top-rope and lead terrain, and (preferably) access to floor or ground level anchors
  • access to an open, well-lit, and clean teaching and practical training space behind the wall with exposed structure
  • a large volume climbing hold, pre-equipped with anchor hangers
  • an A-frame ladder, less than 20 feet in height, with stabilizing boards on the feet, moveable plywood or removable padding

 

CWA: What would you say is the future of the Work-at-Height program? Do you see it evolving?

JW: We have to embrace the idea of continuous improvement. I think training in these work practices can become part of the career progression for routesetters and operations managers in this industry that are eager to make it a long-term profession, and they will add demonstrable value to any operation with their expertise.

 

I am also eager to see how the professional routesetting community evolves and refines this too. Work-at-Height covers all work tasks in a facility, but I was encouraged at the 2018 CWA Summit to hear discussion of complimentary routesetting-specific programs that will use and reference the standardized Work-at-Height methods for their access and work positioning but will focus more specifically on the practical art and science of commercial routesetting. Continued input from the routesetting community is key, as they are typically the most skilled technicians in a facility.

 

My own role in this project is transitional, as a liaison between the worlds of industrial and professional climbing. We’ve had some very talented and experienced routesetters, managers, and climbers through the Work-at-Height program so far, and once they are oriented to the industrial safety tools, techniques, and requirements and have some time to develop them, I think we’ll see even more creative, effective (and compliant!) solutions specific to Work-at-Height in the climbing gym environment. Those trained and certified workers will be very valuable within the industry: to manage risk for workers and keep businesses protected.

 

Tags:  certifications  standards  work-at-height 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

The Powerful Potential of a Positive Culture

Posted By Chris Stevenson, Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2018

Employee engagement is tough to achieve, yet essential for success. There are three levels of employee engagement: engaged, disengaged, and actively disengaged. As you can imagine, engaged employees are the ones on your team doing a great job. They represent your vision, mission and culture. They help you create the customer experience you are seeking. However, according to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report, on average, only 15% of employees are actually engaged. The rest of your team are either disengaged or, even worse, actively disengaged. Disengaged employees are barely getting by and not meeting your company standards. Actively disengaged employees are not only failing to meet expectations, but bringing down other employees. And remember, disengaged and actively disengaged comprise 85% of your staff! So how do we change this staggering number? The answer is creating and maintaining a positive company culture.

 

There are five keys to creating a positive company culture: inspiration, communication, participation, appreciation and evaluation. When you focus on all of these areas you create an environment that fosters a high level of employee engagement. This will inevitably invite an outstanding customer experience.

 

Inspiration

It all starts with inspiration. Inspiration involves creating and infusing a meaningful core purpose, mission statement and core values into your company culture. These essential tools illustrate that what the company does--and more importantly what the employees do--has real value. Effective core purpose, mission statement and core values should be the center of every decision made on behalf of company growth and member satisfaction. It is a leader’s job to create these and then make every employee aware of them and their importance.

 

Communication

The second step is communication. Make sure employees are always in the loop with what is going on with your company. In addition to keeping employees informed, it’s important to thoroughly and continuously communicate your expectations of your staff. Employees that are enlightened with communication are far more likely to stay engaged. Always over-communicate!

 

Participation

The third step is participation. The more employees feel that they contribute to the development and execution of the company’s goals, the more they engage. In practice, this can take many forms, including employee engagement surveys, development programs, and meeting effectiveness surveys. A specific example of an effective participation strategy that we use on a regular basis is a “start, stop and continue” survey. We ask our employees to tell us what we need to start doing, stop doing and continue doing. With that, employees can voice their opinions and truly impact the way our company operates. Participating employees are engaged employees.

 

Appreciation

The forth component is appreciation. While recognition and gratitude may seem a little fluffy, research demonstrates that they have a huge impact on employee engagement. Gratitude should be expressed specifically, on a timely basis, and frequently. It should be expressed in face-to-face conversations, made public in meetings, group emails, and on social media. Gratitude should always refer back to the core purpose, mission statement and core values. Expressing gratitude shows that what your employees do has meaning and is appreciated. Gallup studies have shown that to stay engaged, employees should be shown some sort of appreciation or gratitude at least once every seven days.

 

Evaluation

The last engagement piece is evaluation. Employees should be coached daily, causally evaluated quarterly, and formally evaluated annually. Just like appreciation, all of those methods of evaluation should refer back to the core purpose, mission statement and values. Evaluations should also include goal setting. When structured this way, employees know how their work meaningfully supports your company culture, and demonstrates your investment into their growth as human beings. Employees that know that they are growing and performing work that has real meaning stayed engaged. Take time to carefully and strategically craft your different forms of evaluations.

 

An Outstanding Member Experience Starts with Your Employees

Engaged employees make you; disengaged and actively disengaged employees break you. Start inspiring. Communicate openly and honestly. Give employees various ways to communicate and participate in decision-making. Make sure you are showing appreciation to your employees at all times. Lastly, make sure you are giving culture-driven evaluations that express appreciation and promote growth. Those five areas are keys to keeping your employees engaged, and engaged employees will generate an outstanding member experience.

 

Chris Stevenson Head Shot About Chris Stevenson

Chris Stevenson is the owner of Stevenson Fitness, a full-service health club in Oak Park, California. The club’s success is based on providing an unparalleled member experience, which centers on proper staffing, systematic operations, and world-class leadership. This success is reflected in the club’s Net Promoter Score, which is consistently in the high 80s (industry average is in the 40s). Chris is an international speaker who presents viable, applicable lectures that resonate with every audience.

 

Tags:  company culture  customer experience  customer service  employee engagement  human resources 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Optimizing Belay Lessons for Member Acquisition

Posted By Christopher Stango, Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2018

When a new guest ventures into your climbing gym for the first time, what will their first impression be? Who is greeting them? Who is giving the tour? Who is giving them a belay lesson and setting them off into the gym on their own? When that first-time climber walks in your door, they're assessing your offerings, and their impression of their experience will ultimately determine if they will return or not. Remember when you first caught the climbing gym “bug”? It's likely you had a great first, second, and even third experience that kept you coming back!

 

There are a lot of important factors that contribute to your new climber's experience before the belay lesson even begins, but the belay lesson is a golden opportunity for member acquisition that is often wasted without a good strategy. Naturally, safety is of profound importance in any belay lesson and that is where most of the focus should remain. However, after a climbing gym's standard belay lesson has the technical training and assessment portion dialed, member acquisition should be your staff’s next priority. These skills should only be utilized by instructors that are already extremely proficient at conducting effective belay lessons.

 

Discovering the Occasion

What brought your class into the gym? Is it a current member bringing some non-climbing friends? Or is it a group of coworkers? Is it some friends looking for a fun way to be more active? Could it be a date? Discovering the occasion either by asking or deducing is a smart way to create personal connections with your students.

 

Instructor Introduction and Learning Names

Remembering and using names during lessons is the quickest way to make your guests feel welcomed and comfortable. Make sure you keep in mind that a non-climber walking into a climbing gym can be an intimidating experience. Being recognized and having someone remember your name could make the difference!

 

Patience

Belay lessons can be incredibly stressful for your more nervous guests. This may cause them to fumble and make mistakes in the beginning. Being patient with those who don’t grasp the concepts naturally will create a encouraging and inclusive environment for new climbers. They are already out of their element just by walking in your door. Make sure your patience shows them they are welcome.

 

Humor

Like using your guest’s name, implementing humor into your lesson is another great way to make your guests feel comfortable. Once you've discovered the occasion and learned their names, you'll likely have a grasp on the type of humor that they may appreciate. I always tell my staff I want to hear their whole class laugh at least once!

 

Be Efficient

Leading an organized and concise lesson will be appreciated by your climbers, because they're likely excited to start climbing with their friends. If the lesson is disorganized and takes longer than necessary, you can expect your new climbers to become frustrated and impatient. It is essential that you stick with the goal of building technical competency among your new climbers. Creating an efficient and replicable lesson plan will manage time effectively and ensure you are delivering consistent information to all your students.

 

Have Fun

Belay lessons can be long and take up a large chunk of your new climber’s first day, but it’s possible to get creative and have plenty of fun along the way. If the instructor is having a good time, it's going to show in their belay lessons. If the belay lessons are fun, the guests will continue to feel welcomed and feel like they are getting a greater value out of their time spent at the gym. Show them that you want to be there!

 

The Bottom Line

The objective of the belay lesson is to create competent belayers in your facility. If done correctly, it will also set them up to fully enjoy everything your climbing gym has to offer. It’s also an opportunity to examine your customer service procedures. For example:

  • Have you given them an orientation? Show them around the facility and give them some inspiration on how to take full advantage of the facility to improve their fitness.
  • Have you told them about your grading system and what might be appropriate for them? Getting some direction to help them experience success will keep them coming back for more.
  • Did you give them a few quick climbing tips while they were doing their practice falls? Let them know about a couple basic techniques, like straight arms and standing on their toes.
  • Have you come back to check on them after 30 minutes to see if they've come up with any questions? Feeling supported by the staff will encourage your new climbers to stick with climbing.
  • Have you introduced them to other climbers at the gym? Creating a membership base where people know each other establishes a stronger community that’s more loyal to your gym.

Your focus should be on setting them up for a positive experience. As climbers, we know what keeps us coming back. Let's try to show them what that is.

 

Christopher Stango Head ShotAbout Christopher Stango

Christopher is the Gym Manager at Sun Country Rocks in Gainesville, Florida. He has a background in restaurant management honing techniques in customer service and operations, which he is now applying to the indoor climbing industry. He has gathered nearly a decade of experience in restaurant management and has been climbing almost as long.

 

Tags:  belay lessons  customer service  member acquisition 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Closing the Gender Gap: What Climbing Can Learn from the Tech Industry

Posted By Eva Kalea, Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, June 19, 2018

**Note: This article was originally posted on Medium.

 

 

At the CWA Summit this year, I kept hearing one recurring question: how can we hire and retain more women, particularly in management and routesetting?

 

This is something I’ve looked into extensively and what I found is that the tech industry has learned some hard lessons on the importance of gender parity and how to start working towards it.

 

I’ve collected some of the most compelling lessons here to share with others in the climbing industry. Let’s work together to create a truly inclusive and diverse climbing gym culture — one that reflects the communities we serve.

 

Keep in mind that while I focus here on gender equality, the same principles also apply for equality across all identity markers, including race, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

 

Why hiring women should be a priority

A significant percentage of the climbers in our facilities are women. We need staff at all levels — including managers and routesetters who understand women as customers, how we climb, and how to set routes that are fun for us.

 

Lessons from the AI field:

 

“If we don’t get women and people of color at the table …we will bias systems. Trying to reverse that a decade or two from now will be so much more difficult, if not close to impossible. This is the time to get women and diverse voices in so that we build it properly, right? And it can be great. It’s going to be ubiquitous. It’s going to be awesome. But we have to have people at the table.” —Fei-Fei Li, Chief Scientist of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at Google

 

Research from the Kellogg School of Management and McKinsey Global Institute suggests that diverse teams perform better, make better decisions, and are more profitable.

 

Women are outpacing men when it comes to earning bachelors and graduate degrees. Your company’s ability to attract and retain top talent will be predicated on being an appealing and friendly place for women to work.

 

Surveys from the Pew Research Center suggest that women in male-dominated companies face more gender-based discrimination and more difficulties in advancing their careers than at gender-balanced companies.

 

How to hire + retain more women

Make gender equality a core value and set concrete goals with measurable impacts. Stating that you value diversity is not enough — make sure you’re actively working towards it. And remember that this isn’t a one-off project: revisit the issue at predetermined intervals to make sure you’re making progress towards your goals.

 

Don’t lower your standards

 

“Lowering standards is counter-productive — the idea that “it’s hard to hire women engineers therefore we won’t hold them to such a high standard” is noxious. It reinforces the impression that women aren’t good at engineering (writer’s note: for us, insert managing, climbing, routesetting), which is obviously a downward spiral.” —First Round

 

Read the tips below and get creative! Breaking a mold is difficult and requires thinking outside the box you have been operating in.

 

Take a look at the recruiting process

 

Talk to everyone who’s involved in recruiting and hiring and let them know that hiring and retaining women is an important goal for the company.

 

Make sure that women are represented in your marketing materials and any graphics that are being used to promote job openings: women have to see themselves represented in your media in order to connect with you as a company. Beyond that, make sure that women are involved in the hiring process. We all have unconscious biases and preferences for people who remind us of ourselves. Men who are hiring may subconsciously prefer male candidates. Similarly, having women involved may help female applicants feel more at ease during the interview process.

 

If you aren’t seeing as many women applicants as you would like, talk to women and find out why they’re not applying.

 

Advertise in the right places

 

Make your employees your ambassadors: have them spread the word about job openings and let them know that hiring women is a priority for the company.

 

Research where women find out about job opportunities and where they get their media, then post ads there. You can also reach out to online communities for women and underrepresented genders like Flash Foxy, Alpenglow Collective, Brown Girls Climb, Indigenous Women Climb.

 

Hire women at the entry level

 

Like many other climbing gyms, The Cliffs (where I work) seeks to promote from within whenever we can and offers opportunities for our staff to grow with the company. This makes it even more important that gender parity starts from the ground up, since the people getting promoted to shift supervisor and ultimately to positions in gym and corporate management often start out as general belay or front desk staff.

 

Provide training

 

With routesetting in particular, finding qualified routesetters is tough already, and finding routesetters who are women may seem impossible. In the tech world, Etsy launched “Hacker Grants,” which provide need-based scholarships to women enrolling in Hacker School, a 3-month course designed to teach people how to become better engineers.

 

Although these women may have been risky hires due to a lack of hands-on experience, putting them through Hacker School groomed their hard skills while allowing Etsy to work with them closely over the course of several months. This program has been a success for Etsy, and they’ve hired several women out of the Hacker School.

 

If your facility has the resources, consider offering a training program for routesetters or providing scholarships for women who want to attend a routesetting course.

 

Hire women at mid-level, even if they may not have much experience in the climbing/outdoor industry

 

In the tech industry, bootcamps produce thousands of graduates a year, with a significant percentage being women. These graduates may have entry-level coding skills, but mid-level professional skills: you won’t have to teach them how to manage teams, write professional emails, and stick to budgets and deadlines.

 

In the climbing industry, we can look for career changers who have cut their teeth in other sectors, but are passionate about climbing and looking for opportunities in a fast-growing industry.

 

Take a look at your employee benefits + perks

 

Make sure that your employee perks and benefits appeal to women by talking to the women who already work for you.

 

Paid parental leave, flex time, the ability to work from home, and medical benefits that cover family planning and prenatal care support employees who are (aspiring) parents.

 

Promote women

 

Having women at all levels of your company, particularly in upper management, provides staff with the opportunity to have women as mentors, role models, and knowledge-keepers. You’ll also send the strong message that women are not only hired, but also promoted within the company, which will help attract motivated female candidates.

 

Further, research shows that companies with more women in management have less sexual harassment.

 

Retaining women

It’s lonely being the only woman

 

Etsy found the most success when there were either zero or two women engineers on a team. “If there’s only one, she’s a woman engineer as opposed to just an engineer.” Keep this in mind, particularly with routesetting: hiring two female routesetters will likely increase the chances of them both sticking around, since they won’t be alone on a male-dominated team.

 

Preventing + addressing harassment

 

Create space for people to share their experiences in the workplace and take their concerns seriously. Implement a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to harassment.

 

Research shows that traditional sexual harassment training doesn’t work. In a recent article, The New York Times broke down several methods that work in addressing harassment, including empowering bystanders to intervene, encouraging team members to speak up in support of marginalized colleagues, promoting more women, encouraging reporting of harassment, and providing training seriously and often.

 

At The Cliffs, we had the opportunity to work with Alicia Ortiz for our inclusiveness and diversity training. She’s an incredible facilitator who is the Education Director for Let’s Be Clear. I highly recommend her for your training needs if you’re based in the Northeast. The Avarna Group also provides trainings and resources on equity, inclusion and diversity.

 

Culture

 

Make sure women feel supported, even if they are the minority on a team. Create a “calling in” culture where team members feel empowered and responsible for letting each other know when behavior or language they use is unacceptable. Be aware of microaggressions — words or actions with undertones of sexism, racism, or any other “-ism” — which may be subtle or imperceptible to the casual observer, but can compound over time to have serious effects on mental health and quality of life. (See: How Microaggressions Are Like Mosquito Bites)

 

For more resources on “calling in,” microaggressions, and other social justice issues, check out Everyday Feminism and The Avarna Group.

 

“Patience is a requirement. Habits are hard to break, and your culture may favor the incumbent majority until you get closer to parity.” — Tech Crunch

 

Check in regularly with women who are on male-dominated teams and conduct exit interviews with employees who quit. Is the culture friendly for women? Are there other issues affecting employee satisfaction that should be addressed? Knowledge is power. Letting go of defensiveness (even though it sucks to learn that your culture may be unfriendly to women) allows you to gain a true perspective on what is happening and take steps to address it.

 

If you’ve read this far, you’re on the right track! But thinking about gender equality is not enough. Write down three actions you’re going to take and share it with your team. Keep each other accountable! Feel free to share your thoughts below as well.

 

Read More

TechCrunch: How to recruit, hire and retain female engineers

 

SocialTalent: Emma Watson: Your New Recruitment Guru — How to: Attract, Source and Recruit Women

 

First Round: How Etsy Grew their Number of Female Engineers by Almost 500% in One Year

 

TechCrunch: There’s a simple solution to tech’s gender imbalance…hire more damn women

 

 

Tags:  diversity  human resources  women  workplace diversity 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 
Membership Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal