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: leadership  management  operations  staff training  company culture  employee engagement  human resources  customer experience  customer service  risk management  programming  community development  routesetting management  routesetting  staff retention  standards  customer satisfaction  marketing  youth training  coaching  OSHA  work-at-height  youth team  certifications  climbing culture  employee turnover  member acquisition  member retention  workplace diversity  CWA Meetings 

Cultivating Space: 10 Steps to Create and Maintain Cultural Relevancy

Posted By Elyse Rylander, Monday, November 26, 2018
Cultural Relevancy

Hello CWA world!

 

Before we go any further, I want make a confession...I do not at all consider myself a climber. I know, I know. You're probably wondering "well then why on Earth is she writing a blog post for the CLIMBING Wall Association?!" This is a fair question, so I'll tell y'all a little about myself first and then we'll dive into this month's topic of cultivating inclusive gym spaces, which is in fact something I know a fair bit about.

 

My name is Elyse Rylander and I use she/her pronouns. I was born on Sauk, Meskwaki, Miami and Ho-Chunk ancestral land (otherwise known as Southern Wisconsin), and took my first canoe trip down the Wisconsin River at the tender age of four weeks. From then on, all of my summers and winters were spent outside canoeing, kayaking, camping, or downhill skiing with my family. In 2006 I started working as an outdoor educator and then paddle sport retail associate. From there I moved to Alutiiq ancestral land (a.k.a. Valdez, AK) where I guided sea kayaking and camping trips in the summers and worked at a climbing gym on Suquamish and Duwamish ancestral land west of Seattle on Bainbridge Island in the winter.

 

Throughout these years I founded and grew my non-profit, OUT There Adventures, whose mission is to connect the queer community, primarily queer young people, and the outdoors. OTA has now completed four years of programming and also birthed the LGBTQ Outdoor Summit, of which we just held the second annual gathering on Ohlone and Coastal Miwok land north of San Francisco. It is at the intersection of this work around equity, and in particular queer equity, in the outdoors that I have also found myself consulting for the last year as a Partner of The Avarna Group and working with many amazing outdoor organizations and companies committed to furthering outdoor pathways to equity for all.

 

I was privileged to come of age in the outdoor industry, and it has been fantastic to see the growth in equity work happening in that time, with the most profound change happening in the last few years. While I will always have a bias towards paddle sports, it was my time running youth programs at Island Rock Gym that gave me insight into the amazing potential climbing gyms have to continue to create pathways to equity across all outdoor interests.

 

As they say, with great power comes great responsibility, which means you may be wondering exactly how your gym can engage in this work further. So let's dive in.

 

Step One: Define the work.

The words diversity, equity, and inclusion get tossed around with immense frequency, which means their meanings can vary across time and place. At The Avarna Group we have crafted definitions for these words, and others, that we find work well in the context of outdoor spaces, so without further ado, here they are:

 

Diversity: The differences between us – based on which we experience advantages or encounter barriers to opportunities and resources.

 

Inclusion: Celebrating, valuing, and amplifying voices, perspectives, styles, values, and identities that have been marginalized.

 

Equity: An approach based on fairness to ensuring everyone has equal access to the same opportunities; recognizes that advantages and barriers exist. Equity is not the same as equality.

 

Cultural Competence: Your ability to interact effectively across various dimensions of diversity; to flex with difference.

 

Cultural Relevance(y): What you do and how you do it is relevant to more people and communities.

 

If that has your head spinning, don't worry. Sometimes folks find this framing helpful:

 

Inclusion is what we do.
Equity is how we do it.
Cultural competence is what we need to do it well.
Diversity & cultural relevancy are outcomes.

 

Take some time to sit with those definitions, and then allow yourself to critically analyze where you and your gym are in terms of engaging with these concepts. This will help you further uncover some of the why's, what's, and how's of this work.

 

Step Two: Get Right With Yourself

This work truly begins and ends with all of us. Without taking the time to assess our own privileges, lived experiences, and biases, cultivating spaces of true inclusivity becomes near impossible. Just like one has to become acutely aware of their strengths and limitations as it relates to climbing, the same logic must be applied to each of our own individual strengths, but more importantly our blind spots. So take the time to be challenged and humbled, to make mistakes, to correct those mistakes, to make even more mistakes, and then repeat the whole process.

 

Step Three: Bring It to Work

Since companies and institutions are made up of lots of people, the next logical step in the process after we've all done the hard work of assessing our individual biases is to bring that knowledge to our places of work. This can take many forms, including one of the first steps of simply noticing who is accessing your gym spaces and what the demographic similarities are amongst those members/customers.

 

Step Four: Consider the Consumer Experience Continuum

It can seem overwhelming to look at an entire business and try to parse out exactly what, where, and how equity work can occur. It can be helpful to think of the possibilities along a continuum wherein we begin with a consumer's first touch point with the gym and end with that consumer turning into a member or a staff person. How does that experience look and feel different for someone based on their identity? How is that process leaving out portions of potential new customers or employees?

 

Step Five: Marketing

For new members or first-time users, the first interaction they may have with your company is through your website or your social media accounts. Looking at these mediums through the lens of an underrepresented person can provide immense insight into how your gym may initially be perceived.

 

Step Six: Hiring and Retention

Earlier I broke down some of the biggest buzzwords as it relates to creating inviting spaces for more identities, including the idea of diversity. You may have noticed that The Avarna Group prefers to frame these concepts in relation to each other in a way that specifically notes that diversity is not the thing we lead with, but rather an outcome of all the other good work we do. Many times we have seen companies and organizations attempt to solve their diversity problem by hiring "diverse" people, and many times we have seen these organizations thus exacerbate the problem. Consider not only how to bring in staff with different identities and lived experiences, but how to actually keep them there for the long run.

 

Step Seven: Built Environment

Consider the messages that are being sent by your facility’s physical space, or built environment. We are seeing progress in this arena around gender inclusivity, and specifically the neutralizing of bathrooms, locker rooms, etc. Beyond this, consider what images are seen once a customer is inside. Who is being represented and who is not? What sort of culture is perpetuated by what you hang on your walls? If your gym is still in the planning stages, how can its location and layout play a role in welcoming in new communities?

 

Step Eight: Programs

I founded an organization whose soul purpose is to provide outdoor opportunities/programs for people who often self-select out of such spaces because of their identities. As a result of my experiences, I cannot stress enough how significant it is to be able to offer ways for underrepresented identities to come together in a space that was created by them and for them, sometimes exclusively away from other more privileged identities. The next question for your gym is to consider what programs are already offered and how they can be made more truly inclusive for any identity. Sometimes we see this manifest through partnerships.

 

Step Nine: Partnerships

Just like climbing partners, good business partnerships can be hard to come by. However, partnerships offer climbing gyms, and the industry, some of the greatest potentials to continue to shift the paradigm. I would highly encourage your gym to not even consider going down this road until you've done some serious work on the previous eight steps. If you invite a new community or group into your space in hopes that they will light the DEI way for you, you will undoubtedly cause great damage that may set the whole process back years. If you feel you're ready to engage in this work authentically, with humility and initially ratchet back expectations of rapid increases to the bottom line, then my next piece of advice is to think big and outside the box.

 

Step Ten: Rinse and Repeat

Simply put: repeat. There will never be an arrival at perfection as it relates to equity because the conversation continues to evolve along with our needs as humans. It is imperative to understand that this work needs to be constantly reflected upon and reworked in order to remain true and relevant. But don't worry, just like we've learned to grow and get better with new gear or new techniques that help us reach new heights, so to will we learn how to grow and get better with this set of skills and tools.

 

Elyse Rylander Head ShotAbout Elyse Rylander

Elyse holds a B.A. in Communication Arts, Gender Studies, and LGBT Studies from the University of Wisconsin. She is also a Master of Arts in Adventure Education candidate at Prescott College. Elyse has been an outdoor educator and guide since 2006 and has taken thousands of youth and adults on outdoor adventures across the Midwest, West Coast and Alaska. Elyse founded and currently runs OUT There Adventures and is the co-organizer of the LGBTQ Outdoor Summit.

 

Tags:  climbing culture  company culture  diversity  workplace diversity 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Making Training Fun: Incorporating games to meet youth training goals

Posted By Bix Firer and Pat Brehm, Monday, November 19, 2018
Youth Training Games

Meeting the learning objectives of beginner climbers in youth climbing programs can be a challenge. Varying ability levels and learning styles of youth climbers can make it difficult to structure programming in a way that keeps everyone engaged and allows them push their own abilities. To make matters worse, young climbers often come to us after their school day and are not ready for more instruction. That’s where group games come in.

 

Creative group games can be an effective way to engage young climbers and teach challenging concepts to groups of beginner climbers. Building games into the structure of youth climbing programming can also have the ancillary benefits of fostering a culture of fun and learning, helping with systems of group management, and allowing students to challenge themselves.

 

Using principles of experiential education and intentional facilitation, it is possible to take virtually any game, draw out targeted learning concepts, and guide climbers to learning goals all while creating an engaging, challenging, and fun experience for climbers.

 

Here’s how we, at Headwall Group, train climbing coaches to approach this process using one of our favorite examples.

 

In Preparation for Any Activity

Answer the following questions:

  • What? What is our tool for teaching? Games work best when named because young climbers connect ideas to actions. When we name an activity, we give a reference point for our climbers. For example: “Remember the way we practiced footwork while playing the tag game? Use that same technique here.”
  • Why? Why are we playing this game; what are the targeted concepts/skills?
  • Who? What do we know about this group? What are the ages/skill level(s) of this group?
  • Where? What equipment and space is necessary to play this game?
  • How? What are the logistics for game play? Preparation is key; have a plan for setting up, explaining, and managing game play. Have a plan for debriefing. Prepare questions designed to pull out key concepts.

 

How to Facilitate the Game

Three components to facilitating for each game:

  1. Prepare
    • Explain the objective and the rules. Be VERY clear about what is expected of climbers. Introduce the targeted skill. Check for their understanding.
  2. Game Play
    • Signal the beginning of the game. Engage in the process with the climbers. Try to refrain from giving too much feedback/instruction during game play; allow climbers to try and fail/succeed on their own. Pay attention to specific things that can be recalled during the debrief.
  3. Debrief
    • Avoid lecturing; use questions to draw out “ah ha!” moments from climbers. Start broad, narrow the questioning to lead the conversation to the targeted skill/purpose of the activity.
    • Use specific examples of things that happened in the game to emphasize the point. For example: Johnny’s feet cut twice at the beginning of the traverse but by the end, his feet stayed on the wall for every move. What do you think Johnny changed about his approach to improve his footwork?
    • End by drawing out how they will apply what they learned in the game to their approach to climbing.

This framework can be useful for coaches who may be very articulate about climbing concepts but struggle with application. It can also be very useful for coaches who are very skilled in the fundamentals of climbing but struggle with articulating these concepts to newer climbers. Further, this framework makes it possible to modify any game to meet a variety of different learning objectives. Below is an example of a game built out using this framework.

 

Example Game: Beta Map

Main Purpose: Introduce concept of planning, remembering, and executing beta
Skills Practiced: Concentration, footwork, balance, teamwork
Equipment Needed: 16 spot markers (loose climbing holds work well), open floor space, spray wall or traverse area

 

Part 1 Set Up: Create a 4x4 grid on the floor with the spot markers (use climbing holds if available), ideally in the same area as the climbing wall you will be using. Draw the grid and map a sequence from the starting hold to the finish hold; don’t let the climbers see the map.

 

The loose holds are arranged in a grid, only the coach knows the sequence from start to finish.

 

Part 1 Prepare:

  • Explain that the team’s goal is to get everyone from the start hold to the finish hold, using a sequence the coach has pre-determined.
  • The first climber will stand at the start hold and move to any hold that is adjacent to the start hold (front, side or diagonal) and the coach will say “yes” if this was the correct move in the sequence and “no” if it was not.
  • If the climber chooses the correct move, they get to go again, if they do not, they go to the back of the line and the next climber starts from the beginning and attempts to remember the sequence that has already been revealed, and then guesses the next move.
  • If they make an incorrect move or move to a hold out of sequence, their turn is over and they go to the back of the line.
  • Continue until the entire sequence has been discovered and every climber is able to move through the entire sequence.

 

Part 1 Game Play:

  • Specify what you want climbers to do when they are waiting their turn (stand in line, do push-ups, clap every time the active player makes a move. Be creative to keep them engaged).
  • Give the team as much time as it takes to uncover the sequence.
  • Try to notice strategies being used, things they are doing well, and things they could do better.
  • Provide positive feedback but stay hands-off as much as possible.

 

Part 1 Debrief:

  • Was it easy or difficult to remember every move in the sequence?
  • What strategy did you use to remember the sequence?
  • How did your teammates help you reach your goal?
  • How do you think this relates to climbing?
  • How will this become more challenging when on a climbing wall?

 

Part 2 Prepare:

  • Explain that they will now attempt the same goal, but on the climbing wall this time.
  • Encourage them to be thinking about their strategy as they play because they will be discussing it following the game.

 

Part 2 Game Play:

  • Using the same rules, play the game on the climbing wall. Prepare the sequence ahead of time. The moves in the sequence should be attainable for all climbers in the group.
  • Provide encouragement and make sure all climbers are staying engaged.
  • When first playing the game, use open feet. To increase the difficulty, feet can be made “on” or “off in sequence.
  • Focus on the targeted skill – don’t worry about coaching for footwork if the targeted concept is deciphering beta.

 

Part 2 Debrief:

  • Was this easier or more difficult than playing the game on the ground?
  • Was remembering the sequence difficult? What made it difficult?
  • How can remembering beta help you when you are working on a route or boulder problem?
  • How do you support your teammates when they are having a hard time figuring out the beta on a climb?

By using the Prepare → Game Play → Debrief structure and applying games to a climbing practice, coaches can engage a large group in the process of learning targeted skills, while being certain young climbers are having fun.

 

Do you have creative games that you use to teach skills? We would love to hear them. Leave your ideas and feedback in the comments section below. You can also reach out to us directly at info@headwallgroup.com.

 

Bix Firer and Pat Brehm Head ShotAbout the Headwall Group

The Headwall Group distills the lessons learned as educators and leaders working in dynamic and high risk environments and brings them to youth-serving organizations. The Headwall group provides trainings, consultation, and curriculum development services that are rooted in our experience as outdoor experiential educators for climbing gyms, summer camps, and schools.

 

The Headwall Group was founded by Bix Firer and Pat Brehm. Bix Firer (MA, University of Chicago) is currently the Director of Outdoor Programs at College of Idaho and has worked as a wilderness educator, trainer, facilitator, and experiential educator for over a decade. Pat Brehm works as a professional organizational trainer and has spent his career as a climbing coach, facilitator, and outdoor educator.

 

Tags:  coaching  youth training 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Retention Strategies to Reduce Employee Turnover

Posted By Amanda Ashley, Monday, November 19, 2018
How to Reduce Employee Turnover

This month, the US Bureau for Labor and Statistics reported that 3.6 million employees voluntarily quit their jobs in September 2018. Every employee that voluntarily quits costs an employer, on average, 16% of their annual wage. And to make matters worse, high turnover rates come with high replacement and training costs, decreased efficiency of all employees, and ultimately decreased profit. When turnover happens, businesses lose experienced staff and endure negative impacts to the bottom line. This could mean bad news for you and your business.

 

These statistics indicate that the issue of employee turnover is a challenge that many businesses face. As a result, turnover is widely researched and studied, which means that you don’t have to guess why your employees are quitting. You can focus instead on implementing new workplace strategies and policies to avoid the most common turnover pitfalls and retain your most valuable staff.

 

Define and Share Your Culture

When considering the culture of your gym, you should ask yourself, “What does my gym stand for and how does our leadership and staff treat our customers and each other? In a business context, culture is defined as the values and principles that support the management structure. How you manage your gym determines the behaviors and actions of the daily work practices of the staff. In short, culture is your gym’s personality.

 

Columbia University research shows that a culture of productivity, respect, pride, and trust is an important indicator of job satisfaction and reduced turnover. If you haven’t defined your gym’s culture, work together with your staff to create one, but don’t roll out a list of changes and expect your culture to change overnight. Create values and implement small changes over time that support the vision you have for your gym and brand.

 

Hire Smart

Retention starts before employees are hired or ever pull a shift. An article published by the American Economic Association says that how prospective employees find the jobs you have available depends on the economic climate, current job market, geographic concentration, and the wages your gym offers. In a competitive job market, it can feel impossible to find qualified staff, but how you hire can have a profound impact on reducing turnover.

 

During the interview process, you can determine who is the best match for your business. Traditionally the interview process gives employers a chance to learn about a prospective employee’s personality, skills, and abilities, and that’s a good place to start. But the interview is also the time to be transparent about your culture, what the job duties are, and learn about the prospect’s goals and expectations.

 

Hiring and Interviewing Checklist

  • When you are hiring new employees, you should have a written job description that outlines the duties and expectations of the position you are hiring for. Be sure the job description is readily available for posting and sharing to the appropriate job boards, email lists, and professional networks.
  • Define your interview process from start to finish. For instance, what is the format and sequence of the interview process? Do you check references? (You should.) Do you have a standard set of questions you ask? (You should.) Ensure all staff members involved in the interview process are aware of their role, the hiring timeline, and the expectations for the new employee before kicking off interviews with potential new staff.
  • Ensure the content of the interview clearly states the requirements of the job to the prospective employee, such as: “In a four hour shift; you will spend an hour sanitizing rental shoes, and two hours vacuuming chalk dust off of the floor.” Consider offering prospects the opportunity to shadow an employee in their expected role so they will have a realistic expectation of the type of work they will be doing.
  • Communicate your gym’s culture during the interview. High quality applicants will seek out high quality employers, and having a well-defined culture is a large contributor to their decision-making process.
  • Ask prospective employees about their specific goals and timelines during the interview. Answers to questions like, “Where do you see yourself in 6 months?” will give you more information about your new hires than asking where they see themselves in 5 years.

Developing a standard operating procedure for hiring will require an up-front time investment, but these efforts will help offset the potentially devastating costs of turnover by making the hiring process more efficient and effective.

 

Train, Train, Train

Just the same way that you progressively and consistently train your gym clients, you should also be training your new employees. Never assume that your employees know how to perform their job duties until they’ve been trained on how to do their job, you have checked off the skills they’ve learned, and you have asked if they have any questions. Having a training protocol in place is an important part of building a strong team in your gym, as research shows that untrained workers change jobs more frequently. When staff are trained properly they are not only more productive in their role, they also have an increased expectation of their role over time, meaning they are more engaged in their work, more cooperative, deliver better service to customers, and are less likely to quit.

 

Meet Basic Employee Needs

When you say it out loud, it sounds pretty obvious, but meeting basic employee needs takes thought and planning. Basic employee needs include offering competitive wages and a schedule that works for your employees.

 

Paying a competitive wage shows your employees that you value and appreciate the work they do. Follow these guidelines to manage your employees:

  1. Provide clear parameters and a consistent schedule for wage raises. Communicate this information to new hires, and work with them to set goals and expectations for the first evaluation cycle. You should incentivize good performance with rewards such as raises, more hours, or growth pathways, and deter poor performance with negative consequences, such as reduced hours, probation, or termination.
  2. When you near the end of the first evaluation cycle, remind your employees to prepare for their first evaluation meeting.
  3. When you reach the end of the first evaluation cycle, sit down with your staff one-on-one to discuss their performance. Revisit the goals and expectations that were set at the start of the evaluation cycle. Follow through on the commitments made with the rewards/consequences established at the start of hire. Don’t be afraid to ask for their feedback on your performance as a manager and their experiences working for your company.
  4. Set expectations and goals for the next evaluation cycle and update the rewards/consequences accordingly.

If you tell a new hire that in six months you will review their pay and consider a raise, make sure you follow through. Working a job without a pay raise can leave employees feeling as though they are working a dead-end job with no growth, and no one wants to work a dead-end job.

 

Implementing a schedule that works for staff can be a great benefit and can be good for your business. Cornell University research shows that when flexible schedules are implemented in businesses; retention goes up and absenteeism goes down. Flexible scheduling can take many different forms depending on the roles your staff have at the gym: split-shifts, compressed work week or a results-only work environment. If you still publish a rotating schedule, your goal should be to have it forecasted at least 2-3 weeks out.

 

Have Clearly Defined Career Paths

Just as you probably have a strategic growth plan for your business, you should be able to define opportunities that you can offer your employees. A career path is an opportunity for employees to develop their skills and advance in your business. Offering your employees a career path shows employees that as you are growing your business, you are also investing in them and in their success. There may not be many employees that want to make a career out of scanning member cards at the front desk, but they may be interested in routesetting, operations, marketing, event management, business development, coaching, or program management. Columbia University reports that businesses that promote from within benefit from lower turnover and more productive employees. When outlining career paths, remember that your business will benefit from committed employees who are given opportunities to develop their own careers.

 

Putting It All Together (PIAT)

Hiring and keeping great employees takes preparation and planning. If you haven’t already created a human resources department you might feel at a disadvantage, but you can still re-evaluate hiring practices. As smaller businesses pay a higher cost for turnover, it’s worth the time and investment to develop a plan for how you want to manage your human resources. Putting it all together can be a challenge, but the investment will be worth the payback of retaining employees who not only represent your brand but help to grow your business. Make this process manageable by tackling one task at a time:

  • Define your culture and outline values and principles.
  • Standardize your interview process and create written job descriptions.
  • Evaluate and incentivize employee’s performance consistently and regularly.
  • Schedule regular trainings to keep staff engaged.
  • Implement pay increases and offer flex scheduling.
  • Develop career opportunities as your business grows and your employees develop skills.

 

Amanda Ashley Head ShotAbout Amanda Ashley

Amanda Ashley is a writer, climber, and a climbing mom. From her early days spent training on the musty community woody in The School at the New River Gorge to training in modern mega climbing gyms all over the West, she's seen the rise of climbing gyms and the evolution of routesetting up close and personal for the past 20 years. Amanda writes about climbers, routesetting, changes in climbing movement and performance, and the climbing industry. Amanda's work has appeared in Climbing Magazine, Climbing Business Journal, and the Utah Adventure Journal.

 

Tags:  company culture  employee engagement  employee turnover  human resources  leadership  management  staff retention  staff training 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

The Dirtbag Dilemma: Evaluating Van Life on Gym Property

Posted By Marley Jeranko, Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2018
Van Life at Climbing Gyms

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
Handle Organizational Mistakes

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
Worker Safety in Climbing Gyms

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
How to be a Great Manager

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
Jesse Williams Work at Height

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
Positive Company Culture

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
Climbing Gym Member Acquisition

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)
 
Page 6 of 7
1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7
Membership Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal