Millennials are Changing the Heart of the Fitness Business (and Every Other Business too)

6 min read


millennials on beach

As a sometimes cranky and aging Gen X’er, I can be quick to judge the Millennials for being different. To be fair, I literally met hundreds of them searching for their dream job when I was the hiring manager for Zen Planner. More often than not, they were convinced they were the right person for the job, regardless of the job for which they were applying. I’d often explain the job they were calling about had been filled, and they’d go on to assure me they’d be the right hire for any open job we had. For a long time, I misinterpreted this assuredness as naivety or a bad case of entitlement.

Now that I’ve been able to spend the last year and a half working closely with Millennials, I’ve come to realize that they are responsible for many of the things that make Zen Planner great. I’m going to walk through a few and then give you tips on managing Millennials in your fitness business.

happy millennials Millennials Care About Customers

Millennials are passionate about customer success. This attribute cannot be underrated. Millennials are known for wanting fun, fulfilling work, but they also want to know their work is significant. In general, they want to make the world a better place. Fortunately for us, our Millennials recognize how important their work is because they are helping our customers transform lives through fitness.

Millennials Will Grow With Your Business

Most of our Millennials joined our team in a customer-facing, service related role. But as Zen Planner has grown, many of them have moved on to other roles within our organization. To date, we’ve promoted more than a dozen Millennials. As I look back, I see what I used to see as over zealous assuredness is an innate strength. Most Millennials don’t expect to have an opportunity handed to them. Instead, they simply want a chance to step up and be leaders.

It’s obviously not feasible to hire everyone in your gym straight into a managerial role, but Millennials don’t expect that. Their exuberantly expressed ambition is not a sign they would be unhappy reporting to someone else at all. When surveyed, Millennials say they would like to be their own boss, which isn’t a surprise. But what is interesting is that they say, when they do work for someone, they want their boss to serve more as a coach or mentor (Forbes). And although it sounds cliché, they really do care about the journey just as much as the destination (Forbes).

Millennials Are the Heart of Our Wonderful Culture

Our company values our culture above almost everything else our Millennials are the heart of our culture. When examining textbook Millennial traits, it’s clear why. They are optimistic and care about each other. They value culture and will be loyal to a company that provides a great one (Forbes). And the most obvious trait? They are tech savvy and constantly innovate.

When surveyed, Millennials say they prefer a collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one, which describes the team-centric way we work at Zen Planner. Moreover, Millennials prefer “work-life integration” to work-life balance, which is pretty much the norm for software companies these days. (Yes, we have a Ping-Pong table, a kegerator and dogs in the office)

How You Can Set Your Millennials Up For Success

In ten years 75% of the workforce will be Millennial (Rowley). That means Millennials are going to be the workforce, so it’s a great idea for everyone to understand what positively motivates this group. Even Millennials managing Millennials should know this stuff.

Here’s what we found sets Millennials up to be their best:

  • Help them find meaning in their work
  • Let them see that what they do is significant
  • If you are managing a Millennial, be a mentor not a “boss”
  • Let them enjoy flexibility whenever possible
  • Give them plenty of opportunity for development
  • Once they demonstrate their competence, let them lead
  • Create and nurture a culture they value
  • Encourage them to have fun at work

We plan days to have fun in office because we know they are critically important but easily forgotten. A good idea is to set a goal to have one planned “fun day” per quarter in your gym to start. In our office we’ve had a #TBT 80-90’s Field Day, International Talk Like Pirate Day, scavenger hunts, BBQs, happy hours, and more.

When it comes to mentoring and career development, we’ve found success in helping our team create individual career development plans. Mangers then work to provide employees with opportunities to develop according to their personal plans. We then use the plans to select team members to fill our upcoming job vacancies.

millennials on beach

This quote from Forbes Magazine sums this all up nicely:

“They’re looking strategically at opportunities to invest in a place where they can make a difference, preferably at a place that itself makes a difference.”

Since we’re all in the business of making lives better through fitness, I’d say the Millennials are the people we want to be leading our charge.

What experiences have you had with Millennials in your gym, school or box?? We’d love to hear what you’ve got to say, so please share your thoughts below.

Check out our latest eBook, Fitness Business Management Time Traps to Avoid. This guide will help you identify which tasks are taking up too much of your time, how to avoid these traps in the future and, most importantly, how creating efficiencies can help you better build relationships with your members.

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Forbes Magazine: What Millennials Want and Why You Should Start Giving it to Them

Jill Rowley in Sales for Life: The Rise of Millennials! Challenges & Opportunities in the Sales Industry

About the Author: Kelli Sweeting

I'm Coach Kelli, a devoted CrossFit gym owner with 15 years of experience managing my facility, along with owning yoga studios and wellness centers. Beyond the fitness world, I have a passion for cooking, cherish moments with my children and family, and find joy in spending time outside. Having experienced the highs and lows, I'm dedicated to leveraging my expertise to help you grow and succeed on your fitness journey.