Fitness Business Tips: Why Happy Employees are Productive Employees

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From the 2014 Health & Fitness Business Expo

On Thursday morning, at the Health & Fitness Business Expo, I had the opportunity to attend the business seminar, Cultivating Greatness in Your Employees and Your Business. This session, presented by Patrick Schwerdtfeger, discussed a simple concept that often goes neglected: happiness. And since happier employees are about 31% more productive than unhappy employees, it’s time we all start paying attention to it.

Understanding What Drives Happiness

To start off, Schwerdtfeger pointed out that the opposite of happiness isn’t anger or sadness, it’s actually boredom. To prove this, he explained that happiness is strongly driven by purpose. There are many models to accompany varying theories around happiness but they all have one thing in common, purpose. Purpose is the highest-ranking level of happiness and is the kind or happiness that can motivate a person to greatness.

Creating Happiness

Schwerdtfeger also spent time discussing the shift in generations and the importance of happiness in the workplace when it comes to Millenials. He identified this generation is larger than Generation X and relatively close to the size of the Baby Boomers meaning, this generation is growing and likely turning into your target market for your services, as well as your future employees. What motivates this generation? If you’ve been paying attention then you know the answer, it’s purpose! But how do you get happy employees?

Summer leapHire Happiness

Happiness is a choice. In fact, only 10% of happiness is determined by outside factors, while 90% is determined by the activities and choices we make. When it comes to hiring your team, it is important to be sure that you are hiring people who are naturally positive. Looking for the characteristics associated with naturally happy people will help you recognize people who tend to be happier by choice. Schwerdtfeger shared the following list of traits that correlate to happier, rock star employees: Outgoing, confident, caring, knowledgable, listener, attractive, passionate, positive and healthy.

Encourage Happiness

Even with the most rigorous hiring process you cannot guarantee happiness. But there are steps you can take to keep your employees motivated and happy.

Be the happy you want to see: The law of State Transfer says that in any interaction there’s an alpha and a follower, and the emotional state of the alpha will transfers to the follower in every interaction. Schwerdtfeger discussed this theory to identify how your employees can change the state of their environment, or your entire fitness business. However, I would like to point out that YOUR presence as the employer and natural alpha will impact your employees and your fitness business.

Empower your employees: When we outlined various models of happiness, autonomy and control were common factors in happiness. Millenials are often tagged as “entitled”, but this could very easily be a misunderstood need of empowerment and purpose.  Do not micromanage your employees. Instead, take the time to give them thorough training upon hire. Clearly articulate the goals and the values of your business. Then, give them a clear role that they can own and be passionate about.

Break the monotony and celebrate: I hadn’t heard this saying until Schwerdtfeger’s presentation, but it is now something I will remember and remind myself of frequently, “Excitement beats romance.” The emotions felt when someone does something exciting far exceeds any of our other emotions. Break monotony by throwing a fun event, either for your employees or at your gym where your employees are involved. Or even better, going back to the previous point on empowerment, allow your employees to have a main role in generating ideas for the event and putting it together.

When the event goes well and your employees are feeling that sense of purpose and happiness that goes with it, celebrate! We are all busy and easily wrapped up in our own day-to-day, but it is valuable to stop and take the time to acknowledge your employees’ individual wins. This will affirm their purpose and continue to engrain the lasting feelings that purpose driven happiness brings.

Eliminating Unhappiness

This section is short and sweet because there’s no avoiding the necessary. You may find after you have implemented the above that you still have bored employees (remember, the opposite of happy is bored). If this is the case your last option may be to let these employees go. Even if the employee has a list of reasons why they are unhappy or items that need to change in order to achieve happiness, the reality is that you can’t wait for milestones of happiness. Schwerdtfeger was clear that these milestones of happiness will never end and as certain requirements are met, new items will emerge and new milestones found.

The idea of letting someone go is uncomfortable and difficult, as it also means shifting workloads and time spent on hiring. Therefore, as Schwerdtfeger said, sometimes it’s better not to call out the elephant in the room. If you have an employee that is not happy, sit down and find out why. This process will not only help you understand the motivating factors behind your employee’s happiness, but it will also allow you to set the expectations you have for your employees and what they can do better to meet them.

The topic of happiness and how it directly impacts a health and fitness business is intriguing and motivating. Schwerdtfeger was able to share his knowledge as well as several sources he cited during his presentation. For more insight into the theory of happiness and purpose check out:

• “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. View Simon’s TED Talk.
• “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor. View Shawn’s TED Talk.


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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Kinnick Wheaton

Kinnick Wheaton, Senior Marketing Manager
Zen Planner

Kinnick is Zen Planner’s Senior Marketing Manager. When she’s not at her local CrossFit® box, she enjoys spending time cooking all kinds food and hitting up a sunny patio for some quality time with friends.

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