How The Gym Group leveraged recognising a deskless workforce to increase engagement scores by 14%

How The Gym Group uses digital R&R and communications to boost employer branding and retention for a hard-to-reach demographic

The Gym Group breaks down barriers for all who want to start a gym membership by creating an affordable, contract-free gym that is open 24/7. The team strives to support members through every step of their fitness journey throughout its 206 gyms across the UK.

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Number of employees:


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Number of locations:


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Platform features:

Employee benefits, employee wellbeing, recognition and reward, employee communications

The challenge:

With all the great services they were offering gym members, The Gym Group faced the problem of keeping their staff of over 2,200 employees engaged, recognised and in the know. The challenge came from the fact that of the 2,200 employees, 75% of those employees are ‘deskless,’ meaning they are without a company email or even access to a company laptop or tablet and can work at any hour of the day.  

The Gym Group eCardsThe deskless employees are essential talent consisting of fitness trainers who are running fitness classes, performing member services and ensuring things remain clean, safe, and legal, but The Gym Group team did find that this demographic had higher turnover than desired. It was particularly important to find new ways to keep this group engaged and improve their retention. 

When Bradley Martin, Engagement Manager at The Gym Group, joined the organisation, he was tasked with discovering new and better ways to show recognition to employees, even if they weren’t there to receive it in person. Knowing that a platform was the best tool to utilise for creating positive and effective employee recognition, Bradley and the people team went on a search and found the perfect fit for the necessary technology with Reward Gateway.

The approach:

The team understood that they needed to serve the real needs of their employees, and so obtaining employee feedback was critical to the success of their initiatives, especially those that were deskless. What they found was that a majority of their talent located at the gyms were millennials and Gen Z, and these employees preferred things quick and easily accessible, including their communication methods and ways to give and receive recognition.

The Gym Group Wellbeing HubBradley adds

“[Our employees] want a place where they can be informed and be connected, through our smart blogs and our hubs, where they can recognise and be recognised, and a place where they can get some decent perks and some tasty discounts.”

The team also listened to managers to see what they needed to be supportive to employees, and found they would like more guidance with individualised program rollouts. 

So because the ‘core’ is vital in any workout regimen, as it’s the centre of your body, The Gym Group were quick to name its new platform CORE as well. Provided by Reward Gateway, CORE became the platform that offered key opportunities for communication and recognition that showcased the organisation’s values and amazing culture, alongside a full benefits suite and a Wellbeing Centre. Through segmented communications, the team focussed on how best to get the right message to the right person, including how to best support them with FAQs and information on how to successfully kick off their programs with their clients.

By approaching their employee needs like they were customers, The Gym Group came up with quick and accessible appreciation for employees that all connect back to the organisation’s mission and values through cheeky titles and branding. Through the platform, staff can:

Receive recognition - called ‘PBs’ or ‘personal best’ that even managers who may not have always been made aware of now can see and congratulate the employee personally through value-led eCards. 
Earn 'loved up' incentives - where staff members can receive monetary rewards to spend at a wide variety of retailers, including Amazon and hundreds of other leading retailers in the UK.
Share peer-to-peer recognition - where coworkers can send and receive eCards for PBs or for 'you smashed it.'

The results:

The team launched CORE in 2020, a few months earlier than planned due to the immediate need to inform employees that the gyms would be closing soon because of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Immediately, the CORE proved to be a valuable resource, allowing people to stay connected during that time and built a fantastic culture. With administrative permission, the team decided to open up posting to any employee to share what they were doing. And employees were informed of company news that the COO sent out.

The Gym Group PBS

But another great result was employees' embrace of peer-to-peer recognition. Somewhat jokingly, Brad even stated that the organisation has tried to overload the platform, explaining, 

“We wanted to see how many cards we could send to see if we could crash it. Now, we didn’t crash it because the platform works so amazingly. We did manage to send over 1,500 eCards in just one day. That’s 71% of our workforce that managed to be recognised or recognised by someone.”

As time went on, The Gym Group raised the completion of their engagement surveys up to 88% and from those surveys they were able to determine that they have a 14% increase in employee engagement. Because of initiatives like the new CORE platform, The Gym Group

  • Ranks 25 in Glassdoor’s top 50 places to work with
  • Won The Engagement Excellence Awards’ Most Initiative Response to COVID-19 in 2020
  • 69% of employees surveyed in annual engagement survey strongly agree they expect to be working at The Gym Group in the next 6 months

Overall, engagement metrics improved year over year in the areas of recommending The Gym Group as a great place to work (66%, improving by 3%) and that its employees feel energised when doing their job (58%, improving by 7%). 

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