The shortage of skilled workers is a major issue in the fitness industry. The way we work and lead as well as employment biographies are changing. What each individual and employer can do to become fit for the future.
 
« Every cloud has a silver lining », that also goes for the Covid-19 pandemic. For many of us, the period of lockdown forced a different rhythm to the work-life balance with prolonged periods of working from home. As a result, many people had time to think about their jobs and reflect on how happy they were with their career, company or boss, and in some cases, they realised they were not as satisfied as they would like and decided to change their employment and career.   
 
We have seen in the last months, after the reopening of our economies, that many companies have lost workers and have problems finding good staff. Employment in many countries is at a historic low.   
 
Education, work, retirement: does that still apply?
 
Many of us have grown up on the traditional notion of a three-stage approach to our working lives: going to school to get an education, followed by a working life of 40+ years and then retirement. But this well-established pathway is beginning to collapse. Life expectancy is rising, retirement age is rising, final-salary pensions are vanishing, inflation corrected state pensions are no longer a certainty and increasing numbers of people are juggling multiple careers.   
 
Whether you are 18, 38 or 58, you will need to do things very differently from previous generations and learn to structure your life in completely new ways.
 
A 100-year (working) life
 
Drawing on the unique pairing of their experience in psychology and economics, Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott offer in their book « the 100 year life » a broad-ranging analysis as well as a raft of solutions, showing how to rethink your finances, your education, your career and your relationships and create a fulfilling 100-year life. A must read for all. 
 
I have taken some salient points from their book and believe they are very relevant for all of us in the fitness sector. Here we go.
 
Tips for workers
 
  1. Assume you’ll be working till 70. In many European countries the official pension age used to be 65 or even less, but this is going up as our life expectancy is increasing and at the same time society cannot afford to pay for this system of early retirement. Pension systems are no longer well-funded so each individual will have to take more care of a financially sound old age. This means that people have to take initiatives for securing financial life-long stability already from the start of their career. Another factor is the financing of the education of your children, where government grants and financing are expected to be reduced in the future and more of the financial burden will be placed on the student or parents.
  2. A diverse professional network enables you to change more quickly. It used to be normal that people worked their entire career for the same company and pretty much in the same kind of job. That is and will increasingly no longer be the case. We all need to prepare for regular changes in our career from one type of job to another; we all need to be more flexible. People who are good in dealing with change have a habit of interacting regularly with people who are very different from themselves.  If you do that you can imagine yourself more easily in different working environments. It helps to be active on professional platforms like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Indeed.
  3. Focus on immaterial things like your health and your social network. It should be no surprise for those of us working in the health & fitness sector; The older we are the more important it becomes to be « healthy”. Make sure to be physically and mentally fit and surround yourselves with good friends to spend time with. It has been proven in research many times that people with strong social ties and continued or life long  « intellectual » challenges have less chances to develop dementia.
  4. Invest in the right skills. Think about the skills you would like to develop, what do you focus on as your personal « USP » or unique skills position…The labour market of the 21st century will see many jobs disappear through automation and robotization. Therefore, habits like curiosity, creativity and the ability to analyse complex issues become much more important, as will good people- skills. Learn to be comfortable in working with people from different cultures and walks of life. And for your professional fitness expertise, read trade magazines and expand your know how by visiting and training at competitive clubs and learn from similar « hospitality » industries like restaurants and hotels; expand your horizons beyond your own company.
 
Lifelong learning
 
Summarising, we have to prepare ourselves for a life that is full of changes. But how do you do that? A recent study by McKinsey showed that is it indispensable that we spend half a day per week learning new things. Give yourself time to read, follow blogs of people you find of interest and attend webinars, tradeshows and conferences.
 
Tips for organisations
 
  1. Encourage self reflection. Leaders should facilitate an environment where everyone spends regularly time on self reflection in order to realize their full potential. The question should be; « What am I good in and how can I optimize my contribution to the success of the company ». Through self-reflection people realize that they can do more than they originally thought. That will lead in many cases to people wanting to take on more responsibility and the willingness to make decisions. And to facilitate life-long learning and development of your staff, make sure you create a budget for it and install an active company- wide talent development program.
  2. Be patient, transformation takes time. If people have been used to certain ways of working for decades, they will not overnight take on more responsibility. Realize yourself that change can take years and will demand a different approach from you as a leader. From a directive leader you need to become more of a coach and explain the backgrounds and the reasons why for a certain change of direction. This will enable your teams to grow with the process and take responsibility for it.
  3. People who can take big decisions in their private lives can also do that on the work floor. Trust that your people who take big decisions at home, like buying a house or raising children etc., can also take responsibility for big decisions at work. Start tomorrow with giving your people more trust and you will see that this will have a very positive result.
  4. Be transparent. If you decide to give more responsibility to your teams, make sure they have the necessary information to assist them in making the big decisions. With financial decisions managers often think that their teams do not have the insights. Make sure therefore that you educate your teams on these financial matters so they have the correct insights to participate.
 
Use the phase of renewal
 
Conclusion: The fitness industry is experiencing at the moment some difficulties in fulfilling key positions, the job market is tight… my advice is to take advantage of the current “re-thinking” phase and implement the above mentioned tips in order to become more futureproof, as individuals and as companies!
 
Herman Rutgers, 2 November, 2021
 
The inspiration for this article came from the book : « The 100-year life «  by  London Business School Professors Lynda Gratton & Andrew Scott –   Bloomsbury publications 
 
 
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Nov 24, 2021 By Pauline Joskin