Building resilient fitness employees: Exos expands inclusion, mental health, financial health programs

Leadership requires maintaining a delicate balance between business acumen and people skills. The people skills that are most important in the post-pandemic world involve a lot of human resources management – in the form of caring about employees and their experiences, building resources to meet their needs, and recognizing that there isn’t an “easy button” for helping team members approach life’s challenges.

Fitness industry employees have taken an especially hard hit during a time of lockdowns, social distancing, and fear of the unknown. Any personal battles they’re facing – either pre-existing or as a result of these factors – have been amplified by financial hardships and stress. It’s time for fitness industry leadership to step up and provide the mental and financial health resources employees need.

Support begins with a strong local team

Exos team member support has evolved to globally replicate best practices developed and implemented by forward-thinking fitness center leadership, and the process continues. Every day, fitness professionals, general managers, and performance team members work in tandem to solve staffing and morale challenges. These “boots on the ground” experiences inform operational shifts as the larger organization pivots to the most important business focus of all – providing what our people need, when they need it.

Financial health has been top of mind for everyone in the fitness industry during the pandemic age. Mercy Fitness Center GM Eddy Campbell recognized a need to support part-time service providers at the Edmond, OK, fitness center as the financial impact of the pandemic became more apparent.

“As a personal trainer, I was provided some business management guidance in 2011 that really opened my eyes,” Campbell said. “Managing a training business, recruiting clients, and setting and meeting financial goals is not something that certification teaches you.”

Campbell offered training for all part-time and commission-based service providers at the fitness center at the end of September 2020. He and his leadership team worked with staff members to develop individualized business plans to support their training efforts. Much like a personal training approach to a client’s overall fitness improvement, the plans started with “big idea,” long-term career goals. Campbell then helped the participating trainers, aquatics coaches, and massage therapists set intermediary metrics for career success and develop a plan to hit those monthly, weekly, and daily client recruitment and retention goals.

“It’s been extremely well-received,” Campbell said, adding that his team conducts weekly reassessment sessions with participants to gauge what’s working and adjust. “Those who have implemented their plans have grown their session counts dramatically.”

Aside from helping young part-time employees grow their client base and continue to succeed in their field, Campbell said the business counseling program has improved morale, employee retention, and resilience. It’s been especially helpful for those employees who were struggling with work/life balance.

“Once you have a plan and know how many sessions you need each week to meet your financial needs, you can structure your session scheduling around when you want to work,” he explained. “That’s been really helpful for some of our staff members who are single parents and needed some help balancing the time they spend working and the time they spend with their families.”

Growing values and identity-based support systems

The Mercy Fitness Center approach has yielded holistic mental health improvement, but Exos isn’t stopping there. What the company’s people operations team recognized is that employees also need opportunities to belong. That’s where Employee Resource Groups have become invaluable.

These groups welcome Exos employees – including furloughed and part-time team members – to join others with shared life experiences to become part of a like-minded group of individuals and allies who support their cause. Exos ERGs host regular virtual meetups and discussions specific to the experiences and needs of traditionally underrepresented groups as part of a larger effort to address diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s a movement whose time has come, and has already yielded tangible benefits for employees’ sense of belonging and real employer support.

Bringing together the resources employees need

As an organization, Exos has also continued to add benefits that address employee benefits, mental health, and resiliency:

  • The company has added enhanced Employer Assistance Program (EAP) benefits packages. Communications regularly encourage employees and their families to reach out to EAP counselors any time, day or night, to discuss any mental health or financial concerns. 
  • Employees now also have extended parental leave options to support working caregivers.
  • Exos has added a series of financial health webinars to its employee Homebase platform.
  • Performance training – featuring a focus on building resilience – is now available to all team members as a benefit of employment.
  • Exos university offers personal and professional development workshops throughout the year.
  • Monthly pulse surveys provide opportunities for team member feedback and program adjustment.

These efforts reflect the Exos commitment to supporting its team members and provide a valuable proving ground for similar efforts by other large companies. Many of these programs will continue to grow and develop as Exos integrates employee feedback through its monthly company-wide surveys, leadership powwows, and local check-ins.

“We can’t emphasize enough how important it is for employee retention and business success to provide employee programs that get results,” said Jeff DiBiaso, Exos VP, Community Business. “The entire fitness community is struggling right now from what will be the long-term effects of huge business losses in the last year. The only way to build long-term success is by focusing on the needs of the individual, addressing those needs on a local and organizational scale, and continuing to adjust and invest in valuable team members as a fitness industry.”

“Let’s lift up our people. This has been a tough year, and they need our help.”

Learn more about Exos Community’s approach to fitness center management by visiting