4 Reasons On-Site Fitness Centers Have Become Key Recruiting Tools in the Struggle for Talent

It’s no secret: Today’s employers are struggling to recruit top talent. Current government statistics tell us the U.S. employment rate was 4.1 percent in November. That’s down by more than half from its peak of 10.2 percent in October 2009. Meanwhile, a large portion of the workforce will be retiring in the next 15 years. By 2030, every Baby Boomer will be 65 or older, which means a full 18 percent of the U.S. population will be at retirement age (according to Pew Research Center population projections). That’s quite a bit of people exiting the workforce — and many jobs left to fill.

Bottom line: There just aren’t going to be enough good people to fill all the open roles in the next 10 to 15 years.

And that’s a big-time problem for today’s modern businesses.

Unique Benefits

How are organizations tackling this challenge? Many are offering unique employee benefits to attract and retain the best employees.

For example, Starbucks offers full tuition reimbursement for its employees through Arizona State University. IKEA offers four months of parental time off to full- and part-time employees with at least one year experience at the company. And Scripps Health offers pet insurance for employees’ cats and dogs.

And, increasingly, companies are offering on-site fitness centers as a key employee perk. According to a 2017 survey of HealthFitness clients, 92 percent of company HR leaders said their on-site fitness centers helped their organization stay competitive.

One HR leader said, “Amenities such as our fitness center help us attract and retain top talent for our organization.” Another leader said, “Our on-site fitness center is an attractive employee perk.”

Why Employees Love On-Site Fitness Centers

Why are these on-site fitness centers such a great employee benefits? And why are they turning out to be especially valuable as recruiting tools? Four big reasons come to mind.

A more personal touch is what employees really want.

According to research conducted by HealthFitness in partnership with The Connell Group between 2015 and 2016, 75 percent of employees say a personal touch is important in their health, wellbeing and fitness program. That means employees are seeking access to live experts who are credible, engaging, easy to access and provide one-on-one support for their specific needs. Corporate fitness centers meet this need directly by not only offering a space to exercise but a place where employees can work with coaches and fitness consultants to develop individualized plans to meet their unique health needs.

Convenience matters.

That same research found that 40 to 45 percent of employees who are offered an on-site fitness facility access choose to participate largely due to the convenience, inviting environment and low- or no-cost membership. After all, it’s much easier to get a workout in if you only have to travel two floors down on the elevator versus 10 miles in rush-hour traffic. Convenience is everything for today’s over-booked employee.

Movement matters, too — especially when helping reduce workplace injuries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 3 million on-the-job injuries occurred in 2016. Last year there were 1,153,490 days-away-from-work cases due to injuries reported with an average of eight days away from work to recuperate. And, last but certainly not least, workplace injuries cost employers nearly $60 billion a year. Those are some staggering numbers. And employers are beginning to realize that movement matters and that muscular imbalances can lead to pain, injury and decreased movement functionality.

Definitions of fitness are evolving.

Ten years ago, if you asked employers to define fitness when it came to their employees’ health, they probably would have spoken mostly about physical health. But, in 2018, employers are increasingly looking at employee health from a whole-person view, recognizing its physical, social, emotional, financial and environmental dimensions. And on-site fitness centers have evolved with that changing definition of fitness to address more of these dimensions. For example, employees can now get a workout (on the treadmill), refocus (via a yoga class) and refresh (with a tai chi class)—all at the modern on-site fitness center.

As the struggle for talent continues, I think we’ll see more companies introducing corporate fitness centers as a key way to recruit top employees.

Determining If an On-site Fitness Center is Right For You

Think the days of the company gym have gone by the wayside? Think again. Amid the boom in individualized fitness apps and technology, many organizations are also doubling down and expanding their use of on-site fitness centers. Here’s why.

On-site fitness centers establish connections. Our research recently found that 75 percent of employees seek personalization and personal touch in their employer’s well-being offering. These are the driving factors for participation for many employees, and in many cases an on-site fitness center can better facilitate personal connections among colleagues and center staff that both enhance company culture and help employees work together in making progress on their health goals.

On-site fitness centers are personalized and convenient. On-site fitness centers also make it easier for employees to build healthy activities into their day—which we know is crucial to achieving health goals. One of our clients, University of Louisville, has made its on-site fitness center a hub for the entire well-being program—“Get Healthy Now.” The center acts as a place where employees and their families can make progress on their goals—whether they be physical, mental, financial or otherwise. The university offers a free campus shuttle to and from the 22,000-square well-being center so that all employees can access the center’s offerings, which include not only workout classes, but also health risk assessments and personal coaching, mental health and mindfulness workshops, smoking cessation classes, and workshops that support legal, social and financial development. Coupled with its online health management tool, employees have anytime access to support for every dimension of their health.

On-site fitness centers help build a meaningful culture of health. By including live, on-site offerings as part of the mix, organizations can more directly engage employees and help to build a culture of health that meets employees where and when they need support. An on-site well-being center can also be a creative way to engage an employees’ family and the local community. For example, the University of Louisville makes their on-site fitness center available to all employees for free, and only charges $10/month for spouses. Additionally, the university offers free health screenings to employees and their spouses, and hosts health events for the community throughout the year. A centralized hub for well-being creates opportunities to build a more meaningful culture of health for employees and their families.

On-site fitness centers can generate healthcare savings. Organizations are seeing real results from investing in their employees’ health. The University of Louisville’s “Get Healthy Now” program includes live, on-site offerings as well as virtual resources to support employees—a mix that is allowing the program to reap a 74 percent participation rate. Employees who participate in the university’s program experience decreased health risks and reduction in healthcare claims costs. Overall, program participants see an average claims savings of $1,300, which has resulted in an estimated $4.3 million in reduced claims spending for the university. The university’s team has found that for every dollar invested in its wellness program, $7 is generated in healthcare savings.

I am proud to work closely with many thoughtful organizational leaders who see their company’s fitness center as more than a place to lift weights and sweat the stress of the workday away. They understand it has a much bigger potential to be a hub for well-being—not only for employees, but for the community. And they also understand that a successful well-being program takes action on employees’ desires and needs, and provides the tools and resources they need to make progress on their goals. Given the increase in remote work, heavy travel schedules, and general desire among employees for flexibility, organizations must also layer in health support resources that can be made available anytime, anywhere—whether that means a fitness tracker and application, an online tool with assessments and plans, virtual fitness classes, or all of the above. Employees have made it clear that they want both live and virtual resources to make progress in their well-being goals. And, when done right, we will all reap the benefits.

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