The Black Belt Business Podcast

You Must Invest in Your Employees: Here’s Why

Feb 14, 2024

Whether you’re hiring quickly on the fly or fortunate to take the time to vet and hire for a thoughtfully-filled position, how you approach who you bring on matters.

We’re not saying they need to have all the perfect qualifications; we’re saying think longer term, as an investment. Maybe someone hasn't had as much experience, but they show really strong character and an ability to persevere through challenges – perfect qualities for your martial arts academy. 

This person makes a much better investment than someone with decades of experience and a cocky attitude. You can learn specific skills and grow used to nearly anything, but changing the way you operate in the world is a lot harder. 

A clog in the company’s culture can ultimately disrupt more than help, so if you have somebody with a ton of expertise but only one way of doing things (their way) you may be better off without them. Ultimately, you want people on your team who share the common goal of making the academy a better place.

Rather than trying to hire as many black belts as you can to teach your classes, who may all have different ways of doing things and varying perspectives on “what’s right,” challenge yourself to grow your leaders from within. These individuals will have likely come up through the academy themselves, understand the culture, and truly care about giving back.

Make sure you’re building your staff up the best you can and getting the most out of your investment.This means offering continuing education opportunities, leaving the door open for growth discussions, and creating opportunities for them to excel. 

A study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management shows that companies which prioritize employees' professional development programs experience a 30% higher retention rate compared to those that do not. 

Another study shows that employees who see their career progressing in a company are 20% more likely to remain over time. Training opportunities are also a way to keep employees engaged, with engaged employees 87% less prone to seek opportunities elsewhere.

For example, if you have an upper belt with some extra time who has been asking about teaching, maybe you could add a new time slot to the schedule. It doesn’t have to be a huge change. Pick a time when you already have someone at the front desk and an open mat. We all have quieter times of the day at the academy with sometimes only one class in session. Take advantage of the extra mat space and potential!

At Easton, whenever an employee wants to level up with us or we have a new hire, we run that person through a screening process we call GWC to make sure we’re investing in the right person. We do this especially when a position opens up internally and we consider who, from our existing staff, would best and most symbiotically fit this opportunity. 

GWC stands for Get it, Want it, Capacity for it. Simply put:

Get it: Do they "get" our mission and values? (Most importantly, do they uphold both?)

Want it: Do they want this position? (You may know a great coach looking for more opportunities, but they don’t like kids. It wouldn't make sense to make them your lead kids coach.)

Capacity for it: Can they do it? Do they have the time, ability, and skills to do the job? (And if they don’t have the skills, do they have the capacity to learn them?)

With GWC as our compass, if someone doesn't fit even one of these, we won't hire or promote them. 

Having a process like this in place will ensure that individuals not only understand and embrace your mission and values, but also genuinely want the position and have what it takes. 

Expanding capacity

There are plenty of other ways you can help your staff improve their skills and build their professional tool kits both on and off the mat. Some people might worry that if you develop your employees too much, they’ll get “too good for you” and leave to find other opportunities.

This is simply not true. Over the years, you will inevitably part ways with people on your team, but far more will stay because you give them opportunities they can’t get at other places. Many of our staff have stuck with us because we ask them what they need from us to stay.

Is your longest-running front desk person really wanting to coach instead of sell memberships? Does one of your coaches really not want to leave, but, unless they start making more money, will need to find a different job? 

Sometimes people will volunteer this information, but if you haven’t created a safe and open space for discussion, they may just make decisions under an assumption that you won’t help. Talk to your staff and see if there’s something more they’d like to do for the academy that would help them level up in their own lives, while also filling a need within the academy.

Do a couple of your coaches have a special area of focus that they’d like to offer a series of small group classes around? Allowing them to create their own temporary mini-class will both give them the opportunity to gain that experience for the future, but it also helps them to create an additional channel of income - something everybody needs. 

Not only will they value you more, but even if they move on, they’ll always fondly reflect on the academy that brought them up and willingly give back their expertise where they can. Similarly, if you have a First Impressions Specialist who has a good eye, a penchant for writing and a creative mind, see if they’d have any interest in helping your academy run its Instagram or doing some marketing work. 

You can even take it in a fun direction! Have a quarterly meeting together with your entire team and learn something new together each time – like disc golf or archery. Pay them to read a book that’s really important to your mindset for the academy. When you start thinking about people in terms of their potential, every day presents new opportunities to help them grow!

If you’ve provided a positive and supportive environment, chances are that even when they level up with new skills, they’ll stick with you. After all, if everything about the academy is fueling them physically, socially, financially and even creatively as they grow, why would they leave? You believed in them, and they now believe in you.

“They don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care,” says Coach Emma, one of Easton’s Kids BJJ coaches on the importance of connecting with people to help them improve.

As you create all of these opportunities, sometimes as unique as the individual who sought it, over time, you will also see your academy change and improve. The new skills that everybody brings to the table serve only to enhance the whole, making it a cleaner, more organized, connected and thriving community.

Your martial arts academy is a place of learning and growth. As a leader, the more you create space for your staff to level up, the more they’ll also trust you and build a deeper relationship with the academy.

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