Business · Yoga

8 Tips for Studio-Teacher Retention + Loyalty

This blog goes out to all of my studio owners out there.  If you want the best studio in your area, you have to attract, fill and retain teaching talent. Pretty simple, right? Not always.  Most teachers pay their bills by packing their schedule with classes taught at any number of studios.  While I don’t think that’s the best way to build a sustainable business as a yoga teacher, that’s for another blog post entirely.  For a studio to be off the charts successful, hell even if your goal is just to operate out of the red,  loyalty is essential for your success. I’m not talking about the loyalty of your students, right now I am talking about the loyalty of your teaching staff.

Let me take a moment here, take it back to my law school days and set up a little hypothetical:  

I stole and edited this image from http://musicorspaceshuttle.com/tag/indie-rock/
I stole and edited this image from http://musicorspaceshuttle.com/tag/indie-rock/

You’re the owner of Rockin Yoga Studio and you just hired Candace to teach a Vinyasa class. You didn’t give her the best time slot, but she’s new and of course she needs to prove herself to get the killer class times, right?  You decide to pay her a flat rate and a per head bonus for every additional student over a certain number, let’s say 10.   You verbally agree to the terms of “employment”, add Candace to the schedule and website.  Candace also teaches at Yoga Studio B and Yoga Studio C, both about 5 miles away in different directions.  You have no idea what the other studios pay Candace.  Candace is socially active in your town and very friendly. She can be seen chatting up strangers at the local health foods, store, juice bar and even Target.  You have no idea what Candace gets paid to teach at Studio B and Studio C.  You DO know that if she’s chatting up potential yoga students, you want them coming to your Rockin Yoga Studio.

How are you going to ensure that Candace is loyal to your Rockin Yoga Studio and not Studio B or Studio C?  You could make her sign a non-compete clause stating she won’t teach within a 20 mile radius of your Rockin Yoga Studio, but that’s not very yogic is it? You definitely don’t want to be known as the Rockin Yoga Studio owner asshole, right?  Remember, we need to come from a place of abundance, not scarcity.  {if you feel that a non-compete employment clause is the way to go for you, you best sweeten the deal by offering a banging salary, health insurance and retirement 401k options}.

This may sound like a bunch of business mumbo-jumbo, but DO NOT FORGET, you are in fact running a business! It’s essential to focus on hiring strategies, employee development and career succession and planning…even in yoga studios.  Most studios are not well prepared to fill vacancies in leaders of their teaching staff. Many can barely find last minute subs! By employing consistent, studio-wide “talent management programs” at all levels studios can develop effective teachers and ROI (that’s return on investment for the business acronym challenged). So here 8 tips to build studio-teacher retention and loyalty:

Live Your Brand.  This tip is my #1 go to for every question about the business of yoga. for a studio to flourish you need to determine your studio style, tap into your awesome sauce and ensure your studio is living its brand. Make sure the teachers you hire are aware of your studio personality (brand) and will meet its expectations. Do not forget to clearly articulate what your expectations are. If your studio is known for post class tea time, let your teachers know you expect them to mingle with the students after class for at least 20 minutes.  Set expectations so your teachers understand and can live your brand.

Identify the Gaps Will Rockin Yoga Studio be headed into the red if you pull your hamstring and can’t teach for a month or if your star teacher decides to up and move to Taos?  If so, that’s a big red flag.  You need to determine the studio’s current and future leadership needs. Compare those requirements with the current staff. Identify current teacher(s) that may be at risk as well as current teacher(s) that could step up to the plate in times of needs. How is your teaching pipeline, do you have a robust sub list?

Identify Your Teaching Talent It is important to gauge your teacher’s talent beyond the teaching audition to get the job. While you can probably decipher teacher popularity by running your class metrics through MindBody Online, you should also get regular feedback from your students and other staff members. Using this feedback you can develop the talent of your teachers.  By implementing competency modules for your teachers you can identify teaching potential as well as fill deficiencies. You can also implement a mentoring program by teaming up seasoned teachers with the less experienced. Competency modules and mentoring programs can also be used as a performance review, which is essential ensure teachers are keeping your students safe and developing their profession.

Develop Skills Roadmaps – once you have identified your high-potential teachers, develop a skills road map for your future superstar teachers. People learn and develop new skills inside and outside the studio. To support informal learning, you should consider activities such as coaching, rotational assignments, shadowing/mentorships and project (Seva) leaderships. At the core, the very definition of learning should reflect today’s non-traditional learning approaches and incorporate social networking tools into the process.

Staff Development Program To build loyalty and retention, it is essential for studios to give back to their teachers. The majority of studio owners give little thought to staff development and education.  Studio owners tend to be essentially non-linear in their thinking and business planning -they know they have to hire teachers and staff (usually as independent contractors, not full employees) and they see this as an expenditure or cost to their bottom line, when in actuality, their teachers and staff if developed properly are their greatest asset. The ROI on staff development is easily quantifiable.  It includes retention, morale, efficiency, competency and customer satisfaction. (could literally talk for hours about staff development and return on investment, so I’ll save the deeper insight for another blog post).

Career Development  – This is tied directly to the Staff Development Program. Career planning may not be something the average yoga teacher  or studio owner thinks about. We tend to live in the moment and possibly plan our next class, next workshop or next retreat. Thinking about it as a career is a switch that needs to be flipped. In a traditional business setting, research shows that companies that support career planning for their employees earn business benefits in both retention and engagement.  If your studio doesn’t provide employees with career planning, someone else will.  Self-service career planning will help motivate and retain talent by empowering them to generate a view with a career plan.

Develop Retention + Rewards Programs – If there’s one thing every yoga teacher has in common, it’s our insatiable desire to learn more about everything yoga. Every single teacher out there wants to continue to learn and develop their skills, and they’ll move mountains to be able to afford to do so. – offer trainings, workshop scholarships etc. linking pay to performance can be a strong employee motivator (paying per student) , however goal  alignment may hep potential leaders stay focused on what is important for the studio. Recognize excellence in performance with a retention program., base the upside of any bonus potential on the success of both the company and the student.

Create Community – Your studio doesn’t simply serve your students.  If there’s one thing you need to remember, it’s that your studio is also a kula for your teachers and staff. As with any relationship, familial or otherwise, you need to foster its connection. Schedule regular staff meetings.  Implement quarterly staff events and trainings. Give your teachers a reason to be loyal to your Rockin Yoga Studio.

YHC Yoga Teachers Family '10.
YHC Yoga Teachers Family ’10.

You will notice that each of the above tips on building studio-teacher retention + loyalty all build from one another. One grows from the next and each are important. If Candace knew your Rockin Yoga Studio was there to foster her skills as a teacher, was interested in her career development and had her back like a family member don’t you think she’d be pimpin out your Rockin Yoga Studio in Whole Foods instead of Studio B or C?

Do you use any of these strategies for teacher retention? Do they work for you?  I’d love to hear from you!

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