Performance Evaluation Criteria for Personal Trainers: An Analytical Hierarchy Process Approach

Article excerpt

Modern fitness centers provide many different services, and in addition to the basic software and hardware services, free parking, personal rental lockers, childcare service, multifunction cards, and more may be offered. Increased public interest in health and fitness has led to greater demand for personal trainers and training programs to meet the specific goals of different individuals, such as weight loss, muscle gain, physical therapy, and so on. Personal trainer courses also bring in significant revenue for fitness centers that in the past have operated through income generated by membership fees and monthly cleaning expenses, personal trainers now provide members with the opportunity to use more than basic gym services. For example, the World Gym in Taiwan charges US$330 for six one-on-one courses, and US$782 for 16 courses (Tai & Chiu, 2007). In addition, personal trainers achieved market sales of US$260,000 per month at the Tungling Branch of California Fitness Centers in 2004. As this branch employed approximately 100 personal trainers, this put the value of each trainer at around US$2,600 per month. The CEO of World Gym in the United States commented that personal trainers brought in one third of the firm's total gross profits, further highlighting the importance of instructors to fitness centers (Tai & Chiu, 2007).

This year, Time magazine listed fitness instructors as one of the 20 hottest occupations in the world, and it was noted that, at the time, there were approximately 400,000 personal trainers in the United States alone, with the number expected to rise. This trend is also apparent in Taiwan, where health clubs and fitness centers have begun aggressive promotion of the services of personal trainers (Wu, 2006).

One well-known institute called FACE TO FACE conducted a survey of fitness center members and found that 25% expressed an interest in using a personal trainer. Personal trainers are required to fulfill many different roles, including those of teacher, trainer, consultant, supervisor, supporter, nutritionist, dietician, and lifestyle management consultant (Chen, 2006). Sessions with personal trainers can be priced at US$50-60 per hour, and the quality of the service can significantly influence the reputation of fitness centers (Tai & Chiu, 2007).

Evaluations of their work can be used by personal trainers as references for pay raises and promotions. However, inappropriate evaluations of personal trainers may lead to a wide array of problems ranging from minor issues such as unqualified instructors, a mismatch between clients' needs and personal trainer courses, and a lack of emphasis on the service content, to major problems such as instructors' distrust and disappointment in the club's productivity, and a loss of morale that leads to a decrease in service quality and quantity, and, thus, a lowering of the profit margin of the health club. Consequently, it is essential for health clubs and fitness centers to design an effective personal trainer performance evaluation system so that those clubs and centers can ensure that they are providing the best possible service. Therefore, the main goal in this research was to develop an effective performance evaluation system that can improve service quality as well as being fair to instructors, and that will increase the demand for personal trainers, and thus, revenue of fitness centers.

According to a review of existing literature, no reliable methods of personal trainer performance evaluation are currently in use in Taiwan. Most of the related academic studies discuss the profile, certification system, professional abilities, training efficacy, and general market position of a personal trainer (see e.g., Chuang, 2000; Jeng, 2003; Jiang, 2005; Ke & Yang, 2002; Lin & Shu, 2005; Wu, 2006; Yeh, 2003). Many of the researchers mentioned here analyzed the abilities of personal trainers and related market developments, and found evidence of the stability and growth potential of the profession. …