What sort of difficulties will companies be facing in future with their employees? How can these challenges be mastered, and what can studio operators do to help provide solutions? body LIFE author Achim Barth has the answers to these questions.
Two major topics will be playing a key role for German companies in future. There is already an acute shortage of specialists and skilled personnel, and with each passing year, companies are increasingly being confronted with the consequences of demographic change. In light of this situation, I would like to show you the challenges that companies have to face, and present two possible solutions from the occupational health promotion toolbox that can also be helpful for studio operators. Finally, I will conclude by illustrating two trends from the working world that offer you opportunities as studio operators to work with companies to develop innovative solutions and con-cepts.
Underlying conditions: Government pension funds
Even today, people like to refer back to something Norbert Blüm once said: “Government pensions are safe.” In reality, however, experts have been sounding the alarm for a number of years now. Continuously increasing pension payments and declining pension contributions have already combined with a period of low interest rates to create a difficult situation for pension funds. The government agreed on a new pension reform package in summer 2018, according to which a commission was to be entrusted with clarifying the pensions structure from 2025. What is going to happen in 2025? The last cohort of the baby boomer generation was born in 1967, and this generation will be entering retirement from 2025. Birth rates declined sharply from 1968, and even though there were a few slight increases in the early 1990s, the birth rate has been falling continuously ever since. This means that Germany's pension system must either be completely over-hauled in order to satisfy future requirements, or the retirement age must be increased markedly. Most likely, the solution will end up being a combination of a new pension system with an increased retirement age, and this means that company workforces are going to be getting older. Companies have to face up to this situation, and there is no question that the focus is going to be on occupational health management.
Underlying conditions: Shortage of specialists and skilled personnel
Anyone looking for tradespeople in large population centres requires a great deal of patience. The skilled trades are doing everything they can to find apprentices, qualified craftsmen and master craftsmen, and with employees in such hot demand, these companies have to fight to ensure that they do not lose their people to the competition. In addition to good pay, offering additional attractive benefits can be an effective means for fostering em-ployee loyalty. In fact, these attractive offers may even be the decisive factor in an applicant choosing a particular company, rather than their competitors. This is yet another area in which occupational health management can help increase an employer's appeal.
Challenges: Integration of occupational health management concepts
When it comes to occupational health management, large companies in Germany are generally in a good position. Depending on their size, they usually either have their own occupational health management department or work with external agencies and service providers in this area. For most small- to medium-sized enterprises with fewer than approx. 250 employees, however, occupational health management is not even on their radar. In some cases, there is a lack of awareness and/or under-standing of the issue amongst the company management. Frequently, however, there is simply a lack of suitable concepts and products with which to introduce occupational health management and promotion into the company. Standard concepts would not be successful in these companies. As a result, good, time-intensive preparations are necessary to come up with viable and sustainable solutions. This creates a dilemma: companies only have a limited budget for occupational health manage-ment, and the development of a concept is a very time- and cost-intensive process for service providers and fitness studios.
If you are a club operator looking to cooperate with companies, you need to pay attention to sustainability and to the benefits on offer for your partner company. Offering programmes whose sole objective is the generation of cash is not a respectable solution. Your goal cannot be to maximise the money coming in from companies each month while hoping to minimise the number of employees coming to training. This concept will not solve the problems in your partner company, and your collaboration with this company will not function for long. You need to find solutions for your partner company’s problems, even if this means making less money at first. Over the long term, however, this will leave you with companies who are satisfied customers – and who actively recommend you to others. Studios that are only looking out for them-selves will not be successful here.
Possible solutions: National networks
Company fitness in cooperation with a fitness studio – ideally with a company fitness network – offers a good way for companies to enter the field. Networks are a much more attractive option for employees because they do not have to settle for a single regional studio; instead, and depending on their location, they can take advantage of a large selection of clubs. As a result, fitters, sales personnel and travellers can much more effectively take advantage of a company fitness programme. Unfortunately, however, these company networks are also primarily aimed at larger companies who can purchase larger volumes. The result: smaller businesses with ten employees cannot take part. There are also providers that specialise in allowing even the smallest companies with fewer than five employees to access the larger networks, but as stated previously, occupational fitness is a tool for promoting occupational health, and it can only be seen as a first step for a company, even for an SME. One can generally reach 10 to 20 percent of a company’s employees with a company fitness programme – the same percentage, in other words, who would be expected, statistically speaking, to be training in a fitness club already. That means that it is still necessary to find solutions for the rest of the employees, to ensure that occupational health promotion can be pursued sustainably within the company.
Possible solutions: Preventive courses in accordance with Section 20
Old hands in the fitness industry will probably say that preventive courses are nothing new. And they’re right. Studio operators should still offer them, however. Why is this? For one thing, a company is eventually going to ask their tax consultant for advice when it comes to payment, and here the focus will be on one question in particular: does this qualify for the 500-euro allowance? If a company is ready with a concept when this question is asked, they will have cleared an important hurdle. Here too, however, a preventive course can only reach a subset of a company's employees. That means it is still necessary to come up with more far-reaching concepts. A helpful tip: What would be the result of combining the company network with prevention? A preventive course can also serve as an introduction to training in the studio – and can lead directly and seamlessly into free training following the course.
Possible solutions: Nutrition consulting
Nutrition is an ongoing theme. Every day, employees have to prepare their lunches in poorly equipped mini-kitchens or deal with other conditions that are not conducive to preparing food that is compatible with a balanced diet. This offers another area in which clubs can get involved as experts. e.g. by offering workshops on preparing balanced meals even in mini-kitchens or by optimising company canteens. Another possibility here is offering something in combination with a Section 20 course on nutrition.
Trends from the working world: Digital self-monitoring
More and more people are using trackers and apps. Be it simple step counters and sleep monitors or even online food dia-ries, there is something for everyone. According to a study performed by OFFIS - Institute for Information Technology, the average age of the users of these services is well over 40. Openness to the use of technology is important. Most people are sporadic in their use of trackers, and the share of people that use a tracker every day for a period of months is significantly lower. The trend towards self-analysis and improvement is not new. With these new devices, however, people now have a much greater ability to set measurable goals, and to objectively monitor their achievement themselves. This trend offers yet another opportunity for innovative club operators to cooperate with firms, because once it is time to apply the newly acquired data to the implementation of specific measures – training plans, nutrition plans, definition of athletic objectives etc. – or even earlier, users need the help of experts. Company owners who are themselves technology enthusiasts and avid trackers offer the perfect target group for the development of digital and sustainable occupational health management concepts that allow employees to monitor themselves.
Trends from the working world: Ageing on the job
Successfully mastering demographic change will be one of the most difficult challenges for companies in future. In practical terms, this primarily means designing workplaces such that they are suitable for the needs of older employees. Furthermore, companies must also im-plement preventive measures to maintain the health of all their employees, to ensure that they continue to be able to work as they grow older. Companies can do this by organising work in such a way that it accounts for people's needs – as well as by creating individual activity programmes that combat the specific physical strains encountered in the workplace. Without the expertise offered by occupational health management consultants who develop suitable programmes for employees, it would be difficult to successfully master the challenges posed by demographic change.
Anyone who is able to develop innovative and customised concepts that offer companies long-term support in overcoming these challenges will be recognised as experts in their field, allowing them to successfully assist companies in the fields of occupational health promotion and prevention.
Achim Barth, Graduate in Business Administration (FH), Certified Expert for Prevention and Health Promotion. Founder of BARTH Sportmanagement (www.barth-sport.de). As an external Data Protection Manager and Occupational Health Manager, he advises companies in the fields of ‘occupational health and safety’ and ‘occupational health management’. He offers special seminars for occupational health management and promotion in order to get fitness studios up to speed for cooperating with other companies.
Fitness clubs what work with companies to develop innovative occupational health management concepts can establish themselves as experts in this field.