Emma Egan goes head to head with Anne Jaakke, HR Director at Fitness First Australia.
Anne Jaakke first joined Fitness First Europe in January 2010 as HR Director, and 12 months later relocated to Australia from the Netherlands to take up the role of HR Director at Fitness First Australia in November 2011.
Anne brings a wealth of leadership and managerial experience to Fitness First, working across hospitality, human resources, recruitment and learning and development, spanning 13 countries. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Hotel Management and a number of Corporate Coaching Accreditations from the Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership.
As a strategic thinker, driving innovation, continuous improvement, and mobilising her teams to focus on creating a great member experience, Anne has been an integral part of improving employee engagement, increasing leadership capabilities and developing a ‘one team’ and winning culture at Fitness First.
Mother of one, Anne loves spending time with her family among the outdoors. Besides being a Fitness enthusiast, hiking, sailing, tennis and horseback riding are her favourite outdoor activities.
What is Anne focused on right now?
Since Anne joined Fitness First, her focus has been on two key objectives – How to create an exceptional fitness experience for members and how to become a great place to work (one star accreditation best companies) and as a result a strong employee value proposition. All these factors are the recipe for being the undisputed leader in industry and employer of choice.
The Fitness First HR team has had this as the absolute “prize” to win for the last three years. Anne says, “I truly believe that if you increase the engagement of your workforce you get a better member experience. If you get a better member experience your brand perception will improve and ultimately that will drive better financial results. That cycle feeds itself because with better financial results we can make better investments again into people and their development, and into the look and feel of our clubs.”
Over time, the significant global and national HR team efforts and contributions have helped the business improve their leadership capability, create a winning culture with new values, get best practise in place, implement a certification and development framework and reshape their service model to offer an exceptional member service. Fitness and people are at the core of everything we do!
The latest proof point of change is the fact that Fitness First is aiming to implement a brand new enterprise agreement holding fitness industry leading terms and conditions per April 1st, 2014. It will include amongst others some benefits new to the industry such as paid parental leave, paid community service leave, fitness benefits for the partners of Fitness First employees and improved and performance related pay. With this improved remuneration offer the “war for talent” will expand into other industries such as retail, hospitality and professional services. This diversity of knowledge will raise the bar in service even further.
How is the role of the HR function within Fitness First driving the cultural change and rebranding in the business?
The HR function and team have a critical role to play leading through change, reinventing the business from the inside out and help rebuild its image, both as a brand as well as a potential employer.
Fitness First will be the industry leader mostly because of its people. “We employ the best in industry” Anne said. That not only means they are highly qualified in Fitness, it also means that they are driven to motivate and support members to reach their fitness goals as well as love to make connections between members and build a club community.
What does Anne see as the main challenge that the HR function faces in the future?
Anne says that the main challenge is to continuously proove that HR adds commercial value. In order to do so you truly have to understand the commercial drivers of the business, be aware of the external environment in which the business operates, drive innovation and continuous improvement to deliver strong commercial outcomes and then build a people strategy around this. Be prepared to review and able to adjust the strategy if business results and plans change.
What key characteristics does Anne look for in HR professionals when recruiting?
A personality that includes a strong positive outlook on life, love people, buy in to the companies values (called their “winning ways”), enjoy change, always look for continuous improvement, and are keen to grow and learn.
What is the best career advice that Anne would give?
Be really clear about what you want to achieve, what it looks like and feels like. What you visualize is what you will realise and what will manifest, so don’t be afraid to dream big. Never underestimate your own capabilities. You can always go further in life!