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Fit to Be Tied

In this episode of Talent Acquisition Week 2024, Liz Owens, the Talent Acquisition Manager at West Coast Fitness, joins Chad & Cheese for a laid-back therapy session. Liz delves into the intricacies of hiring for a renowned brand within the profitable fitness sector, discusses the challenges of collaborating with HR technology providers, and educates Joel on why the phrase "Fitness pizza in my mouth" isn't an accurate application of the word 'fitness' in the workplace.


Intro: Hide your kids, lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls. It's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel: Oh, yeah. What's up everybody? It is Lady Gaga's favorite podcast, AKA the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your co-host, Joel Cheesman, Joined as always, the Garth to my Wayne, Chad Sowash is in the house, and we are here with Liz Owens. Don't call her Elizabeth. She's the manager of talent acquisition at West Coast Fitness. And if someone knows fitness as much as me, it might be you, but I know so much Liz. In fact...

Chad: No, you're about fittin' this pizza in your mouth.

Joel: I curled about two in and out burgers last night. At least 10 reps of 20.

Liz Owens: Wow. Just two. Yeah. Come on, Cheese. Give me more.

Joel: Well, a couple of fries, animal style. Yeah.

Chad: Again.

Joel: Don't test my endurance on the fast food circle.

Liz Owens: Well, I bow down to the king of fittin' this burger into my mouth.

Chad: The only way he uses fitness in a sentence is I'm fittin' this burger in my mouth.

Joel: Fittin' this burger in my mouth. So a lot of our listeners, maybe all of them don't know who you are. Give us a Twitter bio about you.

Liz Owens: Likely they do not. A quick bio on me. I've been working with West Coast Fitness, which is a large ownership group of Orangetheory Fitness for four years. Orangetheory for five. I actually started with Orangetheory, working in management for them out in Australia when I lived out there for several years. Big global brand. So I can kind of move all over and landed back in Los Angeles where I was born and raised and got connected with West Coast Fitness. Moved my way around from sales and ops in management in studio to pre-sales. Then I got hooked into the HR team, and now I am the manager of Talent Acquisitions.

Chad: Hello.

Liz Owens: There it is.

Chad: So you got stuck with the manager of TA position? [laughter]

Liz Owens: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's a...

Joel: So you have a drama degree from NYU and you've ended up in TA.

Liz Owens: Yes.

Joel: How does that make you feel?

Liz Owens: Well, back in NYU, TA meant a little different thing for us. [laughter] So I mean, I'm glad to...

Joel: Is that T and A or just TA.

Liz Owens: Exactly. Okay. I'm glad to have moved away from that area of expertise 'cause I felt like I was selling that a little bit too much.

Joel: Wow.

Chad: It's a thing.

Liz Owens: It is a thing. Yeah. But it actually, if you think about it, acting, psychology, sales moved into restaurant work, performing, selling stuff.

Chad: You were destined to be here, is what you're saying.

Liz Owens: I was. Now here I am.

Joel: So we're recording this at the end of January. And even I know that January is a huge month for the fitness industry. Talk a little bit about the complexities of staffing up for the holiday rush.

Chad: Oh God. Yeah.

Joel: What works best for recruiting? Are there professions that you pull from to be in the industry? Talk about the challenges of January in the fitness industry.

Liz Owens: Well, I will say, not to brush myself off a little bit here, but bringing people on for fitness who are energetic, who are personalities and whether that's in the studio coaching the class or it's the front desk staff or even management moving into that. People with my kind of background who are performers, particularly in LA where we're based, we're gonna find a lot of energy and personality with them.

Chad: Ah, so it's easier in LA.

Liz Owens: Charisma. It is a little easier in LA.

Joel: But a lot of competition too.

Liz Owens: A lot of competition. I definitely made a lot of money in restaurants versus an hourly kind of like front desk job, I'm not gonna lie. But a lot of people get hooked on the product and then they wanna be coaches and then they become personalities and famous in their own right, in their own little communities. And then they end up being lifelong coaches as their career. So it's a thing.

Joel: Competitive pay, benefits. Like what can I expect as a fitness professional?

Liz Owens: Absolutely. So as a fitness professional with us, you would be looking at a nice competitive hourly wage. You're clocking in and out for all of your classes as well as a very well tiered pay system according to how many people are in your class. So if you are great at marketing yourself to the community, to outside communities, bringing new people in, you're gonna see that payout tenfold by having your classes sell out. And then you're gonna be making about a hundred dollars a class. So it's a nice little pay.

Chad: So how's that different in Q1 versus Q2? 'cause you've got that big surge in Q1, right?

Joel: Or Q4. [laughter]

Chad: And then they start to kind of dwindle out.

Liz Owens: Yeah. Well, I will say January, 2024 has been our best month for the last few years as we've been getting ourselves back out of the COVID era. Especially in California, it's been very tough. So nearly every one of our studios is hitting their goals this month and it'll be amazing to carry out into throughout Q1 into Q2. We are seeing a bit of a drop off in terms of our seasonal employees, of course. 'cause a lot of our people are in college, so they're still working and in school. So what they are doing is, they're leaving us after the winter months, are getting back into their university programs. We'll probably see them come back in the summer. So it's all about just maintaining efficiencies throughout the studio and keeping on top of backfilling those roles, knowing when they're coming up, making sure that we are communicating with our teams and our hiring managers so that we don't fall behind.

Chad: So do you have boomerangs people who have been coaches and they kind of went out and they might still be a part of Orangetheory or what have you, right? But do you have the boomerangs?

Joel: That sitcom pilot didn't get picked up, so now I'm back at the fitness industry. Does that happen?

Liz Owens: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, pretty much. Yes, that does happen a lot actually. So we have a ton of people who leave for a little while whether they're going to pursue their own private PT types of things. Or they have other interests or they're in school again, they're coming, they'll go off and complete a degree, then they end up coming back either part-time 'cause they miss it. But when people are coaches, they become passionate about it. You don't just get a special certification and go through the process to get hired with us. We have a pretty rigorous training program to get in and become a coach with us because our standards are very high and you don't go through all of those things to just have it be a side job. Most of the time people are really passionate about it. They want to be doing it. They wanna be helping people. And it's a really great industry to work in because you get to watch people reach their goals every day.

Chad: So let's get into the fun stuff. What's your tech stack look like? [chuckle]

Liz Owens: Oh. Let me loosen up a little bit.

Chad: 'Cause talent acquisition, you gotta go get them. So you need the acquisition part, right? So the postings and all that other stuff.

Joel: She's got a lot of problems with you people.

Chad: All the way through.

Liz Owens: Oh, I don't know if we've got time for all of my...

Chad: Oh, come on. Come on. This is the place right here.

Liz Owens: All right guys. Do I need to pay you for therapy as well? 'cause this is what it has been turned into.

Joel: We'll get to the end of this and let you know.

Chad: Yeah, we'll send you an invoice.

Liz Owens: You'll be sending me an a bill. Okay. Perfect.

Chad: That's okay.

Liz Owens: Great. Well, I've got Anthem, so hopefully they'll cover me for that.

Joel: We usually work for bourbon, just so you know.

Liz Owens: Oh, excellent. All right. I kind of think I can scroll a bit.

Joel: Okay, good.

Liz Owens: Alright. So we have been working with a company for our HRIS for several years now. We're not set up for success. I will say, just to play devil's advocate, we've been working with Paycom and we are moving systems in the next very short amount of time. Paycom does not know this, so hopefully this does not go live before we make that move.

Joel: We're huge with the Paycom folks.

Liz Owens: You know, if you are then...

Joel: Hugely popular.

Liz Owens: I would probably readjust your...

Chad: Yes. Chad Richardson listens to us all the time. CEO of Paycom.

Liz Owens: I love it. Well, if Barbara Corcoran's listening, look, bitch, I got a few complaints for you, so you might wanna step out that investment.

Joel: Not the shark Tank lady.

Liz Owens: Oh yeah. That Q-tip.

Chad: Barbara.

Liz Owens: I'm upset. I'm upset with her.

Joel: She's all on the ads, isn't she?

Liz Owens: A 100%. Every time a commercial comes on, I change the channel. I can't do it. To play devil's advocate, the system probably works well for smaller companies. And when we started with them back in like 2017 or '18, we were probably under 200 employees and we grew exponentially in the years prior to COVID and in COVID. So we went from 200 to 750 in a matter of probably a year and a half. And the system just wasn't set up for that. And no, we didn't have the team and agility to be able to make those adaptations when it happened. So COVID shut down. We had just doubled in size and when we came back online, no one took that into consideration for the HRIS. So it really, really was at a, we were at a detriment for that for a while to the point now where we can't really function in that system and we had to just move on.

Chad: Woo. It sounds like a cautionary growth tale.

Liz Owens: Yes. Yes.

Chad: Is what it sounds like. If you grow too fast and you don't have the infrastructure to be able to take care of that growth.

Liz Owens: Absolutely.

Chad: AKA Paycom. So did you have conversations with them around trying to build infrastructure that would support you guys? Or you say, screw it, it's not even worth it. We're getting the hell outta here.

Liz Owens: I mean look, ever since I took the role in TA, I have been looking for other systems that can help us, their backend, their communication with their teams and their reps hasn't been fantastic. And they don't play nicely with others. So anytime we found a system that could help, where I'm like, Hey, I found this ATS that gives us these features, can we integrate? They go, no, you'd have to get approval. And I'm like, okay, well what about this required ATS that we have to use working with Orangetheory? We are required to use Career Plug to get hooked into their corporate careers page. And they won't integrate. So I have to use two different systems to get all of my candidates through, and then they're having to reapply to get into Paycom where we can onboard them. It is a nightmare.

Chad: So you're scraping jobs off of your system to push into another system. And then the candidate hopefully seamlessly goes into the other system.

Liz Owens: Hopefully, and that's a big hopefully.

Chad: Hopefully. Oh yeah, that's a bitch.

Liz Owens: Absolutely. 100%.

Joel: What's the fix? How did you huddle up and like tackle this?

Liz Owens: Well, I did a lot of research. I found several companies that we could kind of look at and demo and talk through. We also have a very complicated payroll system. So that was obviously our priority when we're moving systems, we can't just take the ATS into consideration. We have to make sure that the whole thing is gonna run well for us.

Chad: People need paid.

Liz Owens: They really do.

Chad: They need paid.

Liz Owens: Look, I know we lost our payroll manager several months ago and I actually stepped up with the rest of my, like four people on our HR team and we are running payroll now. We're killing it. We are killing it. But we just got a payroll manager and she's being trained. But we're moving to Paycom which will integrate a lot of other systems. It will help automate a lot of our inefficiencies right now and get us back on track.

Joel: How easy was the move? Was it sort of a click and move all the data over? Or was it a manual process.

Liz Owens: TBD, we go live tomorrow, so we're gonna see.

Chad: Okay. Yeah. You're good then.

Liz Owens: We're good. It's no stress. I'm here with you guys clearly I'm fine.

Joel: Stress free with Chad and Cheese. Any other vendors that you want to vent about here at the Chad Cheese therapy session?

Liz Owens: Oh man, that's tough. Pain Cor has really been our big one.

Joel: Yeah.

Chad: Pain Cor.

Joel: I'm getting that.

Chad: Feeling the pain.

Liz Owens: It's been the major one.

Joel: Or some that you really enjoy. I mean what are some vendors and solutions that you're using to recruit, that you wanna highlight?

Liz Owens: Okay. Okay. Well, the team at Career Plug has been really helpful.

Chad: Career plug. Okay.

Liz Owens: Career plug. The plug, I've got a plug, career plug.

Chad: Gotcha.

Joel: Not the kind of plug you're thinking about, Chad.

Liz Owens: No, TNA plugs. You guys are on it. I love it.

Chad: Wrong show Cheesman.

Liz Owens: You're my kind of guys, so don't tell my husband. So I would say, I mean, Paycor team's been amazing in our transition. I really enjoyed looking at I wanna say Ripple back in the day.

Chad: RippleMatch.

Liz Owens: Not RippleMatch.

Chad: Or just Ripple? Okay.

Liz Owens: Ripple. I'm forgetting, but...

Joel: They clearly made an impact. [laughter]

Liz Owens: They did at the time. You know what, you're kind of catching me off guard here with your questions, but Career Plug, their team's been really wonderful. Even though it doesn't always do the things I need it to. They're always responsive, they're always helpful. They jump on onto phone calls with me. And honestly meeting the vendors here they've all been really incredible.

Joel: What are your biggest challenges in recruiting?

Liz Owens: Biggest challenge right now, we do own 19 studios in the Bay, and recruiting coaches up there has been the biggest challenge, I would say. It is a very, very hard industry there because the cost of living is so high. So coaches are coming in at this part-time where we talked about, hey, like, people do this as a side gig. That's where they do it. They have to have full-time jobs. They work in tech, they work in other industries. Where they can actually make, make the cheese, bring home the cheddar. And then they do this as a passion project and they say, look, I can't make this work full-time. And then we've got holes to fill, we've got gaps in our schedules, we've got people moving, coming and going, because they just can't pay the bills. And that's it.

Chad: So you had a line of thinking that I think, he rudely interrupted.

Liz Owens: That's okay.

Chad: We're here at, TA week and there are plenty of vendors that are here. How many shows do you go to generally a year? And do you get a chance to really dig into the tech nowadays to really understand what the hell a stack looks like?

Liz Owens: Well, this is my first rodeo for a conference like this.

Chad: Hello.

Liz Owens: And I'm really stoked. I didn't really think that the vendors would be as helpful for me because, our budget is so limited. Like, I have to use the manpower where I can. And we're just moving into a new HRIS where a lot of our new budget is going, and figuring that out, but understanding how all of these, especially new AI techs can help automate and fully integrate now into a system that allows that, can really help to loosen up some of the reigns that we have on our people to go and perform other tasks rather than focusing on these minute details of a phone screen process and the sourcing and all of those things. So it's pretty cool.

Chad: Yeah. Without coaches, you don't have what? You don't have revenue. So therefore...

Liz Owens: They are our product.

Chad: Yeah. So therefore the CEO has to understand, Hey, unless I get this great stack in place that helps alleviate a lot of this bullshit that we're dealing with right now, I can't get you the people that you need to be able to make the money that we need to. We're having a great month. Let's go ahead and spend some money.

Liz Owens: Absolutely. I love that. And when they're having a good month, my CFO is much, much easier to talk to I'll tell you that.

Chad: Oh, I bet. Oh I bet.

Joel: So walk me through, you get an opening a rec, what action items are there? Do you post the job? Do you go source? How do you find those people?

Liz Owens: So our studio managers act as their own hiring managers through the entire process. Unless they get so slammed that they need to call up on myself or my specialist to come and help with phone screens. But we get those recs open for them. We post to all of the free job boards that are associated with Career Plug and Paycom, to get those moving if they are in a particularly, slow area, like a region that doesn't have a lot of pull from just a free post, we're getting sponsorship on there just to kind of pull in some leads. But for the most part, we're looking for entry level positions. We're looking for customer service and front desk people. The coaches, of course, we do have very high standards, as I said. So we're looking for particular certifications. We're looking for experience in group fitness. And so our hiring managers are taking a look at the candidates that come through. They're doing some phone screens or bringing them in for a class.

Chad: Yeah.

Liz Owens: Because if you don't get Orangetheory, if you don't understand, if you don't care about it, if you don't feel like you wanna be there and, and do the workout, then you're not gonna wanna sell it. You're not gonna wanna be there every day.

Chad: I would assume that that would actually, I mean, you can grow your own at that point, right? Because you have all these people who are doing Orangetheory, they're into it. They're almost cultish in some kind of way.

Liz Owens: A hundred percent.

Chad: So that's a great talent pipeline for you guys to actually start pulling the ones that you see...

Liz Owens: Absolutely.

Chad: Who've been there. So how much of your hiring actually happens through that talent pipeline versus having to go out to the market?

Liz Owens: I would say about half. We have a great referral program. So first thing is our current staff can go out and bring their friends, but also our members are our biggest advocates. They are so loyal. They love the brand. They wanna be there. Plus you get a free membership. So I mean, that helps them out, right? If they're coming over. A lot of our members, because they're older with families, they're sending their kids over. So there's 17 and 18-year-olds who are like, I'm going to school, or I've got after school, whatever. They're like, get a job, go work at Orangetheory. So that's great. And then what we have is our front desk, they end up loving the product. They're young. They don't really know what they wanna do. So they're like, Hey, I'm gonna get my certification to become a coach. And they end up being the best possible people to be running our classes because they love it. They wanna be there every day and the members know them already. So it's a win-win.

Joel: You have a pretty, impressive, resume in the food service industry.

Liz Owens: Thank you.

Joel: Including a stint at the Beverly Hills Hotel and Nobu.

Liz Owens: Yes.

Joel: So first off, who's the most famous person that you waited on?

Chad: Axel Foley. Of course.

Joel: Secondarily, California in particular, we're seeing minimum wage rise in the service industry. I'm assuming you have at least some opinion on what's going on in California, whether right or wrong. So give me the best person you've waited on. And then what are your opinions on the rising minimum wage in the food service industry in California and the impact.

Liz Owens: Sure thing. Okay. The best person I've waited on probably was Shaq, took care of him and his family on Christmas.

Chad: Wow.

Joel: How much food does he put down?

Liz Owens: It was a lot of food. And his kids are not shy either. It was like 10 people. It was just constant chicken fingers and fries.

Chad: Oh, yes.

Liz Owens: Coming to the table. But he is so kind and so gentle.

Chad: No cobb salad for Shaq, is that what you're saying?

Liz Owens: I don't think he was having a McCarthy at the time. Yeah... But he is lovely. Bob Saget was also amazing.

Chad: Oh, really?

Liz Owens: Yes. And it was super cool to help him out. He liked to smoke a secret cigar on the patio that was not necessarily legal. But we hook it up for Bob Saget, God bless him, but...

Chad: It's all good now.

Liz Owens: Yeah. Exactly. Not a problem anymore sadly. Anywho, so to move on to your minimum wage question, I know that as in the food service industry in California, they're making a lot of money. And that is super nice. Like to the point where I'm like, damn, TA is not even, it was like, I should be going back to the Beverly Hills Hotel. Like, that's crazy because you are required to pay minimum wage. And it's very high, especially in LA, while you're also making tips at these high end restaurants. So it is a very nice industry where you're making a nice six figures, and you're able to maintain your life.

Joel: Imagine that.

Liz Owens: I know, a miracle.

Chad: So what's the, what's the percentage that you would say that are Beverly Hills versus the rest of the state.

Joel: Versus Taco Bell.

Joel: Yeah. It feels kinda like shining star, it's like, oh yeah, they can make a hundred thousand plus dollars. Not a problem. What about the guy who's not in Beverly Hill?

Liz Owens: Look, I lived in Australia where the minimum wage is much higher. And very livable. So as a front desk associate at Orangetheory you were making, and this was 2019, you were making $23-24 an hour. You get paid more on the weekends, you get paid more on holidays. Like a Saturday is a lower rate than Sunday even. So you're able to make a wage. Here it's significantly less. The cost of living is really high. I wish that people could get paid more everywhere. If I could make that change, I would. And the fact that it's so high in California and so low in other states, I mean obviously it's all relative, but it's not fair for anyone. No one has one job anymore. You can't do it. Except if you're working at Beverly Hills Hotel.

Chad: I think the Paycom CEO he's worth like 1.7 billion. He should pay his people more. And then maybe you might get the service that you would need. Then they could have retained a client.

Liz Owens: Well, I got the skinny because one of our reps from Paycor actually used to work for Paycom and apparently this guy is a little Looney Tunes because he hires people to be his reps. He refuses to hire anyone who has experience working with another HRIS for exclusivity reasons. But then you talk to these reps and they know nothing. They know nothing about HR. They know nothing about the systems they're talking about. And they barely know Paycom because they were probably receiving horrible training that has nothing to do with anything.

Chad: And it's amazing 'cause a lot of these technologies we're seeing are getting new CEOs who have no experience in this space.

Liz Owens: Delightful.

Joel: That is Liz Owens everybody. Liz, for anyone out there listening that wants to connect with you or learn more about West Coast Fitness, where do you send them?

Liz Owens: Go To LinkedIn under Liz Owens, manager of Talent Acquisitions for West Coast Fitness. Follow West Coast Fitness as well. I'm also on Instagram as @lizin_life. Play on words there. So thanks for having me, guys. Appreciate it.

Joel: I like it. Lunch is coming up. Hopefully they'll have Shaqaroni Pizzas from Papa John's if we're lucky. Another one in the can. Chad, we out.

Outro: Thank you for listening to, what's it called? The podcast, the Chad The Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting, they talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of shout outs of people you don't even know. And yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese. Not one, cheddar, blue nacho, Pepper Jack, Swiss. So many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Anywho, be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. That way you won't miss an episode. And while you're at it, visit Just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese. It's so weird. We out.


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