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HCM People
Belinda Steward

We need to make it automatic that when people go to their doctor, they’re offered exercise rather than medication where appropriate


Having just stepped into your new job, what appealed to you about it?
It’s a privilege to have this role and be part of the solution when it comes to making physical activity accessible to everyone.

The stats really motivate me. Physical inactivity is the fourth largest killer in the UK, which is shocking, but our industry is able to do something about it.

You've held leadership roles in hospitality, how will you deploy the skills and experience you gained?
I have a good understanding of how to operationalise and optimise businesses, so I’ll be looking for ways to add value for our customers.

Part of this will be ensuring we have a consistent brand across all our facilities, as the more consistent you are, the more your customers know what to expect and it makes it easier for customers and colleagues to transfer between facilities.

Cross-industry partnership is also key, so I’ll be looking to form collaborations with others in the industry and industry bodies to broaden accessibility.

During COVID I was fortunate to be on the CEO board for accommodation providers working in UK hospitality and we were pivotal in lobbying the government to get hospitality venues opened early. It was a really interesting insight into how collaboration with people you sometimes see as your competitors can work to the benefit of the community at large.

I'll also be looking at how we can use technology to make the experience easier for our customers, so the time our colleagues spend with them adds value, rather than them being caught up with functional tasks.

The customer journey is another area for review. I'll be making sure our facilities are accessible and where we don't have buildings, looking at how we can take our services into communities.

What are Places Leisure's main challenges as you step into your role?
The same as everybody in terms of dealing with increased costs – particularly in utilities.

We’ve chosen to be a Real Living Wage provider, which we believe is the right thing to do.

It resonated with our teams in a recent colleague survey which reflected that we’re a great place to work. We also have good retention rates among our people and loyal staff help create loyal customers.

What are the main opportunities?
I'm really encouraged by the uplift in demand for physical activity we're experiencing. It's great to see this has become so popular in a post-COVID world.

In contrast, pubs haven’t regained the momentum they had before the pandemic and are still faced with the headwinds of costs.

There are opportunities for innovation – for example, we're looking to open some padel courts, as it’s a fantastic sport that brings in a whole new group of people. And there are opportunities to take our offering out into our communities.

Our sector has the chance and the responsibility, to help the NHS. We need to make it automatic that when people go to their doctor, they’re offered exercise rather than medication where appropriate. Industry collaboration will make it easier to work in partnership with the NHS and data is the key to demonstrating the value we offer.

What new challenges lie ahead?
We've just taken on the management of 10 leisure centres for Northumberland County Council, which gives us a bigger geographic reach and we're also looking for more opportunities to take our offering out into our communities. It should never be the case that people don't have access to physical activity and I think it's my responsibility to make sure we get out there and give people the chance to enjoy it.

Are you working on any special programmes?
Graves Health and Sports Centre is taking part in a groundbreaking diabetes and peripheral neuropathy study run by Sheffield Teaching Hospital Community Wellness Services and the NHS Foundation Trust. This is the first trial of a physical activity intervention and participants will receive one-to-one sessions from a Level 4 endocrine-trained fitness professional. It’s the first study of its kind to be conducted within a leisure centre.

We’ve also teamed up with British Blind Sport to support the ‘See Sport Differently’ campaign, which aims to tackle activity barriers for the two million people in the UK living with sight loss.

We’re looking at ways to make our centres more accessible and have already delivered 10 workshops on this to 111 staff so they have the necessary skills to welcome and support these customers.

Our sector tackles physical inactivity – the fourth biggest killer in the UK Credit: photo: Places Leisure
A recent survey showed the company is a great place to work Credit: photo: Places Leisure
Places Leisure will be providing Level 4 endocrine-trained fitness professionals Credit: photo: Places Leisure / tobyphillipsphotography
Credit: photo: Places Leisure
 


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25 Jul 2024 Leisure Management: daily news and jobs
 
 
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SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2024 issue 4

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Belinda Steward

HCM People

Belinda Steward


We need to make it automatic that when people go to their doctor, they’re offered exercise rather than medication where appropriate

Steward has an extensive background in hospitality photo: Places Leisure
Our sector tackles physical inactivity – the fourth biggest killer in the UK photo: Places Leisure
A recent survey showed the company is a great place to work photo: Places Leisure
Places Leisure will be providing Level 4 endocrine-trained fitness professionals photo: Places Leisure / tobyphillipsphotography
photo: Places Leisure

Having just stepped into your new job, what appealed to you about it?
It’s a privilege to have this role and be part of the solution when it comes to making physical activity accessible to everyone.

The stats really motivate me. Physical inactivity is the fourth largest killer in the UK, which is shocking, but our industry is able to do something about it.

You've held leadership roles in hospitality, how will you deploy the skills and experience you gained?
I have a good understanding of how to operationalise and optimise businesses, so I’ll be looking for ways to add value for our customers.

Part of this will be ensuring we have a consistent brand across all our facilities, as the more consistent you are, the more your customers know what to expect and it makes it easier for customers and colleagues to transfer between facilities.

Cross-industry partnership is also key, so I’ll be looking to form collaborations with others in the industry and industry bodies to broaden accessibility.

During COVID I was fortunate to be on the CEO board for accommodation providers working in UK hospitality and we were pivotal in lobbying the government to get hospitality venues opened early. It was a really interesting insight into how collaboration with people you sometimes see as your competitors can work to the benefit of the community at large.

I'll also be looking at how we can use technology to make the experience easier for our customers, so the time our colleagues spend with them adds value, rather than them being caught up with functional tasks.

The customer journey is another area for review. I'll be making sure our facilities are accessible and where we don't have buildings, looking at how we can take our services into communities.

What are Places Leisure's main challenges as you step into your role?
The same as everybody in terms of dealing with increased costs – particularly in utilities.

We’ve chosen to be a Real Living Wage provider, which we believe is the right thing to do.

It resonated with our teams in a recent colleague survey which reflected that we’re a great place to work. We also have good retention rates among our people and loyal staff help create loyal customers.

What are the main opportunities?
I'm really encouraged by the uplift in demand for physical activity we're experiencing. It's great to see this has become so popular in a post-COVID world.

In contrast, pubs haven’t regained the momentum they had before the pandemic and are still faced with the headwinds of costs.

There are opportunities for innovation – for example, we're looking to open some padel courts, as it’s a fantastic sport that brings in a whole new group of people. And there are opportunities to take our offering out into our communities.

Our sector has the chance and the responsibility, to help the NHS. We need to make it automatic that when people go to their doctor, they’re offered exercise rather than medication where appropriate. Industry collaboration will make it easier to work in partnership with the NHS and data is the key to demonstrating the value we offer.

What new challenges lie ahead?
We've just taken on the management of 10 leisure centres for Northumberland County Council, which gives us a bigger geographic reach and we're also looking for more opportunities to take our offering out into our communities. It should never be the case that people don't have access to physical activity and I think it's my responsibility to make sure we get out there and give people the chance to enjoy it.

Are you working on any special programmes?
Graves Health and Sports Centre is taking part in a groundbreaking diabetes and peripheral neuropathy study run by Sheffield Teaching Hospital Community Wellness Services and the NHS Foundation Trust. This is the first trial of a physical activity intervention and participants will receive one-to-one sessions from a Level 4 endocrine-trained fitness professional. It’s the first study of its kind to be conducted within a leisure centre.

We’ve also teamed up with British Blind Sport to support the ‘See Sport Differently’ campaign, which aims to tackle activity barriers for the two million people in the UK living with sight loss.

We’re looking at ways to make our centres more accessible and have already delivered 10 workshops on this to 111 staff so they have the necessary skills to welcome and support these customers.


Originally published in Health Club Management 2024 issue 4

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