Case Study: Cornerstone Clubs

Cornerstone is an award-winning network of three health and fitness facilities in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and home to over 300 staff members. Eager to improve communication between team members across all sites, the brand was looking to engage more with its employees, cross-communicate between clubs, and efficiently utilize internal skills for sub requests and cover.

About the business

Business type : Luxury Gym

Location: 3

Staff size: 300+

Head of Human Resources at Cornerstone, Christene Garafola, explains: “Our facilities are all unique; we have multiple personnel doing the same role in each of the clubs. We were using the traditional method of emails, text messages and phone calls to communicate between the facilities, but with staff busy taking care of our members they often don’t have access to a computer or time to log-on to read messages.”

Cornerstone came across the OurPeople app, a Smartphone-driven management solution aimed at solving common challenges within the fitness industry, at IHRSA in 2018.  As their employees have phones with them while they are working, it answered a lot of their issues. Not only is it adaptable to suit the company’s business needs, it’s also secure and allows messages to be directed quickly to specific teams or individuals. Management decided to set about adding to its staff communication platform and prioritize cross-club communication.

Cornerstone clubs are all located within ten to twenty miles of each other, with employees typically working in one facility. However, there was a need to implement an efficient method to effectively communicate with staff across all three clubs, as well as to specific departments, for example; fitness, aquatics and playroom groups within each of the clubs, so teams could benefit by utilizing the skill set already employed by the company.

Making adaptations to the OurPeople app to maximize usage

Originally installed in November 2018, Cornerstone worked closely with the OurPeople team, feeding back their requirements so the app could be customized and adapted.

“Before going ‘live’ we wanted to make sure we gained maximum benefits from the app and took the first four months after it was initially installed to work out what our requirements were and make adaptations that specifically work for our business. While each of our clubs is run by its own staff, we are one company and it was important for us to maximize the existing internal knowledge and experience across all the facilities, as well as enabling communication between staff across all three sites.

“One modification we requested was for each departmental supervisor to have an easy and efficient method to communicate with their counterpart in the other clubs.  We also wanted to enable the different areas, such as general managers, admin services etc. to be able to reach out to each other with questions or urgent cover requests. OurPeople worked with us to achieve this level of cross-communication by adapting the app to list all 300 of our employees across all sites, showing a profile page with their location, job title and skill set,” states Garafola.

With close to 10,000 members across the three facilities checking in, taking fitness and cycling classes, using the playroom/childcare options, spending time in the pool, working out in the gym or taking personal training sessions, it’s imperative the Cornerstone sites are fully staffed at all times.

The OurPeople app allows Cornerstone to set up different team groups, so specific messages can be sent to sub-groups, without everyone across the company having to scroll through to find messages relevant to their role, but also enables users to choose and assign who they send messages to.

Garafola continues: “It took about two weeks to get everyone trained on the app – the tutorial OurPeople provided was magnificent.  It literally only took seconds for our employees to install, open and know how to use it.”

Improving Facility Operations

“Since installing the app the different departments in each of our locations generally talk and communicate directly with each other at some point during the day, and feel much more connected,” continues Garafola. “When we need a class sub request or departmental cover we can now fill the role quickly and efficiently.  Having the OurPeople app on all the phones, at our fingertips, has given us the ability to react in an instant. We have so many different departments, we’re constantly using it to obtain cover for personal trainers, lifeguards, swim instructors, cycling instructors, group exercise coaches, playroom attendants, as well as service employees such as the front desk; all essential to running an efficient business and keeping our members happy.  It’s very user-friendly and easy to search if you need to send a message to an individual as well.”

As well as cover broadcasts, Garafola and the teams also use the app for general communication, such as chat, downloading files, scheduling and policy updates.


“One General Manager sent out a message extending a warm welcome to new staff, as well as announcing promotions, and we’ve also scheduled a monthly communication relating to what’s going on at that time of the year. For example, around tax time I’ll send out a message asking everyone to make sure their personal information is up to date, or when it’s daylight-saving I’ll remind them all they’ll lose an hour on a specific day etc.

“In contrast, our Aquatics Head of Department uses the app to post all the work schedules, cover requests, and general information to her team of lifeguards, swim instructors and aqua aerobics instructors.

“We use ‘broadcasts’ to communicate anything from cover requests to weather warnings, with the chats option being used in a conversation about the computers or credit card machines having gone down and needing to be fixed – the OurPeople app allows us to go back and forth quickly so we can be up and running again in no time at all.”

“The app is really beneficial to staff that work the early or late shift too, especially if general admin staff are not on duty during those hours.  Messages come through immediately, which means if the early shift employee has a question, or needs help or advice, they can send a message via the app and get a response quickly – often resolving the issue before their shift is over, without having to wait for the admin person to get into the office,” she explains.

Garafola also plans to use the app for a variety of training sessions, such as downloading a short, simple, easy to watch four-step safety video on how to use a fire extinguisher.  An effective training option especially when the app is on everyone’s phone, and being used consistently during the day.

“On an average week we send out well over a dozen general broadcasts, 5 to 15 cover broadcasts (although this varies from week to week), and there’s lots of chat messaging. We have a very high response rate to cover requests and we’re continuing to use the app in other ways too. We had a vacancy for a lifeguard and, as well as advertising locally, the aquatics departmental head used the OurPeople app creatively to send out a company message to encourage word of mouth recruitment, in case someone knew of a suitable candidate.

“Security is also important to us.  The fact that only Cornerstone staff can get access to downloads, information, messaging and chats on the app is crucial.

“It’s great to work with a company like OurPeople as they listen to our requests and what we need to do to make sure we are effectively communicating with our employees, and they respond by making changes and adapting the app to suit our requirements; we really feel as if they are working with us as a team, which is helping us connect with all of our employees and service our members better,” concludes Garafola.

With staff busy taking care of our members they often don’t have access to a computer or time to log-on to read messages.

Christene Garafola - Head of Human Resources

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