Niall Cluley: Global HR Director at Fitness First discusses triumphs and challenges


I was absolutely delighted to welcome Niall Cluley, Global HR Director, to the latest Engage HR Forum, which, with over 30 had the highest attendance yet. Word is getting out!  I’ve had some fantastic feedback from everyone, so we know we’re doing this right and our attendees are really getting something very special out of our forums.


Whilst our guests enjoyed fresh fruit, croissants, coffee – and a cheeky bacon bap or two, Niall talked candidly about how he first joined Fitness First 5 years ago as global head of talent, after initially approaching the CEO as a member, when he became frustrated with the group who he saw as focusing more on sales than service.  Niall led the development of the organisation’s people strategy through its global rebrand and transformation programme; becoming Global HRD 2 years ago.


During his presentation, which was peppered with impromptu questions and discussions from our guests, Niall talked about how the rise of the low-cost gym, and ‘wearable’ technology – such as the fitbit and other fitness apps – has affected the way gyms have had to think about how they procure and retain members.


Not afraid to open up about all aspects and challenges faced in his role, Niall discussed the frustrations involved in spearheading a global re-brand across different countries with extreme geographical and cultural diversities; all of which affected decisions on the brand logo, aspirational slogans, and uniform.


Rounding up the forum, our resident solicitor, Malcolm Scott Walby, briefly discussed the importance of the human aspect in being a good boss, and how getting to know your employees on a personal level can help you understand and iron out any issues in the workplace well before legal action is required.


As I said previously, I continue to have the most fantastic feedback after our HR Forums, and so I’ll leave you with some of those quotes and a reminder that, these forums are about you, the HR leaders that make your company or business run smoothly from behind the scenes, and so please do not hesitate to get in touch and discuss any subjects which you feel we could be covering which will help you in your job.


Resize_Niall Cluley“Informal, informative, open debate and genuine interest in learning and sharing experiences.  Well organised, a lovely group of people, topped off by a great choice of breakfast snacks.” Niall Cluley, Global HR Director, Fitness First.

“The most recent meeting presenting by Niall Cluley, Gloval HR Diurector of Fitness first, was a great example of how HR can successfully drive and enable change in an organisation. The talk was informal and participative, and as always from these events, I walked away feeling inspired to consider how some of these work practices could be translated into my own HR processes in the future.” – Andrea Finnagin, Data Harvesting.

“Great HR forum run by Engage at The Cliff in Canford Cliffs.  One of the best networking events for HR professionals, or those responsible for HR in their business, in the area.  The last event saw Niall Cluley from Fitness First talk us through the change program undertaken over the last 18 months – the highs and lows and how they got engagement from the team.” – Sue Kerr, Reality HR.


Date for your diary

Our next HR Forum is on 22nd September, where our guest speaker, Jo Kane from Trailblazers will be presenting on resilience, mind-sets and stress management.  As this is a vast subject, we are keen to hear from you what you would like Jo to concentrate on, so please do get in touch.


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HR Forum Feedback – Emotional Intelligence with Joanna Kane

Sally Bennett

On Thursday 21st May, Engage Executive Search held their second HR Forum, and what a success it was.

At our first event back in February I explained our vision was to create a peer group of like-minded and experienced  senior HR personnel  who would  come together to share their experiences.  Our objective was to provide  informal, comfortable surroundings, sitting in smaller groups that allow discussion on a personal level.  One other vision …. no powerpoint!

Well I am proud to say so far so good; our second forum doubled in size and we are already at maximum capacity.  What was evident was that there are some great people out there and even though some are very experienced, they were keen to learn and share their skills and give examples of challenges they have faced.


We were lucky to have Joanne Kane from Trailblazers as our expert at this forum.  Immediately, Joanne’s honesty as she created a picture of her life as a successful, high flying career women in London, and what was really going on underneath her façade, made a connection with everyone in the room.  Her story then led to an overview of the very hot topic of Emotional Intelligence.   Contribution from the forum members was high and provided some great examples of experience for all of us to take with us.


Joanne was then followed by Malcolm Scott Walby from Scott Walby LLP.  Malcolm has agreed to be our legal expert and as the forums progress he will be available for a Q&A and to share the latest updates.  For those who don’t know Malcolm, he provides a very entertaining view of employment law and will not sit on that fence.

Danny,  Manager of The Cliff, yet again provided a great breakfast and ensured the smooth running of the event with all the ease  of an experienced host.

So here I am still on a high from the success of the event and reviewing what the Engage HR Forum has achieved  so far….


                                                Comfortable, informal venue                    tick

                                                No powerpoint                                            tick

                                                Inspirational speakers                                tick

                                                Discussion and debate                               tick

                                                Sharing experience                                     tick

                                                Learning from each other                          tick

                                                A room full of highly skilled, great,

                                                Participative, engaging people             one big fat tick



So what is next?

I am very excited to say we have a great lady called Sam Turner who is the MD of an organisation called Dragonfish.  In the true spirit of the forum we gave our members a choice of subjects that will navigate us around the enormous subject of employee engagement and customer satisfaction through our organisations people.

Members will receive their ‘save the date’ shortly with the result of that vote.  In the meantime if you are a HR professional and would like to hear more about our Forum and other events, please do not hesitate to contact me personally –