Case Study: Virgin Active

OurPeople has been a revelation so far

Malcolm Armstrong - Operations Director

About the business

Business type : Luxury Gym

Locations : 43 UK Clubs, 233 locations worldwide

Staff size : 4700 (UK)

Turnover : $790 million




With 43 UK clubs, Virgin Active has a huge logistical task to ensure its frontline workforce is engaged and providing the best customer service to its 185,000 members. The group is dedicated to making its clubs fitness destinations, where members enjoy a pleasurable experience in a comfortable, high-tech environment, supported by ‘superstar’ coaches.

Challenging goals

The leisure giant acknowledged a need for a new tool to ensure internal communications would effectively meet its employee engagement goals. They wanted to enable real-time interactions; a better on-boarding experience; and the delivery of relevant information to help team members do their job effectively and feel part of the team.


They wanted a platform that would enhance collaboration and the filtering down of Virgin Active ‘best practice’ to every member of the team. Another essential criteria was to fit in with the way its young, active workforce communicates – with fast, focused interactions; almost exclusively using mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and wearable devices.

Stamping out WhatsApp

At the time, WhatsApp was in widespread use, in an attempt to meet the demand for a mobile-first means of keeping remote teams in the loop. However, it was rapidly becoming clear this tool was not fit for purpose. It lacked robust data security, as it was impossible to ensure sensitive or personal information was only read by the intended recipients. 


Persistent challenges included how to manage the high volume of club communications. With floods of notifications every day, staff found it time-sapping to scroll to identify relevant, important messages. In many cases, communications weren’t getting through.

OurPeople notifies the sender when their message is read, so we know that, on average, 78% of communications are read. This has resulted in an uplift in engagement, with an average response rate of 72%.

Business-first mobile communications

Emma Leeds, People Project Manager at Virgin Active, led the search for a communication tool that could be used across the business for tailored internal communications. 


Emma says: “As we started to use OurPeople, we found it was a great match for our needs. With smart tags, we can control who receives each message. Our lifeguards, personal trainers and front of house staff now only receive information relevant to them. 


“OurPeople notifies the sender when their message is read, so we know that, on average, 78% of communications are read. This has resulted in an uplift in engagement, with an average response rate of 72%.”

Relevance boosts responsiveness

Virgin Active is using the OurPeople platform in a variety of ways to improve the flow, quality and relevance of information sent to its diverse, deskless teams. 


For instance, among other induction materials, every new starter receives a welcome video from Managing Director, Robert Cook. Via the App, staff rotas are distributed, meeting reminders are sent, updates on policies and procedural changes are broadcast and staff training is scheduled in just a few clicks.

Emma says: “Our clubs’ frontline workforce is, as you’d expect, always on the move. Personal Trainers and Group Exercise Instructors aren’t tied to a desk keeping on top of incoming emails. The App has been invaluable to get us out of a communication cul de sac, where messages were often delayed, unseen or unread. At last, we’re communicating effectively and securely with teams, delivering content that’s site-specific and tailored to areas of responsibility.


“Moving forward, we will be looking at other ways to use OurPeople to further enhance employee engagement. For example, we’re planning to launch numerous engagement initiatives through the platform and will also use it to send out our MD’s latest blog posts.”

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