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Strategies for Successful Lifeguard Retention

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Image courtesy of Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

While one of the most important aspects of aquatic center management is retaining a great team of lifeguards, it’s also one of the biggest challenges, you’ll face as a pool manager, especially when it comes to keeping them engaged and motivated. Without dependable lifeguards, aquatic centers face legal liabilities and, most importantly, can become a potential danger for inexperienced swimmers. In this article, we will be exploring several strategies that aquatic center management personnel can use to keep their lifeguards around. By following these tips, you can help maintain pool safety and keep your swimmers happy.

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Promote A Work-Life Balance for Lifeguards

By ensuring that your lifeguards don’t feel overworked and underappreciated, you can inherently increase their devotion to your aquatic center. Lifeguards typically work long, tiring shifts, and are keepers of the pool safety. Making sure that your lifeguards have time to relax and that they don’t feel burned out, increases the likelihood that they’ll remain loyal to you. This can be done by implementing frequent breaks and flexible work schedules, as well as giving the day off to employees celebrating their birthday, for example.

Additionally, aquatic center managers must make an effort to learn about their staff. What motivates them? What are their challenges, both personally and professionally? It will require work beyond your current set of duties and will be received differently based on the lifeguard, but with time, you’ll build a rapport that will allow you to serve the needs of your staff. Further, establishing a positive relationship with your staff includes actively showing appreciation for everyone’s work and public acknowledgment of the effort they put in at the facility.

Establish a Positive Relationship with your Aquatics Staff

To establish great relationships with your lifeguards, you must provide a great experience in their workplace. Team-building exercises and public recognition of their efforts are two vehicles for accomplishing this and should be employed frequently.

In terms of team building, providing pizza is a cheap and easy way to show appreciation. Regular training sessions that would normally be considered “boring” present a great opportunity to strengthen the team bond. Examples from SF Network aquatics facilities such as Pelican Bay Aquatic Center, include guard pong, first aid Jeopardy, and costumed in-service sessions, like Christmas in July and Dress to Impress.

Recognize the awesome work that your staff does by awarding a staff member of the week or having an end-of-the-year award ceremony. Also, many of your lifeguards may have milestone birthdays during the season, be sure to recognize it when it happens.

By doing this, it creates a sense of community and belonging. When staff members feel appreciated and valued, they work harder and remain significantly longer than staff who feel isolated or undervalued.

Offer Opportunities for Advancement

One of the most significant factors that lead lifeguards to leave their jobs is a lack of opportunities for career advancement. To overcome the challenge, establish career goals and build a plan for each staff member. This plan should outline a pathway with clear prospects and development opportunities.

A couple of ways to help establish the leadership abilities of your staff include, having emerging lifeguard leaders help plan and lead training sessions and shadowing more experienced guards.

Additionally, the way you counsel your staff when they make mistakes is a critical part of their growth. Employ corrective and purposeful counseling by letting them know that mistakes happen and that the key is to learn from them. Make sure that your staff doesn’t fear making mistakes. This will make them tentative and less able to act when needed.

Offer Competitive Salaries and Benefits

Many lifeguards work seasonal shifts and keeping them engaged year-to-year becomes a struggle. One of the best ways to attract prospective lifeguards and retain those that you have onboard is by offering competitive wages and benefits. Research lifeguard salaries at other pools in your region as well as jobs in other industries that your lifeguards may be considering, such as retail or restaurant positions.

Other actions to consider include providing hiring or end-of-season bonuses, higher pay based on the time a lifeguard has worked at the aquatic center, and incentives such as better shifts, and the ability to participate in fun events.

Implement Training Programs

One of the most effective strategies for increasing retention among lifeguards is by investing in their training. The idea is to keep your pool safe, have all lifeguards trained in the facility policies, and maximize emergency preparedness. Training programs are not solely for training lifeguards to become better at their job, but also allow you to establish a relationship with staff. A dedication to training shows them that you believe in their potential and that you care about creating a safer environment for all swimmers.

Items to consider in your lifeguard training efforts include developing a training plan, providing incentives for active participation, and making it fun.

As an aquatic center management service provider, SFC understands the practicality and challenges of retaining lifeguards. Implementing the strategies mentioned above can help keep your aquatic center safe and engaging. By following these tips, you can establish a thriving aquatic center that retains experienced and reliable lifeguards.

For more information about our aquatics center management services, contact us or call us at (727) 474-3845.

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