6 Strategies for Staff Retention

After hours of training, interviews, and implementing a number of new Strategies for Lifeguard Recruitment, and then a few more for good measure, you’re fully staffed. But for how long?

What can you do to help your organization hold on to the lifeguards you’ve worked tried hard to get into the guard stand? Here are some ways to help with your staff retention.

Incentivize staff retention

Let’s get this easy one out of the way first. Money is always a great motivator. Having competitive pay (or higher than your competitors if possible) is a good way to keep staff around for years. Though it’s not always possible for every organization with budget belts tightening more and more each year.

Simply paying staff higher wages is a good way to help staff retention. However, if you have the ability to pay more, you should be paying for higher quality as well as commitment. There are a number of ways that you can drive quality of staff and staff retention up at the same time using pay. Here are a few pay strategies:

  • Offer bonuses for staff that work through their set schedules with few changes. Bonuses can be based on hours worked for fairness. For example work the entire summer with 3 changes or less and get a bonus of $.25 for every hour worked.
  • Pay increases for hours worked, or number of seasons. Give staff who work for you from summer, to year round hourly pay increases for each season, or by the number of hours worked. For Example work all summer and continue into fall or 400 hours worked = $.25/hr raise.
  • Offer Paid Time Off (PTO). Whether in the form of sick days or personal days allow staff to accrue PTO at a rate per hours works. For example staff earn .02 hours of PTO per hour worked, and can accrue a maximum of 20 hours.

Reward commitment

While pay, as mentioned above, is one way to reward staff commitment to your aquatics organization, there are other ways that can work just as effectively, that don’t cost you anything.

Rewards don’t need to be monetary in nature in order to properly motivate and retain staff. Structured much like the pay incentives, give rewards based on commitment, flexibility, and time with your organization.

So the longer a person has worked there the more rewards they enjoy. Some non-monetary based rewards include:

  • First priority for scheduling. The longer staff have worked for you, they pick their schedule earlier. While this is a strategy you may already use, making explicit guidelines can make it clearer and give staff something to work toward. For example if you’ve worked 0-1 years you are given priority #3, 1-2 years; priority #2, and 2+ years; priority #1.
  • Priority for pool choice. If you have an operation with multiple facilities, especially during prime seasons like summer, giving your staff first pick of facilities based on years or hours worked can be an excellent incentive for staff retention.
  • Rotation / maintenance choice. While smaller, and perhaps more intensive to monitor, adding incentives by giving longtime quality staff the ability to choose spots in rotation, or pick their assigned maintenance responsibilities can be effective as well.
  • Priority for higher pay opportunities. If your organization pays staff more for after hours rentals, hosting birthday parties, or teaching swimming lessons, giving staff with seniority first dibs on those opportunities can promote loyalty.

Help staff take ownership

Creating a sense of ownership in the operations of your organization can help motivate staff to stick around, and can cultivate a sense of investment in the operations.

One way to encourage ownership is to provide your staff ample opportunities for feedback. Not just on peers, subordinates, and supervisors, but on operations as a whole. Ask them frequently if they have any ways to improve things; anything at all. If this is a new thing it may take some time for staff to feel comfortable, and be more open to the idea of giving their input. But keep at it consistently, and before long staff will be coming to you with ideas.

The process can’t stop there. When staff give you ideas, address the suggestions quickly. Make it clear if you can use the idea or not and if you say you’re going to, follow through. Just as we would expect to follow through on a task they are given, so should you follow through in sticking to your word.

Another strategy to help encourage staff retention through ownership is to give staff as much power and control over things as possible. We’re not saying they should build your usage schedule, or design your new pool, but do what you can.

If you have staff appreciation events, let them plan what goes on. If you have new staff uniforms, get their input. If you let them take control of aspects of their employment, they will have a sense of ownership that will not only keep them on staff longer, but will improve staff morale and even customer satisfaction.

Provide opportunities for advancement

One sure fire way to retain more staff is to promote from within and quite the opposite can be true if you don’t. But offering staff the ability to move up the ranks within your organization can be a great way to build loyalty.

If your lifeguards have the opportunity to move up to lead lifeguard, head lifeguard, shift manager, or whatever you call the position they will be more likely to stick around and work hard.

But don’t stop there! The more opportunities for further advancement the longer staff will be inclined to stay on. Having continuing opportunities can be an excellent method for staff retention.

Once staff have entered and mastered a new position, give them more responsibility and prepare them for future positions. Doing this each time can give staff a sense of duty, accomplishment, and desire to continue growing as an employee.

Of course promoting based on seniority alone would be a costly mistake, so it is important to outline requirements both in performance and seniority. That way you can encourage your underperforms to perform better and move your top performers into higher positions.

Give staff more responsibilities

If you’re looking for ways to give staff more reasons to stay on with you, one important aspect of job fulfillment is the feeling of responsibility.

Fitting in with ownership, giving staff a sense of responsibility will garner a loyalty and commitment that is imperative to see long term retention. It doesn’t have to be large burdensome responsibilities, either.

Give staff simple tasks on top of their daily responsibilities and recognize when they do them. Ask for a specific staff member, and ask them to perform a specific task for you. Showing staff that you respect and trust them with things directly can go a long way.

You can also empower your supervising staff to train lifeguards in the responsibilities they hold which helps train your next crop of candidates and empowers your current ones at the same time.

Another approach that serves to empower your entire staff at every level is to create a culture of teaching and learning in which each position is simultaneously training those below for their current position and being trained by those above them for future positions.

Be an involved manager

While it may be easier for organizations with smaller staff, it is important to be an involved manager, no matter the size of your organization.

You can be an involved manager by showing interest in your staff on a personal level. If you you show them you care about them, and are interested in getting to know them, they feel more valued and will be more inclined to stick around, especially if you offer more reasons to stay.

Another important key to building staff retention, and loyalty as a manager can be through praise. Along with these strategies, it can be important when managing young staff in particular, to be sure to praise them for a job well done. As with any type of feedback, it should be timely.

Obviously not everything staff do is worthy of praise, often time it’s quite the opposite. However, what’s important in the situation where staff are not performing as they should that it be treated as an opportunity for growth and improvement, rather than discipline.

Hold them accountable

When you’re trying to improve staff retention it can be an easy pitfall to avoid disciplining your staff. It may seem easier than disciplining them and having them quit.

There are of course consequences for letting bad behavior slide. If you let someone slack off, or perform poorly without addressing the issue, the issue will continue and may even get worse.

Aside from that individual, when other staff see that type of behavior going on without being addressed, it can show them they too don’t need to perform well. Even if they don’t begin to perform poorly themselves, there are negative consequences.

When some are doing things poorly or incorrectly, those who are doing things right may end up taking on more of the workload. That type of unbalance is a quick way to kill the morale amongst your staff.

Be sure to address issues with staff as you would normally. Don’t let them be in control because you are desperate to keep them around. There are always more people out there to become your lifeguards. I’ve heard it said that it’s far easier to get rid of a bad staff member than to struggle keeping them.

If you are doing all the other suggestions in this post, or at least a few of them, you should be able to hold your staff accountable with no worry of them quitting.

With these strategies to improve lifeguard and staff retention you should see an increase in the number of staff that stick with you for many years. Not just any staff either, the best staff possible.

Have further thoughts or questions? Have you tried other strategies that have worked for you? Let us know in the comments below!

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