Research has shown that using mobile technology is a great way to improve efficiency and effectiveness in organizations. This article provides seven suggestions around how to effectively use mobile technology to boost productivity and efficiency in aquatics within various processes.
The Mobile Technology Landscape
According to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank, “73% of teens have access to a smartphone -- between the ages of 15-17.” The amount of mobile technology adoption is only increasing. Another important trend to note is the rate that mobile phones have been improving in speed and processing power. All of these point to one thing: there is more than sufficient mobile cell phone adoption among teenagers to justify implementing technological and software systems to improve efficiency in your organization.
Current Use of Mobile Technology In Most Organizations
Most organizations have failed to truly leverage mobile technology. Staff members under the age of 30 are always connected on their devices; yet organizations are still resorting to pen and paper, calling staff members, and Excel spreadsheets that are never up-to-date. Many staff members in organizations across the United States are using text messaging, Facebook Groups, chat apps, and other tools to streamline their communication for work related issues, but not using any type of central organized system to do so.
A research study conducted at the University of KwaZulu-Natal indicated that 92% of students say that it is easier to use their mobile device to improve their access to information. Clearly, using mobile devices helps people communicate and gain access to much needed information faster than ever.
7 Effective Ways to Leverage Technology in Aquatics
Technology is powerful and it can be used in a variety of ways to improve processes across your organization. What can be done and what cannot be done is limited, basically, by the creativity of the individual. Below, see the provided suggestions for ways mobile technology can be used to improve efficiency.
1. Summer Return Letters
This process can be automated by setting up Google Forms for your organization. With Google Forms you can easily create custom fields to collect information and email staff members with a custom link to fill out the forms online. Better yet, all the form submissions get dumped into a Google Spreadsheet online for instant access. Another way to handle this is through the use of a service such as Vistaprint that will allow you to upload a list of employee information and mailing addresses, and handle sending all of the letters to the respective staff members for you.
2. Pool Logs / Chemical Dosage
Another great use of Google Forms is for pool logs or chemical record logs. You can set up forms with custom dropdowns for the various facilities you operate and each body of water at those facilities. Once the data is submitted it could be easily printed for your local health department. Another benefit to having pool logs digitized is the ability to perform analysis on the data and identify trends over time.
An additional area that can really benefit from technology is chemical dosage calculations. There are a variety of apps on the market that help organizations streamline their chemical dosage recommendations. This is especially helpful for newer pool operators and any employee that deals with chemicals.
3. Staff Scheduling
Scheduling involves a variety of processes such as creating the schedule, handling staff availabilities, coordinating vacation requests, and notifying staff about the schedule. This process is just putting your staff schedule in the “out there phase” of being posted; once the schedule is posted, you have to deal with shift trades, shift trade forms, and making sure everyone knows who is working as this ever evolving schedule changes.
Generally, staff scheduling is done via pen and paper, or via Microsoft Excel. The con to both of those methods is you have no easy way of posting the most updated version of the schedule in real-time. One solution to this is using an online scheduling tool, such as WhenToWork. WhenToWork has become somewhat of a larger player in the space, but does fail to provide good integration in the aquatics space for aquatics-specific needs such as multiple locations and employee sharing across facilities. However, it is a much better solution than Excel or pen and paper.
4. Document Storage
Most organizations have endless filing cabinets full of paperwork, and for the most part allow no way for staff to digitally access a needed document. Some organizations have set up local-network drives to handle this, but the drawback of network drives is often the security required to access them outside of the organization network, leaving employees with limited access to the data. Using Google Drive, Dropbox, and other online cloud based solutions is a great way of providing access to files for employees, inside or outside your network, and on any mobile device.
5. Staff Communication
Most staff members use email and text message to communicate with their supervisors and fellow co-workers. Other common tools include accessing Facebook Groups, using apps such as WhatsApp; and standard group text messages. The con to these methods is the possible lack of a reliable way for supervisors to connect with staff to convey the most up-to-date information is for their employees, and the lack of conveying a structured organization sponsored solution. Some staff scheduling tools have messaging systems built in, which is one of the better solutions to the communication challenges organizations face.
6. Preventative Mainteance
Another area that is ripe for improvement is preventative maintenance. When I was a lifeguard I remember checking off each preventative maintenance task I was assigned on a piece of paper or sometimes a whiteboard. If you are like the employees in most organizations, you still probably do this. A great solution to this problem is to use an app like Trello, or a team to-do list app such as Asana. Best of all, employees and supervisors could get notifications for when tasks get done. This results in a ton of accountability to make sure staff get their responsibilities done on time.
7. Patron Counts / Usage
Most organizations have good ways of tracking how many patrons are in the facility at a given time using RecTrac or a similar registration system. But, what about once patrons are in the facility? How do you know if they are using the pool or the weight room or the basketball gym? Tracking pool usage across your lap swimming area, diving well, aqua fitness class, and more can be tedious, but the data is invaluable. Maybe your lifeguards count them and write it down in a log that goes in their supervisors filing cabinet. Even better, once a month the supervisor has to painstakingly sift through stacks and stacks of patron counts and enter them in an Excel spreadsheet to get useful insights. This is not an uncommon problem. One solution to this is setting up a Google Form with a drop down for the facility and what area they need to track patron counts in. Once the data is all collected and exported to a spreadsheet, it becomes very easy to apply some basic math to calculate averages, mins, maxes and more. From there you can see where you have room to add more programs or optimize how many staff you actually need.
I sincerely hope that these suggestions will help you, your staff, and your organization become more efficient than ever and truly embrace technology in aquatics. If you are looking for an easy, concise, user friendly way to manage your facility and to successfully address the issues listed above in just one place, be sure to check out DigiQuatics, “The All-In-One App for Aquatics”, a centralized, affordable and easy-to-use solution.