Midway through the summer season, lifeguards need motivation! They need inspiration to arrive on time, motivation to watch their water, and to keep up a smile when a guest is upset. As a manager, this can be a challenging task, particularly with larger teams and an area of responsibility to oversee. The key is to engage your staff in some way, showing them that you are not only overseeing the park, but also overseeing them! They want to know that their hard work is appreciated and that they are doing their job the right way. If you do not engage them, who will?
Matt Heller of “Myth of Employee Burnout” shows the necessity of engaging staff with the simple chart below. He states “This graph measures engagement across a defined period of time. The blue line is you (the leader) and the red line is your employees. Essentially what I have noticed about engagement is that the employee’s level of engagement will follow their leaders. For the most part.” We can also see that in August staff morale can plateau, thus the time to motivate has arrived (if you haven’t already started)!
So are you ready to engage your staff? Here at Water Safety Products we’ve heard about a variety of ways to engage teams. Below are some of our favorites.
- Care: Make sure your team knows that you know they exist. Simple gestures such as a high-5, “good morning,” or asking how their day is going can make a major impact on the way your team operates. Of course we do not suggest distracting them from their responsibilities, but show them that you care.
- No Boring Briefings: Daily briefings become stagnant all too often. “Good morning, today the weather is going to be xxx, attendance will be xxx, have a good day.” Even if you are tired or in a rush, don’t let your team know it. It is up to you to present the attitude that you want your team to choose for that day. Something as simple as a joke of the day, fun fact of the day, or quote of the day can make things a bit more interesting. Just remember to keep it fresh!
- Friendly Bets: We’re not saying pool your money for who is the best lifeguard, but set a goal for your team and use a non-monetary prize to excite them. For example, we have heard a story about a leader who bet his team that he would shave his head if they met the guest satisfaction score for the month. They met the goal, and as promised, he shaved his head! This made for a good laugh and a win-win for everyone. The key to goals like this is following up and following through. Imagine if he hadn’t shaved his head! The whole effort would have backfired.
- Get on their level: Show the team that you can do the job too. Cover a frontline position while they cool off and grab a drink. Or jump in the water for in-service. Word of mouth will quickly spread among your team members that you can walk the talk.
- Lifeguard Beads: One thing is for sure – lifeguards take pride in their achievements and love to showcase their skills. Congratulate your guards by presenting them with a bead for a task completed. For example, if they make a rescue give them a red bead. If they receive a guest compliment, give them a blue bead, etc. By the end of the summer guards will be competing for who has the most beads!
- Food and drink vouchers: When an employee goes above and beyond their duty, give them a food voucher for use in the lunch room or park. These can be set to any price point you would like, but the key is to make sure you have a clear list of what is expected and what is received for different tasks completed.
- Point Programs: Point programs can also be effective, similar to bead programs. One of our favorites is the “100 Bucks Program!” Set points for different goals for favorable and unfavorable behavior. For example, receiving a guest compliment is +5 points. Arriving late to work is -3 points. After 100 points are earned, the staff member receives an additional $100 in their next check. This type of program can be challenging to implement, but if managed appropriately can be very effective.
- Small Get Together: Similar to showing your staff you care, break bread with your staff after a long day of work. Bring in a few sodas and give everyone a chance to have a drink and let their hair down before heading home for the day. Or plan to meet up at some point after work. Although we would not suggest a party that lasts all night, a chance to talk about something other than work can greatly strengthen relationships.
- Big Get Together: Having staff parties with lifeguard incentive prizes, goodie bags, superlatives, are very popular. To motivate the staff to stay on board later in the season and as a reward, some parks will have a big raffle party in early to mid-August. This is for the staff that stays on that long into the season. Sometimes management will trade park passes for some incredible raffle prizes—it is amazing what park passes can buy! Don’t have enough time to make the plans? Appoint someone to take charge of the plans and you will not only engage them but also have a great time.
- Be Creative: Create your own lifeguard incentive programs. It’s easy and will make the job better for everyone. Not sure what motivates your team? Just ask. They will tell you! (Of course, their request needs to be reasonable.)
There are a number of ways to motivate lifeguards, and we support them all. Some plans can be totally free with no cost associated such as a friendly bet, while others such as a staff party involve prizes, cash and lifeguard incentives. Just remember that no matter what you choose to do, trying is the most important thing. Everyone is motivated by different things. You can’t please everyone, but trying is better than the alternative. Good Luck!