Hello All,

I supervise several indoor pools and am looking for ways to motivate our lifeguards so they don't get complacent and lazy.  We have small incentive gifts and Guard of the Week shirts we hand out, but at this point pretty much all of my guards have gotten all of the stuff already, so I am running out of ideas.  Is there anything you do at your facilities that really keeps the guards motivated to do a great job?  I am looking for great ideas that won't break the bank.  Thank you in advance for any ideas you may offer.

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With all due respect Jeff, I’m also an ‘old school’ aquatics professional and find your answer incredibly unconstructive. You seem to be wilfully ignoring a massive body of evidence on the topic of motivation, attention span and vigilance. Lifeguards don’t find it difficult to maintain motivation because they fail to understand the seriousness of drowning, they fail to maintain motivation because it’s human. The first robust research on motivation and attention span was carried out during the Second World War. It was discovered radar operators were failing to spot approaching German planes. It wasn’t because they didn’t understand the seriousness of London being bombed and people dying. It was because the brain is unable to do a repetitive task that also requires a high degree of attention for any real period of time – that is, scanning.

Research has shown us this is the same reason air traffic controllers miss signals and allow incidents to occur. Again, it’s not because they’re unaware of the seriousness of a plane crashing. Telling a lifeguard that drowning is serious (already patronising them by assuming they don’t understand this) so they should be motivated, is probably the worst possible way to motivate and maintain vigilance amongst your staff.

Instead, I’d recommend many of the tips posted here. Regular rotations, incentives, new training opportunities, allowing staff to self-critique and have ownership of their area, are all great ways (with an evidence base to support them) to maintain vigilance and motivation.

We have a year round facility so, and incentives (give-a-ways) can get out of hand, expensive, meaningless or forgotten about. And sometimes giving out prizes for doing your job just feeds the beast. Realizing this we were having a problem with staff clocking in on time, clocking out and back in for breaks or after their shift. We needed to improve staff accountability. We now grade each employee every time period and post everyone's 'grades'. We have (over a 6 month period) a 93% on time, in and out clock in rate. Staff knows how they and their coworkers are preforming. Which when it comes to evaluation time they know how they are doing in this area. This costs us some time to calculate, and track, but we have to audit their time sheets anyway.

An interesting side note: we have discovered when someone is slipping below the 90% rate, they are heading towards trouble. When they start slipping up on clocking in they tend to be slipping up in other areas.





Too often I think that we put the weight of motivation and feedback on our shoulders alone- my most recent sucess has come not from my feedback or structured ''program" but, from a simple box that the guards leave feedback for eachother. Only 1 rule: it has to be positive. It is our send off each week at the end of in-service. They are so excited to express to eachother. I get everything from "Courtney is the bomb at mid-river", to "Thank you Amanda for always rotating quickly" and even things from my supervison team. Another example of catching our guards doing what's right! It has built self esteem, and has brought to the attention of the staff that even when I may not be present and watching- eyes really are always on them! I have seen scan times decrease, rotation time decrease and staff is working better to provide coverage for shifts and we have had a decrease in call offs. Motivation in the cheapest forms are sometime the most effective. :)

Maybe you could encourage them to make a music video, perhaps to set to the song of a Korean pop-star? It's totally free and great publicity for your pool facility, particularly if you try and fire them straight afterwards.

Motivating staff can be tough.  I like to hold lifeguard competitions which help to raise the level of peer  lifeguarding.  At your daily staff meetings, you can discuss positive feedback of your staff.

Our Employee of the Week (EOWie) gets a swag bag of stuff I have rounded up from around the City (free).  BUT- just as important is the PRIME PARKING space for one week.  Don't have a car?  Sell your space to another guard for lunch!


We also do the bead system, post EOWie biographies in the hall, go to Guard Games, and bring in outsiders to do scenarios.




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