Aquatics Recruitment and Retention Strategies

Pools can only be safe if they have a strong, trusted and committed team of lifeguards. Pay and incentives, the difficulty of the job and the lack of growth opportunities continue to make it extremely difficult to recruit and retain guards. COVID-19 has also added another layer of challenges, as organizations are being asked to do more with less.

Below are a few recruitment and retention strategies that your organization can utilize:

Recruitment Strategies   
  • Evaluate your Pipeline: Use programs that already exist, like swim lessons or swim team, to recruit potential staff.
  • Internship Programs: Develop internship or work study programs to give young adults an opportunity to see what lifeguarding is like, and use that as a way to recruit future staff.
    • Is there a college nearby that you could partner with?
    • Are there any programs at the school where you could fulfill a requirement?
  • Active Older Adults: Expand your recruitment efforts to not just include teens and young adults, but active older adults as well.
  • Competitive Pay: Increase your pay to be competitive in your community and/or create full-time lifeguard positions. This will ensure that your organization has the largest pool of candidates as possible.
  • Eliminate Barriers: There may be barriers preventing individuals from applying to be a lifeguard. Below are some things to consider:
    • Could your organization pay for people to get certifications?
    • Could you host job interviews at the local high school or senior center?
    • Could you coordinate transportation from the local high school?
  • Community Partners: Work with your local fire, police and emergency departments to become a feeder program for them.
  • Letter Campaign: Work with the local school to send letters out to youth that say “Congratulations, you have qualified to apply for a lifeguard position.” This not only brings awareness to the opportunity, but also makes youth feel like they were chosen for something.
  • Employment Centers: Engage your local employment center to add a field on their application that asks: “Can you swim?” This then becomes an automatic question that allows you to sift through applications.
  • Develop a Media Plan: Have a media plan in place for when things go well at your organization. Showcase your programs, jobs and involvement in your community. This will bring awareness to the amazing things you are doing and highlight the safety standards at your organization.
Retention Strategies
  • Cross Training: Cross train all staff in lifeguarding by providing opportunities to attend a formal lifeguard training or by joining in-service trainings. Engage leadership in this as well. This will promote knowledge across all disciplines as well as respect and appreciation for the work lifeguards do. It will also help to create a culture of safety where everyone understands what is expected on the pool deck.
  • Scheduling: Scheduling is a crucial responsibility for leadership and sometimes we find ourselves going to the same people every time we need to fill a gap. But, we all need mental breaks. Provide opportunities for staff to have a break from the pool, where they work in a different department. For some staff, give them a week with less hours or none at all. As leaders, it is important to be intentional about scheduling in order to reduce burn out.
  • Build a Community: Create intentional team and community time for staff to be able to socialize and get to know each other. Tell stories, play games and recognize staff. It’s important staff feel appreciated, know they belong and how they contribute to the organization’s success.
  • Leadership Opportunities: Give staff different opportunities to be a leader. Some examples of this are:
    • Designate a staff member to lead an in-service training
    • Give a staff member the opportunity to take over the organization’s social media for the week in order to highlight the aquatics department
    • Allow staff members to be a part of a task force or represent the aquatics department on a board committee
  • Leadership Presence: Invite your leadership to an upcoming aquatics meeting or in-service training. Involve the leadership in recognition tasks. This will connect leadership to the lifeguards themselves and the challenges that come with the job first hand. It will also help demonstrate to the staff that their role is important and leadership cares.
  • Reinforce Positive Behavior: When a staff member is succeeding or doing something well, highlight them. Some examples of ways you could do this are:
    • Highlight them in an in-service
    • Create a lifeguard hall of fame that all staff members and visitors can see
    • During a staff meeting, invite leadership to come and give an award
  • Staff Clothing: Purchase staff uniforms and shirts. This will help staff feel like they are a part of a cohesive group and helps to promote your organization.
Additional Resources 
  • Turnover by the Numbers: Finding qualified candidates and retaining employees is a consistent challenge for non-profits. View this infographic to see an illustration of the problem of high turnover rates.
  • The Impact of Organizational Culture: A positive organizational culture leads to high employee engagement. Read about how you can begin to build your own organization’s culture.
  • The Importance of Impact Hiring: Impact hiring offers employers a new approach to recruitment, hiring and retention. Read about how you can implement an impact hiring strategy at your organization.
  • Building Pipelines and Career Paths: Having an engaged, empowered and inspired team starts with a strong pipeline. Read about how you can build a robust and diversified talent pipeline and develop a career-pathing program to structure how you put your pipeline into practice.