Your staff is perhaps your most important asset, and recruiting a top-notch team is critical. Today, aquatics operators can use a number of time-tested strategies to find qualified lifeguards.

But the truth is, the most important steps you can take to create a successful recruiting campaign have nothing to do with recruiting.

Run a good program

To be a better recruiter, you need to reassess your entire program and ask yourself, “Why would someone want to work here?”

Create the kind of atmosphere that will attract staff to your establishment. Pay your work force competitively, and strive to make salaries somewhat comparable to the training and dedication required for the job. If you pay like a fast food place, you will get that caliber of employees.

Provide opportunities to learn

On some level,  employees want to be challenged. They want to feel that they accomplish something every day at work, and that they are appreciated for it. If you operate a challenging, respectful and productive work environment, you will find that the time you spend actively recruiting will greatly diminish from year to year.

Start by providing learning opportunities even before you bring someone on board. Create a program that teaches swimming, then guarding, to recruit more people into guarding.

Recognize the benefit of retention

A good program fosters a desire to return year after year, and the fact that you have employees who have worked in your program for several years is a great selling point for potential candidates.

To develop loyal employees, start by creating more interest and enthusiasm for the job. It should go without saying that loyalty starts with you being loyal to your returning staff. If you resign yourself to believing that your staff members will only stay for two or three years, you’ve already failed.

Accommodate older, more experienced team members when possible and treat them as mentors for younger employees. This will go a long way toward the success of your program. Those loyal employees will spread the word by telling their friends.

Be supportive

Never pull the rug out from under your staff. Always support your guards in the face of a complaining patron. Teenagers often see the world in black or white, and subsequently, they do not cope well with the hypocrisy that we as adults have been forced to accept as common practice.

Maybe in some ways they’re right. If you start bending the rules, your staff will begin to pick and choose the rules that they intend to enforce. It goes without saying that in most instances, they don’t have the experience to make those decisions safely.

Play fair

Over the years, I’ve witnessed supervisors making exceptions to policies for certain staff members. This causes morale problems, including losing the respect of your team.

Always treat your staff members fairly. Establish a clearly defined, realistic set of standards and enforce them to the letter equally among all employees. Your goal is to make the whole team achieve to that standard.

Get creative

When it comes to finding new staff members, digital outlets are great for reaching many candidates easily, but they also can attract more questions that require time to respond. Try using a combination of 21st century recruiting techniques and grass-roots efforts. You’ll find that you will attract a better cross section of your community.

First, identify places to find potential applicants, such as schools, universities and swim clubs. Develop a relationship with the coaches, teachers and lifeguard instructors. If you are a certified lifeguard instructor (which you probably should be), offer to assist in any guard testing in exchange for an opportunity to promote your facility.

Second, reach out to potential feeder organizations, such as summer camps, and tap current staff members. For example, you might have a particularly enthusiastic guard attend a career fair.

Finally, master the soft sell. Provide information about applying to your program along with direct contact information, and then walk away.

Make sure your hiring process is clear and try to avoid form letters. Make contact as personal as possible.