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Imagine a day when your aquatics staff is not only enthusiastically attending in-service trainings, but also contributing ideas about content and structure. Imagine a staff that actually wants to increase the required in-services.

Now stop imagining, and start doing. With just a few minor changes, you can create an environment where in-service training is fun, educational, enriching and a source of pride for you and your staff.

Here are 10 ways to do it:

1. Explain the purpose of training. During the hiring process, tell people that in-services provide them with the skills and abilities to be ready for anything. Reassure them that you feel responsible to make sure they, and their peers, have the skills to respond in emergencies. You are providing this training for them because you care.

2. Offer multiple training times. With the varied schedules of most aquatics staffs, it’s impossible to provide only one or two options for attending an in-service and expect 100 percent participation.

3. Involve your staff. Use as many qualified staff members as possible to assist and lead training sessions. This creates more times to attend and recognizes other staff members’ skills. At the same time, it reinforces their own skills through teaching.

4. Make things fun. In-service trainings can be informative while also being enjoyable. Internal lifeguard competitions and takeoffs on game shows that are based on aquatic information can provide competitive fun for staff.

5. Create an environment of education, not humiliation. Do not single out and draw attention to those whose skills need some work. Take notice of those individuals and speak to them privately. Use mentors to build their ability and confidence.

6. Avoid using negative language. This includes “mandatory,” “you will be written up” or “you will be dismissed” when advertising your in-services. Try promoting them as an opportunity for fun and enrichment. Expectations for in-service trainings should be made clear at initial hiring, and reinforced in manuals. Deal separately with those who do not fulfill such commitments; don’t threaten the whole group.

7. Show off your guards. Whenever possible, conduct in-services when the pool is in use. Allow patrons to see your staff members “in action” practicing their skills. This will foster confidence and admiration from patrons and enable your staff a chance to show off its skills. Note: Be sure to inform patrons that a training scenario is in progress. You do not want them to mistake training for a real emergency.

8. Solicit staff members for in-service topics. Let your staff determine a percentage of in-service sessions and utilize their input. Make in-service training a collaborative effort.

9. Be lenient. Don’t dismiss an employee for missing one in-service. Your aquatics staff is human and occasionally circumstances may prohibit them from attending the regularly scheduled in-service training. Occasionally, even the best employees have things happen in their lives that may throw them off course. In this case, talk to them and find out what happened. You may need to grant them an excused absence. Offer to go over with them what they missed and reinforce that the training is provided for their well-being as much as the facility’s.

10. Set realistic expectations. Most aquatics staffs are composed of employees who work anywhere from four to 40 hours per week. Requiring an unrealistic number of in-service trainings per month will doom your chance for a successful program from the start.