Perhaps one of the most important and least enjoyable responsibilities in aquatics management is developing the weekly, biweekly or monthly schedule. For managers with lifeguard crews of 50 or more and with seasonal and year-round operations, this can be a time-consuming task.
Finding an appropriate balance between each worker’s scheduling conflicts and the needs of the facility can be challenging and stressful. And with a generation of millennial lifeguards, the challenge has become enormous. The millennial generation is defined as individuals with birth years between 1978 and 2000.
Whether you’re scheduling 10 people or 100, it’s important to be understanding and flexible. Even with the best of planning, there will always be scheduling adjustments — based on anything from weather to the flu. With the right attitude and proper planning, you can run a safe and fun facility that’s not only a great place to visit, but also a great place to work.
As an aquatics director managing a staff of more than 200 lifeguards, instructors and attendants, I’ve discovered five techniques to improve scheduling for all types of lifeguards, especially those from the millennial generation.
1 Share the scheduling. First, have your staff members submit their preferred hours, listing when they have class, band practice or other extracurriculars. Because programming is important, I give priority scheduling to my swim lesson teachers and water aerobics instructors. This also encourages the staff to cross-train on all programs and provides you with a versatile crew.
2 Allow adjustments. Once I have the basic framework of the schedule, I often post it in the staff break room prior to finalizing. This step lets employees seek additional hours in spaces where there are staffing needs. Once the schedule is complete, changes will inevitably need to be made as staff members adjust plans. To deal with a scheduling adjustment, I ask the employee to find a sub and complete paperwork to make the scheduling switch.
This puts the responsibility of finding a replacement on the staffer who needs the time off, but also allows employees to make last-minute adjustments.
3 Try a staggered schedule. Other considerations with scheduling include teen break labor laws. Because of the teen break requirements, shifts often are interrupted after a period of hours. A method that has worked well for me is staggering the start times of shifts based on lifeguard rotations. Instead of having an entire 50-person staff arrive at 10 a.m. knowing that only half will be in chairs lifeguarding, I schedule my teens to arrive 30 to 45 minutes later. Similarly, you can use this technique at the end of the day by dropping unneeded zones (while still in compliance with minimum lifeguard zones and safety protocols) as the number of patrons decreases with the duration of the day.
4 Split the work. Another method to consider with your schedule is having split shifts, especially for younger workers who are required to have breaks and often are not accustomed to eight- or nine- hour shifts.
Such an arrangement works well if you have night swims that allow them to work a partial shift, leave for a few hours and return in the evening. This can be especially beneficial for employees who live in close proximity to the park. I’ve had several staff members request this type of schedule because it provides an opportunity for an off-site break, which is often appreciated during the hot summer months. The extended break gives them a chance to go home and rest or take care of other responsibilities.
5 Meet the parents. My experience has shown me that this current generation of young people often waits until the last minute to plan, often forgets about other commitments and have very involved parents. (This can be a challenge as well as a huge advantage). Because of this, I try to utilize parents as best I can and have implemented an annual optional parents meeting at the beginning of the summer season.
This allows me to not only meet the parents of my employees, but also discuss the expectations of the job and how scheduling works.
Much like a parent reminds a child to clean his or her room, I’ve found that parents also remind their children about going to work. (To my surprise, a good majority of parents in attendance at my annual meeting are parents of not only high-school-aged, but also college-aged workers.) At this meeting, I also remind parents that it’s important for the employee to approach me with concerns about scheduling. It’s not acceptable for a parent to call in for his or her son or daughter.