10 tips for motivating lifeguards

The 2 forms of motivation are intrinsic and extrinsic, or simpler; internal and external motivation. Internal motivation is something that lifeguard create themselves, based on their personality and usually unquantifiable aspects like the working atmoshpere. External motivation is based on money, chances of promotion, etc. This article will mainly focus on internal motivation, as this is usually within the control of the theme / water park manager.

  • First off, ensure basic working conditions.
    • Lifeguarding is not easy, within reason give Lifeguards as much comfort as possible (chairs where possible, shelters, umbrella’s, access to water / sports drink, and a good break room). Sometimes you will find that more comfort makes people lazy, so you can make these facilities conditional on good usage and care.
  • Recognise your staff
    • You can recognize staff for almost everything. The trick is to keep the level up. If you recognize your theme or water park staff with a “lifeguard of the day” or “team member of the day”, you want to make sure that you recognize them for something above and beyond the call of duty. Because after doing this for a year or so, you will notice that people get lazy. Don’t just write a name down as a habit; Lifeguard of the day is Edwin for great guest interaction, or smiling to the guest, or picking up lifejackets, or cleaning under the sunloungers, is not the ideal way to recognize your staff. It has to be something more special; Lifeguard Edwin saw a guest looking for their lost glasses and spend 30 minutes after his shift to assist the guest and managed to find it and return the glasses to the guest.
  • Reward them for exceptional work with appropriate rewards.
    • For small things like employee of the day you can give your staff buttons to show, or reward cards “star cards / you rock cards, what ever you want to call them”, or a different Tshirt / lanyard, etc. Let your staff wear your recognition with pride.
    • For Weekly or monthly recognitions you can go bigger. Things like; Dinner, Breakfast or lunch with the GM, or movie tickets, special Tshirts, special color tube, certificates, giving them hours or an extra day off.
    • Monthly and yearly recognitions are often celebrated company wide, with public recognition, and I’ve known companies to give (expat workers), free flight tickets home, a week of vacation, hotel stays, appliances, etc.
    • Make sure that you think about what colleagues care for most. Although some of them appreciate a fancy plague, others might much rather have a few days with their families, which they’ve not seen for months.
  • Personal attention.
    • Food with the GM is always a great start. Relatively cheap for the company and highly appriciated by staff to have a chance to get to know, and introduce themselves to the GM. As GM you will be humbled by some of the attitudes of your staff.
  • Internal competitions
    • Lifeguarding competition, Rescue competition, fitness, soccer, or any other sports are always great activities to promote better team work and motivate your team.
  • (Team building) events.
    • Quarterly, or yearly outings are always appreciated, especially for physical people. Most of the love to get some great food, and prefer something to do (carting, paint ball, other water parks, outdoor games, etc).
  • Last but not least, genuine care for your team. You can shower them with gifts, off days, and teambuilding events, but as a manager, if you dont show them that you care in the little things, than it wont have any effect. There’s no replacement for genuine caring, and your team will notice it.

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