Fall Flight – Are You Short Staffed Heading into August?

In a summer full of new issues, an old challenge is still going to test aquatic managers  and you can sense it coming…

August always presents a major staffing challenge at outdoor pools, and 2021 may be even worse. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up in the lifeguard chair. Not to worry. It’s still early and if you act quickly, you can avoid the fall flight. Here’s how.



Plan Ahead – If your end-of-season schedule isn’t already made, make it now. Give yourself plenty of time to address the schedule gaps.

Post the Job – It’s not too late for a job posting, and you never know, your dream candidate with an open schedule may still be out there. Post your open guard position on every job board you can find.

Hire Adults – With shifts in the job market your applicant pool hasn’t just shrank or grown, it has completed shifted. Adults with lifeguarding experience are returning to the market. Accommodate their schedule preferences with flexible hours and you’ll benefit from their knowledge, maturity and responsibility on deck.

Phone a Friend – With the unique challenges of 2021, many pools didn’t open this year, leading qualified lifeguards to find other work. Talk to other aquatic managers in your area and see if they’d be willing to share your job posting with their former staff.

Offer Incentives – If you’re not confident you’re getting all of the hours you can out of your existing crew, see what incentives you can offer to encourage them to take extra shifts or extend their season. Talk to your HR team about bonuses and pay raises. Talk to your upper level management to see if they have perks or gift cards to offer. With a few incentives in hand you’re more likely to close the last gaps on the August schedule.

Run a Feeder Course – Team up with a local LGI and offer an incentivized guard class over the next two weeks. Participants who successfully complete the program are immediately hired, and if they pick up a certain number of shifts in August their course fee is waived.

Cross Train – If your candidate pool is limited, look to your dry land staff who may have extra availability in their schedule. Add them to your aforementioned guard class at no cost and make them a versatile swing staff member on your team. Existing facility staff don’t take as long to onboard and already know many of your job expectations.

Focus on Guarding – It’s not unlikely that your guard team does more than just guard. If they have auxiliary tasks (evening cleanup, pool vacuuming, swim instruction…) consider reassigning these less-essential tasks to staff who don’t carry the guard certification.

Close Sections or Amenities – Don’t hesitate to close certain pools, sections of pools or aquatic amenities that tend to over-utilize staff. Waterslides, diving wells and play areas often require multiple sets of eyes. It’s better to shut them down, then to run short staffed.

Break Periods and Modified Schedules – If your team is still maxed out and over-scheduled, implement break periods through the end of August. Schedule break times in between swim sessions where the pool closes temporarily. This will give your guards a chance to take their necessary, scheduled breaks. Patrons are used to modified schedules at this point, and with appropriate communication this won’t be as tricky to implement as in years past.

Open Late, Close Early – Still can’t fill the schedule? Implement limited hours late in the season. It’s the safer than running on a skeleton crew. A well-crafted press release or memo to patrons goes over better when it’s done weeks in advance. Get this plan in place now if your Labor Day staffing situation looks bleak.

Smart Decisions – Be sure to stick to the CDC’s protocol for screening employees, even if it means you may end up short staffed. Safety of your employees and swimmers is always top priority. If you need to send someone home, you’ll find a way to work around their absence, even if it means closing your aquatic amenities.