By John Tower, co-chair of the WLO Special Interest Group (SIG) on Leisure Management

Leisure programs, facilities and services have experienced a range of staff shortages over recent years. The aquatics industry has been described as being in crisis with community pools restricting public access due to staff shortages. Recent research documents issues regarding staff retention strategies and lifeguard recruitment and selection processes. Leisure managers may need to review how they manage existing staff and recruit new staff to overcome some of the leisure staffing deficiencies.

An important first step is to understand reasons for turnover, i.e., the loss of staff. Butson, Tower & Schwarz (2021) explain four main reasons for lifeguard turnover: i) the temporary nature of lifeguard appointments, ii) a negative work environment, iii) pursuit of better paying jobs and iv) seeking more convenient locations – Check “Lifeguard turnover in aquatic and recreation centres: Perspectives from managers”, for details. Improved management practices can help retain quality staff and diminish staff turnover.

Staff selection is often the most important decision made by leisure managers. The recruitment and selection process can impact employee turnover. An analysis of recruitment and selection practices of lifeguards in Victoria Australia identified a range of improvements that would make the recruitment and selection of lifeguards more effective. Weaknesses in the lifeguard recruitment process identified several improvement strategies: i) adopt multiple staff selection techniques, e.g., interviews and work sample assessments, ii) implement better job forecasting needs, iii) conduct more thorough job analysis, and iv) manage employer branding and promotion. Check Butson, Tower & Schwarz (2022) for more details about lifeguard selection. Improved staff selection processes can help address lifeguard (and other leisure) staff shortages.