Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Creating a User-Friendly Water Park; Attention to Three Key Areas: Leadership, Customer Relations and an Employee Handbook, Has Enabled Kettering's Aquatics Staff to Thrive and Succeed

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Creating a User-Friendly Water Park; Attention to Three Key Areas: Leadership, Customer Relations and an Employee Handbook, Has Enabled Kettering's Aquatics Staff to Thrive and Succeed

Article excerpt

The citizens of Kettering, Ohio, a city of 60,000 just south of Dayton, place a high value on recreation-and they expect their city to provide superb facilities and services. The most concrete example of this commitment to recreation came in 1988, when residents put their money where their mouths were and approved a $10.7 million bond issue to finance expanding and renovating the Kettering Recreation Center. The resulting Kellering Recreation Complex included a new senior center, a gymnasium with two basketball courts, an indoor walk/run track, and fitness and aerobics rooms. In addition, major renovations were made to the ice arena and to the main pool area, to include a whirlpool, sauna and steam room.

However, the Kettering Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department didn't stop with the building itself. It moved to the great outdoors and in 1990 constructed a five-acre water park unlike any in the state. The challenges posed by the new Water Raves Water Park, in combination with the main pool and its ongoing programs, required the aquatics staff to stretch and grow. Management and staff had to become even more efficient to deal with the greater responsibilities, the rise in patron visits and the high expectations of those patrons.

Attention to three key areas--leadership, customer relations and an employee handbook--has enabled Kettering's aquatics staff to thrive and its programs to succeed.

Leadership In a Stressful Environment

A busy aquatics facility can be a stressful place for employees. As supervisors, we should make it our goal to help our staff manage that stress. We can accomplish this by properly training our employees, providing documents to support them in their work and sincerely caring about them and our guests.

Managing the stress begins with the prospective employee's interview. You should try to find out what the candidate's stress-coping skills are and encourage him or her to voice his or her expectations. As the supervisor, you should also make your expectations clear. If there is confusion over expectations, it can create a tremendous amount of stress for both employee and supervisor.

Once you have hired employees, the orientation and training sessions that follow are opportunities to further define expectations and to teach coping skills. This is the rime to give your staff the tools they need to perform their jobs confidently on a day-to-day basis. The staff orientation serves two purposes: to disseminate information and to begin to build the team atmosphere.

During orientation, staff should receive all the paper tools they will need. This may come in the form of a manual or another written document. This document should explain staff policies, procedures, emergency action plans, guidelines for dealing with various types of patrons, program structures and so on.

Supervisors may want to find ways to further illustrate the important information contained in the manual. Videos --whether made by existing staff or outside companies--provide visual reinforcement. Videos also are a lifesaver for management when conducting one-on-one orientations. Guest speakers also can lend credibility to the information presented during orientation. Presenters can speak on stress management, coping with difficult people and other topics that will help employees do their jobs with confidence.

Next, it's time for team-building. A supportive atmosphere and team feeling begins at the top and flows down. It's essential that management provide a united front in all situations. When management staff are comfortable as a team, their employees can have confidence in them and their day-to-day decision-making. This is definitely a stress reliever ! You can create a team with employees in various ways. Consider a big brother/big sister program, which pairs experienced staff with new employees. Plan social events before the season begins. …

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