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The Staffing Shortage


Andrew Barranco, the regional operations and aquatics manager at Merritt Clubs, shares tips and encouragement for operators facing the staffing shortage.

If you are finding staffing is one of your most challenging operational issues this year, you are not alone.  2021 has brought a few new challenges that we did not fully experience in 2020. The staffing shortages or ability to hire qualified team members has been one of the biggest operational issues for many industries and businesses. It is something I can relate to this summer with lifeguards, food and beverage staff, and qualified fitness professionals hard to come by. It is an on-going process as we look to fill the gap to close out the year and prepare for 2022. 

I have heard from a few upset managers trying to fill key frontline and leadership positions namely about the stress of having to cover additional long hours or the inability to meet the service expectation of members. We have at times had to adjust ancillary hours at Kids Club or outdoor aquatics centers.  We’ve had to apologize for the inconvenience of having to close down ancillary amenities from time to time to our members. It certainly is not a great experience for paying members or staff who are left to explain why that service is not available. Below are a few tips and some encouragement for those who are going through this operational challenge.


  • Still look for the right fit. Stay true to your values and culture as an organization as you find your new team member. Don’t hire out of desperation as it seldom works out and may leave you in a worse position in the end.
  • Pay fair. In this current market I have heard we have to “pay more,” as in we have to raise our hourly wages. Out of respect to all the team members who continue to work hard and have stayed loyal, I don’t think it is right or adds to the team culture by overpaying for new team members above what season veterans are making. However, a future pay increase across the board may have to be factored into operations cost as we continue to see the staffing cost and demand continue to rise.
  • Communicate to members if you are having to alter hours or services due to staff shortages. We have had the honest conversations with members that reductions were not to save money but due to staff shortages and to bear with us as we look to find new team members.
  • Leverage members to help you in your search. Posting to members about the current openings is a great way to get the word out in the community and use your membership base to help with the search. It also lets them see you are working on the problem that ties to their reduction in services.
  • Get creative with where you receive applicants. Experiment with employee referral programs or try a member referral incentive for new employees rather than a traditional membership referral from your member base. Try offering free certification courses for lifeguards and other certified positions.
  • Evaluate the role you are hiring for. Ask you key team members who are in this role how it can be improved to not just attract new talent but also to help you retain those who are already loyal team members. Many of today’s applicants are looking for something that speaks to them in more ways than just compensation. This may cause you to rethink and adapt the roles themselves to better attract new candidates or to streamline your business operations.

Hang in there, this staffing shortage is just another challenge in our climb to rebuild our industry. Appreciate the team you have and they will help bring you those future employee referrals.

Andrew Barranco

Andrew Barranco is the regional operations and aquatics manager for Merritt Clubs. He can be reached at abarranco@merrittclubs.com.

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