Hammersley, C. H. & Tynon, J. F. (1998). Job Competency Analyses of Entry-Level Resort and Commercial Recreation Professionals. Journal of Applied Recreation Research, 23(3): 225-241
Current national recreation related certification programs do not adequately address the needs of current commercial recreation employers. The fundamental question driving a job competency analysis was: is it possible to identify a "core" of entry-level job competencies across the spectrum of the resort and commercial recreation profession? Entry-level job competencies were developed through a two-phase research design. First, entry-level job descriptions were collected from Resort and Commercial Recreation Association (RCRA) organizations (n = 89) and analyzed using WordCruncherTM, a computerized content analysis program. Lists of 103 job qualifications were identified. Next, a Delphi Technique was initiated to rank-order the job competencies. The results from the Delphi study, after three rounds, identified nine major competency domains with a total of 52 specific entry-level job competencies.
Keywords. job competency analysis, job task analysis,
commercial recreation, resort recreation
The Resort and Commercial Recreation Association (RCRA) initiated this study in an attempt to determine the feasibility of a national certification program for resort and commercial recreation employees. Current national recreation-related certification programs do not adequately address the needs of current commercial recreation employers (Gladwell & Heeler, 1993). The fundamental question driving a job competency analysis was, is it possible to identify a core of entry-level job competencies across the spectrum of the resort and commercial recreation profession?
U.S. Department of Labor (1996) projects growth of 10% to 20% in employment for the resort and commercial recreation field through the year 2005. Considering such an employment increase, a more thorough and systematic understanding of the services and entry-level job competencies required in this professional field would be beneficial. Employers, individuals currently working in the field, students wishing to enter the field, and professional associations representing individuals and businesses in resort and commercial recreation would benefit from this type of information. The trend toward increased reliance on competency recognition by consumers, business, and government entities creates a demand on professional associations to establish standards of professional performance (Hamm & Early, 1994).
Many of the entry-level jobs in resort and commercial recreation organizations are part-time and low paying. As such, a potentially important benefit of a national certification program would be the establishment of minimum employment performance standards. These minimum standards would represent a higher level of performance than is currently recognized by employing organizations. A higher standard would also justify higher wages based on demonstrated performance and help to clarify potential career paths.
Insight Research Center Inc.'s (1995) survey of national trade and professional associations indicated that over 77% of organizations surveyed were actively engaged in testing for some form of certification. Over 62% of the organizations were planning to implement a new certification program within the next two years. Bailey and Merritt (1995) stated that, "Professional organizations are struggling with some of the same problems that have confronted those developing systems for front-line workers. The overall objective is to develop approaches to understanding skills in reasonably broad clusters of jobs or occupations" (p. 6). Many organizations have conducted job task or job competency research within the recreation and leisure services profession. These organizations include: American Society of Association Executives; Convention Liaison Council; Club Managers Association of America; Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Motel Association; Institute of Certified Travel Agents; International Special Events Society; Meeting Planners International; National Employee and Recreational Services Association; National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association; National Recreation and Park Association; National Therapeutic Recreation Society; National Tour Association; and U.S. Water Fitness Association. The number of organizations conducting job task analyses research indicates a multiplicity of subgroups believing they require specialized knowledge and training in the recreation and leisure services industry. A fundamental question of this research consisted of attempting to identify a core of competencies which span the spectrum of resort and commercial recreation businesses.
The Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education defined competency as "the ability to perform activities within an occupation to a set standard. It may incorporate the ability to apply the relevant skills and knowledge to a new situation within the occupational area as well as generic skills" (CHRIE, 1995, p. 5). Similarly, a job task is defined as "a discrete, identifiable and meaningful unit of work that is carried out by a job-holder for a specific purpose leading to a specific outcome. The performance of a task requires the application of a skill" (p. 6). A comparison between the entry-level job tasks for the municipal recreation sector by the NRPA and the resort and commercial recreation field may identify common core competencies of an ideal entry-level recreation professional.
The most common job analysis techniques of Developing a Curriculum (DACUM) and V-TECS reinforce narrowly defined skill components. The DACUM process involves seven procedural steps.
1. Committee orientation to the DACUM process.
2. Occupation/job review to arrive at a mutually agreeable working title(s) for jobs and specialization areas.
3. Identification of duties or general functional areas or responsibility under which tasks will fit.
4. Identification of specific tasks performed in each duty area.
5. Review and refinement of task and duty statements.
6. Identification of related requirements such as general knowledge and skills, tools and equipment, supplies and materials used, worker traits and attitudes, and future occupational trends/concern.
7. Task analysis to determine specific steps, performance standards and related requirements. Information from the task analysis is incorporated into modules, learning guides, and other instructional materials (Norton, 1993).
V-TECS is similar to DACUM in that they both focus on dissecting work-based activities into component parts, which reinforces a narrow conceptualization of workers' roles within an organization (Norton, 1993). The future high-performance workplace will require workers with more broadly, less well-defined job descriptions (Bailey & Merritt, 1995). This study attempts to avoid a narrow skills model with specific tasks being analyzed by incorporating a wide range of job descriptions into the analysis and creating a core of entry-level competencies. These core competencies would represent a professional cross-trained generalist worker with knowledge and skills in a variety of resort and commercial recreation areas.
Industry-based skill standards or job competencies and certification have become a significant national issue in the U.S., driven by concerns over educational quality and the need for a more competitive and highly skilled work force. This national concern is demonstrated by The Goals 2000: Educate America Act passed by the United States Congress in 1994. Included in this act is educational reform and a call for the creation of a private-sector national skills standards board to endorse voluntary national skill standards in several broad occupational groups (CHRIE, 1995). A conviction by Bailey & Merritt (1995), that technology and market changes have resulted in significant alteration in the types of skills and behaviors needed by workers on the job, has created a widespread skills standards movement. Industry-based skill standards are a crucial component of that movement. Gladwell & Heeler (1993) summed up the need for job task analyses in resort and commercial recreation, when they discussed the lack of meaning of the National Recreation and Parks Association certification program to commercial recreation employers.
In conducting a competency analysis of recreational sports personnel, Jamieson (1980) stated "a profession is recognized in part by the body of knowledge it relates and in part by the appropriate standards that evolve to support this knowledge base" (p. 1). Identifying entry- level job competencies would determine detailed information about what job tasks entry-level professional resort and commercial recreation personnel perform and what specific knowledge, skills, and abilities are necessary to deliver competent professional services. Once identified, these competencies may provide a basis of core information for ongoing professional activities, such as in-service training, certification, and curriculum development. Stumbo (1986) acknowledged that "a concrete and systematic body of knowledge seems to be the primary building block of all professions" (p. 16).
One of many questions raised by Niepoth (1993) is whether professionalism fosters fragmented, specialized service. The need for more research identifying what, if any, common job competencies exist between specializations such as the Certified Leisure Professional, Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, and the Certified Sports Specialist within the profession could clarify that question. Additional research into the exact knowledge, skills, and abilities of entry-level professionals within the resort and commercial recreation field may identify areas of possible core competencies which are common to all areas of recreation and leisure services or recognize the commercial recreation area as professionally specialized.
The identification of entry-level resort recreation job competencies would ideally highlight commonalties between other national certification programs, such as NRPA, yet distinguish certain competencies that are unique in the resort and commercial recreation field. It seems obvious that with the number of organizations and associations focusing on job competencies it will be necessary to find a common core from those in the recreation and leisure services field. This study addresses that process.
Once these core competencies can be identified, universal recreation and leisure service standards can be established. Universal standards would enhance professional recognition and offer broader appeal to employers.
All of the 89 RCRA member properties were contacted by mail in February 1995. The contact letter requested the Recreation Director, Human Resources Director, or General Manager provide entry-level resort and commercial recreation job descriptions used by their organization. We defined entry-level positions as full-time, permanent recreation staff positions. Collection of entry-level professional job descriptions concluded in May 1995.
Qualitative Data Analysis Procedure
All textual material related to job responsibilities, duties, and qualifications were scanned into a word processor file prior to analysis using WordCruncherTM (1992), a text indexing and retrieval software pro- gram (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992; Glesne & Peshkin, 1992; Henderson, 1991; Patton, 1990; Tesch, 1990). In indexing the text file, WordCruncherTM generated an alphabetized printout of all words in the text along with a frequency count for each. This was the first step in identifying patterns in the narrative data. A stop list of words was created to keep the word inventory free of insignificant but highly frequent words (e.g., the, and, for, ot). How frequently certain words or phrases occur in a text and the patterns that emerge from the meanings of those words can provide clues for designating categories (Patton, 1987; Strauss & Corbin, 1990; Tesch, 1990).
WordCruncherTM allows the user to search for all occurrences of related words from the indexed list, including keywords in context (KWIC), permitting the user to extract specific words together with text that precedes or follows the specified word, or the word itself can be the center of the text. The KWIC method facilitates determining the meaning and usage of the word within the context of the original response. Preliminary categories emerge as a result of grouping words and phrases that appear to have similar meaning. Researchers (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992; Henderson, 1991; Tesch, 1990) suggest using the constant comparative technique first described by Glaser and Strauss (1967) which calls for constantly evaluating the internal consistency of each category as well as constantly comparing across different categories in order to establish and maintain unmistakable category boundaries. This means that the data, which belong to certain categories, should hold together in some meaningful way and there should be clear differences between categories. When all of the data are justifiably categorized and all of the categories have been saturated (e.g., no new categories are discovered), the first stage of category identification is complete.
Data were then analyzed for content; that is, many words in the text can be classified into fewer categories of similar content (Stain- back & Stainback, 1988; Strauss & Corbin, 1990; Tesch, 1990). Words and phrases were assigned to categories on the basis of their frequency within the text and on their similar contextual meanings. A thesaurus was used to help identify synonyms but it was also necessary to review the words in context before assigning them to appropriate categories.
Analysis and Evaluation
Because many of the job descriptions mentioned more than one job requirement or qualification, the unit of analysis was job task, not job description. The job task consisted of single words, phrases or even sentences; the key to identifying a job task was the meaning that emerged from the word or words. The total number of responses was used to obtain relative frequencies. While qualitative researchers warn that frequencies may not necessarily be a indication of importance and that what is important is the analysis of the meaning associated with the text (Guba & Lincoln, 1981; Tesch, 1990; Weber, 1990), frequencies were used to establish rank-ordered categories for convenience. A total of 103 entry-level job competencies were generated using the WordCruncherTM program.
In phase two, a Delphi technique was employed. A Delphi process was included in the research design to evaluate each job competency, rank the job competency list generated in phase one, and identify the core job competencies representative of those used for an entry-level resort and commercial recreation position. The Delphi technique is a group process using written responses to aggregate the judgments of a number of individuals to improve the quality of decision making (Delbecq, Van de Ven, & Gustafson, 1975). It is essentially an iterative series of questionnaires, with each subsequent questionnaire containing information gathered from those preceding it. The process ends when consensus is reached or sufficient information has been exchanged (Dalkey, 1967).
The Delphi technique is valuable for obtaining judgments from experts who are geographically isolated (Delbecq et al., 1975). To qualify for this Delphi group, individuals must:
1. Hold a Professional membership in RCRA;
2. Be currently working in a resort or commercial recreation setting, providing direct services to guests, and have held that position for at least five years; or
3. Be working in a resort or commercial recreation setting providing management services for at least the past five years.
All individuals must have been able to make a one-year commitment to the study. Diversity of experience and responsibilities were sought for the Delphi panelists in an attempt to gain a balanced response. A panel comprised solely of upper-management personnel may have a unique perspective not necessarily shared by entry-level or mid-management personnel. The optimum size for a Delphi group should not exceed 30 (Delbecq et al., 1975). A stratified sample of RCRA members (n =21) who held entry-level, mid-management or upper-management positions, were invited to serve on the Delphi panel.
The 103 entry-level job competencies generated from the initial phase of this study formed the basis for the first Delphi questionnaire. Panelists were also given the opportunity to add new competencies to the list; however, no new competencies were added. Subsequent questionnaires were based on the responses to the preceding questionnaire. The key to the Delphi process is developing a clear understanding from the participants of exactly what information is desired. Each member of the Delphi panel was provided the job competency list from the WordCruncherTM analysis and requested to: prioritize the domains; assign and rank job task items by order of importance in each domain. The initial Delphi question was, "What are the most important job tasks or competencies performed by entry-level resort and commercial recreation professionals?" Two subsequent questionnaires were developed. Initial job competency items were ranked in the first Delphi round. Items not ranked by more than one Delphi member were eliminated from the next questionnaire. Items not ranked by 75% of the Delphi panel were eliminated from the second and third round. The process stopped when a general consensus was reached after the third round.
A total of 74 usable job descriptions were received (n = 89), for an overall response rate of 58%. Subjects responded by sending one to three job descriptions for each property. Selected examples of job titles identified as entry-level were: Activities Leader; Assistant Marina Manager; Camp Supervisor; Assistant Recreation Coordinator; Special Events Coordinator; Stable Coordinator; Tennis Center Supervisor; Assistant Golf Manager; Assistant Recreation Director; Pool Manager; and Child's Program Supervisor.
The job descriptions were entered into WordCruncherTM for word frequency analysis. These frequencies were divided into the number of responses for each category. The results are reported by descriptive category labels in percentage of responses for each category (this data is available from the authors upon request).
Using the keywords in context (KWIC) method, 11 preliminary job task domains or categories were identified and presented in Table 1. Data from the WordCruncherTM program were used to determine the content of the first Delphi questionnaire. The 103 specific job task competencies identified in the WordCruncherTM program were initially placed in one of 11 domains or categories. These initial domains were derived from the WordCruncherTM program analysis, with the expectation that they would be evaluated in the first Delphi group review for validity.
A Delphi group was included in this research to attempt to reduce the 103 job competencies to a universal core of competencies, which would be representative of the broader resort and commercial recreation field. The job titles of the members ranged from Recreation Assistant to Recreation Directors. The 21 professional members of the Delphi panel operated from August to November 1995.
The data for the initial Delphi round consisted of the results from the WordCruncherTM analyses of 11 domains or categories and 103 specific job task competencies. The first Delphi round reduced the initial categories from 11 to 8 by eliminating Certifications, Education, and Physical competencies as major domains. Based on the initial Delphi panel rankings, the specific job tasks were reduced from 103 to 59. The second Delphi round increased the categories from eight to nine by dividing the Programming/Leadership domain into separate categories. Specific job tasks were reduced from 59 to 52. After the third round a consensus was reached for each of the job task domains and the specific job competencies associated with each domain (Table 2). These entry-level job competencies represent the minimum knowledge, skills, and abilities expected for professional standards in RCRA member properties. It is important to note that the most important do- main is communication skills.
Comparison of Job Task Categories
|Maintenance||Regulations, rules, and standards|
|Physical competencies||Promotion and publicity|
|Promotion and publicity||Maintenance|
|Regulations, rules, and standards||Retail operation|
Note. Categories in the Final column are ranked according to importance for entry-level job performance. Initial categories were presented alphabetically.
The study identified and prioritized entry-level knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for professional practice in RCRA member resort and commercial recreation organizations. It may also provide beneficial information for pre-professional and professional development, certification, and curricular design. The use of job descriptions to identify basic job competencies for entry-level resort and commercial recreation professionals and the Delphi panel which prioritized them, creates a strong content validation for the job competencies identified for entry-level positions in RCRA member properties.
The job competencies identified in the study range from the simplistic, ability to answer telephone to the more complex knowledge of recreation programming. The diversity of the domains indicates an expectation of broad-based commercial recreation knowledge, skills and abilities for entry-level professionals. Interpersonal skills are emphasized in the majority of the domains with technical skills emerging in the promotion and publicity, maintenance, and retail operation domains.
Resort and Commercial Recreation Professional
Entry-Level Job Competencies
|Ability to be courteous, friendly, and socially appropriate at all times.|
|Ability to speak effectively before groups of customers or employees.|
|Ability to read and interpret a variety of instructions furnished in written, oral, diagram or schedule form.|
|Ability to answer telephone.|
|Write routine reports and correspondence.|
|Implement programs and activities.|
|Lead games/activities for groups ranging in size from 10 to 200.|
|Caring for and insuring the safety of children.|
|Ability to follow through on instructions from supervisor.|
|Ability to deal calmly with emergency situations.|
|Ability to teach/instruct basic skills/classes/activities.|
|Good knowledge of rules and regulations for games and sports.|
|Maintain accurate inventory of supplies and equipment.|
|Order/Purchase supplies and equipment.|
|Complete daily/weekly/monthly reports.|
|Positive guest service skills, a polite, positive and attentive attitude.|
|Ability to solve and resolve practical problems.|
|Insures all complaints and problems are handled in a proper and timely manner.|
|Make activity, court, facility or program reservations.|
|Must have knowledge of age appropriate activities for all ages.|
|Basic knowledge of recreation programming.|
|Planning for games, crafts, and activities.|
|Plan and schedule activities.|
|Develop new events, programs and activities.|
|Co-ordinate scheduling of facility use.|
|Supervise recreation assistants, attendants, aids and volunteers.|
|Ability to evaluate guest needs.|
|Analyze staffing requirements.|
|Supervise youth, teen, adult, family, conference and social programs.|
|Staff performance appraisal.|
|Use rewards and disciplinary action for employees.|
|Prepare and manage budget effectively.|
|Perform general accounting duties (ex: daily revenues, calculations and petty cash).|
Regulations, Rules and Standards
Standards of professionalism.
Comprehend agency policies and procedures (personnel, safety, etc.).
Knowledge of safety rules and policies.
Comply with and enforce safety regulations.
Promotion and Publicity
Marketing a variety of recreational programs/activities.
Develop fliers, brochures, posters and press releases for activities and programs.
Plan promotional activities.
Participate in cleaning and maintaining facilities, supplies and equipment.
Maintain and monitor accurate pool records.
Provide cleanliness and sanitation regarding Health Department inspections.
Perform daily pool maintenance (filters, chemicals, surrounding area).
Responsible for safe operating procedures and practices in use of hazardous materials used in pool operation.
Correct cash drawer/register operation.
Sell merchandise or activities for individuals, groups and conventions.
Maintain accurate inventory of merchandise, supplies and equipment.
Maintain and monitor current and accurate shop records.
Content validation is a critical element of norm-referencing methodology. Content validation links the identified knowledge base to actual professional practice. Stumbo (1986) noted that, "The norm-referencing approach is traditionally selected for determining the professional knowledge base as used in pre-service educational and professional certification programs" (p. 17). She added that content validation may be used to construct tests and measurements which derive specifics from an overall domain or universe. This study provides information that may be useful in the development of an entry-level certification examination for the resort and commercial recreation profession.
Niepoth (1993) raised the question "Does professionalism foster fragmented, specialized service?" This study responds to his question by identifying common job competencies that exist between the various recreation specializations. The nine content domains from this study have similarities to the National Recreation and Parks Association (1993) Certified Leisure Professional (CLP) certification program (Table 3). The similarities in the major domains or categories of job competencies support a common core of entry-level knowledge regardless of specialization. The identifiable universal core competencies between NRPA and RCRA include Management, Programming, and Facility Maintenance.
Comparison of RCRA and NRPA Job Content Domains
|RCRA (Prioritized by importance)||NRPA|
|Communication skills||Leisure Services Management|
|Leadership||a. Budget and finance|
|Guest services||b. Staff development and supervision|
|Programming||c. Policy formulation and interpretation|
|Supervision||d. Public relations|
|Regulations, rules and standards||e. Marketing|
|Promotion and publicity||Leisure/Recreation Program Delivery|
|Retail operation||b. Planning|
|Natural Resource and Facilities Management|
|a. Planning, development, and management|
Taking into account the content of the RCRA and NRPA categories and not just semantics, notable similarities and differences are evident. Differences include the absence from the NRPA competencies of the RCRA Guest Services and Retail Operation categories. Guest Service training may offer opportunities for new income sources and increased participant satisfaction. Guest Services emphasizes the importance of increasing fiscal pressures and accountability for benefits-based management in municipal park and recreation agencies. One of these revenue sources is likely to be a retail operation. If not operated by a park and recreation agency, it would improve their employees' working knowledge of concessionaire operations. Another interesting difference is the inclusion of Public Relations and Marketing in the Leisure Services Management NRPA domain. This study indicates a greater emphasis placed by RCRA members on these competencies and establishes it as a separate category called Promotion and Publicity.
By contrast, the inclusion of the NRPA Therapeutic Recreation domain indicates the importance of these competencies to the Association and its members. The NRPA Therapeutic Recreation domain includes the ability to assess individuals with special needs and adapt programs, equipment, and facilities for their use. This would be an important competency area for RCRA members. The omission of this domain or category, in any form, of the RCRA job competency list raises strong concern about the interest or ability of the RCRA members to respond to individuals with special needs.
Ultimately, by expanding the knowledge of professional job tasks and competencies, the resort and commercial recreation profession and consumers will benefit. Job competencies can strengthen the educational system and should become a critical element of reform efforts in the workplace.
Implications for Practice
The identification and acceptance of job competencies for an occupation generally leads to the development of education and certification programs. The development of professional certifications in resort and commercial recreation would impact college and university curricula development and focus. It would also encourage developing new training programs designed to offer the specific skills needed in the modem resort and commercial recreation workplace. The U .S. educational system has been based traditionally on the dichotomy of theoretical from practical and academic from vocational. The inclusion of job competencies or certification requirements in educational reform would challenge that duality. Professional personnel are expected to perform broader, more open-ended activities identified through job competencies. Certification cannot usually be separated from the nature of professional training.
Professionals are uniquely poised to set standards since they have the knowledge necessary to do so. Professionals working in the field have demonstrated the necessary personal and professional competencies when recognized by their peers (Harnmersley & Kastrinos, 1993; Hammersley & Rivers, 1992). The recognition of job competencies or skills brings the professional and the educator into a mutually beneficial partnership, which may create a stronger professional recognition and higher consumer confidence.
The identification of entry-level resort and commercial recreation job competencies may result in a new professional certification in the United States. The success of such a certification program will be dependent on its acceptance by individuals working in the field and recognition by employers. Two current professional certifications in the U.S. offer insight into the success of such efforts. The Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists certification offered by the National Council on Therapeutic Recreation Certification has become strongly linked to job requirements. In order to obtain a growing number of Therapeutic Recreation positions the CTRS certification is preferred or required. This has created a desire by individuals to pursue this certification for enhancing their employment opportunities. This employment linkage has resulted in a continued growth in the number of individuals currently CTRS certified (S. Kaufer, personal communication, December 24, 1998). The creation of a certification does not assure its acceptance or success in the profession. The Certified Leisure Professional (CLP) certification, created by NRPA, has struggled for recognition by employers yet has realized a steady increase in the number of new CLPs since its introduction in 1990 (A. Perso, personal communication, December 24, 1998). The success of these certifications is based on their ability to identify and evaluate the fundamental job competencies associated with entry-level professional positions.
Ideally the application of the information in this study will be used to identify minimum standards for employment in the resort and commercial recreation field. Once these minimum standards have been widely accepted by the industry, training and educational programs will be developed to enhance and assist promoting new and evolving standards for the profession. This professional evolution will bring new opportunities for wage increases and consumer confidence for individuals working in the resort and commercial recreation field.
Suggestions for Further Research
Additional research would be beneficial comparing other recreation and leisure services organization's certification programs. The universal core competency concept could be evaluated further. Would a universal core allow the integration of the divergent certification programs into a single national professional certification in the U.S.? This integration of certification programs seems by nature to be more broad-based to prepare students and professionals for the challenging work of the twenty-first century.
The final evaluation of a certification program is often whether it is linked to employment requirements. A comparison between certified and non-certified individuals in employment opportunities, salary, and promotion may yield invaluable insights into the professed certification value and the reality of the existing professional field.
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