Summer camp staff members are the heartbeat of camp. They not only make camp possible from a safety and logistical perspective, but they also create the culture that campers continue coming back for.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen three big staff trends that progress into each other:
- It is harder than ever to find staff.
- Because it’s hard to find staff, organizations are relying more on new-to-camp and younger hires.
- Because camps have so many new staff members, they have staffs that are underprepared and/or overwhelmed (and who may quit because of it).
To find staff, it’s going to take creativity (find inspiration with The Summer Camp Society podcast). Once camps have gotten creative and filled spots on their team, they can retain and prepare by implementing a strong pre-camp communication plan for summer camp staff. The following are a few tips to creating it.
According to a 2019 Kronos report, today’s young workers have three top values when it comes to managers in the workplace: They want to be trusted, they want to be supported and they want to be cared about. How do we fulfill those values? By building relationships, beginning before they even arrive at camp.
Set aside intentional time in your calendar to reach out to staff (new, returning or even those still on the fence). Send them things that remind you of them or ask how things are going. Let them know a little about you, too!
To level up, build relationships between staff members as well. Consider splitting up (and paying) your leadership team and having them reach out to different individuals each month. Host meetups in towns heavily populated with staff members (even if you can’t go, you can ask someone to run lead while you pay for pizza).
Meet Them Where They Are
In our goal to build community, year-round camp professionals often choose (or fret over choosing) a communication tool for staff. This is generally used for staff members to talk before camp and to get a head start on building community. Some use Slack, some use WhatsApp, some still use Facebook groups, to name a few. This type of staff communication can really be all over the place.
The best way to identify how staff members want to communicate is to ask them. When do they want this communication to start? What platform are they already on that you can join, too? What do they want to talk about? Pulling in leadership or returning staff is a great way to take the guesswork out of pre-camp communication.
Identify and Schedule the Information They Need
There’s SO much information that first-time staff need prior to camp, from payroll to packing lists and everything in between. It can be overwhelming, and it can be too much information all at once for some.
Take a bit of time in January to think through all the pieces staff members may need, and make a schedule for when to roll that information out and how to present it. Maybe that looks like a Loom for how to complete paperwork that lives on your website (making it available anytime), a TikTok for a staff packing list, a video (like this one) introducing basic camp counselor skills, or maybe it looks like something completely different for your camp. Whatever you decide, keep it clear, concise and complete.
Illuminate the Hidden Curriculum
Building off identifying information staff members need to do their jobs, think about the hidden curriculum. That’s all the unwritten rules that help level the playing field, help people be successful faster, and help bring people in. At camp, this may look like everyone dressing up for Capture the Flag, dining hall songs or other traditions.
For staff, this is a thousand small things, like when/where they can do laundry, where to park for staff training, which buildings have WiFi, where staff can go during time off, and more. Knowing these things ahead of time helps people feel more comfortable and sets them up for more success, which helps them want to stay at camp and perform well.
How you illuminate this may depend on your camp, but it’s a great idea to mix these things into your scheduled pre-camp communication. Here’s an example of how to illuminate the hidden curriculum through signage during staff training, and here’s an example of how to illuminate it with a staff welcome packet.
How Active Can Help
ACTIVEWorks Camp & Class Manager takes the heavy lifting of camp management out of your hands, so you have more time to spend preparing your staff and your camp for the fun season ahead. With registration management, attendance tracking tools, waitlist features and more, there’s very little Camp & Class Manager can’t do to help organizations like yours streamline processes, allowing you to spend less time on tedious to-dos and more time creating lasting memories with your participants.