Camps, you’ve worked so hard this season to hire the best staff out there. Now, let’s make sure we are helping staff feel appreciated this summer. The more time and effort we put into our staff, the more time and effort they will put into the campers. A win-win for all. Chances are that if your staff are happy, the more likely they will return next summer (making your job that much easier).
The perks I’m talking about here are the tangible perks. The food, the staff lounge, the nice bathroom.
Below are some ideas we’ve learned from camps across the country that help them be successful in staff happiness and staff retention. Making staff know they are appreciated and cared for goes a long way!
- Food at camp is of course a big plus. Extra food for staff is an even bigger plus. After a long day, some camps offer a place for staff to gather and gobble. Whether you have a staff lounge or use your dining hall, having a staff cook is a huge plus. (When we were camp directors, we hired my mother-in-law to cook a 4th meal for our staff every night during the summer. She is a fabulous southern cook and was able to offer good food as well as good advice. While some nights were simple grilled cheese, she cooked gumbos and chilis other nights. Talk about a happy staff! We asked staff to pay a small fee to cover the cost of the food and they were more than happy to pay.)
- Wifi access in an area for staff only. The ability to reach out to the world outside of camp is helpful logistically as well as mentally for staff. College aged staff are often so reliant on their phones during the year and transitioning to camp where cell phones are generally not used can come as a bit of a shock. Let staff know when and where it is appropriate to use their phones so they can connect with their outside world.
- Travel itineraries for days off; most of your staff will look forward to exploring the surrounding area when they leave camp; have some sample itineraries/handouts ready for them to choose from that they can grab on their way out of camp. Offering ideas of local lakes, touristy towns, and shopping outlets allows them to fill their time off of camp grounds in a way that keeps them away from heavy drinking and/or partying.
- Ride-share system; offer a way for staff to get in touch with one another before camp in order to share information about getting to camp. Need a ride/Get a ride type groups on Facebook work well. Offer ride-share options for staff once they are at camp for days and nights off. College age staff live in a sharing economy and may not have access to their own cars while at camp. Make it easy for them to get off camp grounds and refresh on a day off. Become the Uber of their summer camp experience.
- Staff activities; in the evening, when staff may not be able to get out of camp, offer entertainment for them. Organize sports or game tournaments, offer in-camp movie nights, or ceramics night for staff. Your camp has tons of activities for use by campers during the day; open up these areas for staff to use at night and they will be extremely appreciative. Offering in-camp entertainment promotes staff staying in camp rather than visiting the local bars!
- Staff wellness; take advantage of who you have at camp to offer wellness opportunities for staff. If you have a fitness guru on staff, offer a boot camp. If you have a nutritionist, offer classes for eating your best at camp. If you have a dance instructor, offer a Zoomba class for staff, etc. etc.
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