12 Tips to Improve Your Staff Training Now

Camp Training Can Be Better

A couple of weeks ago Gab and I recorded our staff training duet - a quick back and forth with some of our best training ideas.    

Check out our best tips from our combined 30+ years of training. 

You can also listen to the show on our Podcast page.  If you are having trouble seeing the video you can watch it directly at http://youtu.be/k_ZqNvbQrus.

A number of people have been asking, on the CampHacker YouTube Channel and on the Summer Camp Professionals group on Facebook, if we could share some of the resources we mentioned. 

Our 10 Camp Staff Training Tips

  1. Expectations about Time: "We are working by _____" instead of "We are starting at ______".   Set unusual starting times - nothing on the hour or half hour. Everyone has to wear at watch. 
  2. Expectations about their Every Day Carry: First Aid Kit, aka FAK; pen and notebook at all times; whistle.
  3. Make a Pocket Counsellor (Monitrice de Poche) for your staff (download the guide to make your own at that link.).
  4. BURP'ing Night - Blurbs for Understanding your Responsibilities Perfectly or the New IGNITE format where people have 5 minutes, 20 slides set to advance every 20 seconds. 
  5. Review Crew. Michael Brandwein's idea to have a group of people review the topics from the day... in costume (How is this going to help you in your job? What is most important in this topic? Plus your conclusion) .
  6. SQRT (Super Quiet Reading Time): 15 minutes a day for staff to sit quietly and read through their staff manual. New staff must write down 1 question that comes up for them.  Partner with a senior staff person to find the answers
  7. 100 Challenges to do at camp (see the photos below for Cairn's 2012 list)
  8. Record sessions visually.
  9. Manage people's attention: make standing desks available for those that need to change position; allow people to duck out and come back 
  10. Clumping vs Cliques
  11. Secret friends for new staff members
  12. GoPro Challenge. Shoot a part of camp.

Thriving as a Camp Professional in the Fall - Getting Things Done Right

The Off-Season isn’t getting any longer...

 Summer Camp Pro from Cairn Family of Camps

Summer Camp Pro from Cairn Family of Camps

Camp people handle the end of the summer in lots of ways. Some leave town for vacation the day after camp ends. Others cozy up in their homes and turn on Netflix and catch up on sleep for days on end. Some camps turn around and start with rental groups or schools right away. Still other camp pros manage to plug away for a luxurious nine to five schedule while their peers have disappeared for the week.

I tend to fall into the category of needing a week to clean, reorganize, and shut the door on the summer. Camp is like school in that it is cyclical in its work flow. There is a definitive beginning and end to a summer. As soon as the last staff member departs the parking lot on closing day, I often feel exhausted at the fact that it is now time to start assembling my team for the next year.

I tell my staff that marketing for next summer begins the day campers arrive this summer. Though I have been looking towards next summer a whole bunch before the current one comes to a close, there are some absolute musts that all camp professionals should do prior to charging forward with the next year.

Absolute Musts Before Starting to Think About Next Season

1. Stop working. Seriously. Stop. A few days away from work, away from the facility, and away from your email are critical to processing. A director’s job is to be able to take a step back and it is hard to do that when you are still in the throes. I find that I need a few days before all the lost and found emails and requests for recommendations quit streaming in. About a week after camp ends is when I take my time to have a camp-free weekend. I try to connect with one of my many friends working other cool jobs--whitewater rafting? A zipline tour? A massage? Reward yourself for a job well done and do something that will truly take your mind off camp.

2. Rest. Though we have trained ourselves to function on very little sleep, camp directors are far more pleasant and happy when we have had a full night’s rest. Every year, I get caught off-guard by how exhausted I am during the month of August. The sleep deficit will catch up with you--so expect it. If you insist on working, bust out the hammock and allow yourself to take a rest hour every day for at least a week.

3. Get your work space off-season ready. I am a nester. That means that by the end of the summer, my office tends to resemble that of a horrifying episode of Hoarders. File all that paperwork. Throw away materials you don’t need. And if you are feeling it, have a cathartic bonfire with all those staff manuals and training schedules that were left behind.

4. Tidy up loose ends. Call the parent that gave you a negative evaluation. Answer the emails that are still in your “Starred” folder. It’s hard to have closure when there are little nagging things bringing you down. Often these will be the points that need to be improved upon going forward.

5. Write down your thoughts on rehiring staff. Your feelings tend to be much stronger at the end of the summer than they will be when they finally submit their applications in March. You don’t have to necessarily make hiring decisions, but write down what it is that staff need to work on before they would be considered for a position. Then you can discuss these in interviews or have them available when turning somebody down.

6. Visit another camp. It doesn’t have to be a formal visit. Whatever the occasion, take the time to visit another facility, whether they are running program or not, because there is much to be learned by simply seeing what others do and how their facility is set up. Have coffee with the director or bring them some fresh produce (because after a summer of camp food, I want nothing more than delicious fresh fruits and veggies) and talk about one another’s areas of excellence and areas for improvement.

7. Debrief. Get your entire year-round team together and talk about how the summer went. So many programs skip this step and jump in to doing things the way they have always done them. The ability to gain perspectives across the levels of administration and across your programs will lead to insights that will be valuable to making camp great. Many accreditation programs require some sort of annual review of incident reports or policies so this is an easy way to ensure that occurs.

 Ruby Compton, CampHacker & Camp Code podcaster

Ruby Compton, CampHacker & Camp Code podcaster

Onward with next summer and happy off-season to you all.

~ Ruby

[note from Travis: Thanks to CampHacker Ruby Compton, program director at Green River Preserve in North Carolina, and all-star co-host of the Camp Code podcast, for writing this article.  We look forward to many more wise thoughts from Ruby!

You can subscribe to Camp Code, our podcast full of amazing ideas for summer camp staff training for free.  Click to Subscribe in iTunes.]

What that parent is thinking could change your summer camp [HINT: finding out is easy]

5 Ways Mid-Week Survey's Can Help Your Day Camp

Marketing Camp Makes Veekay Happy

Do you look to your camp families for feedback through surveys? As consumers, we receive survey requests all the time - on our receipts, in email, on a postcard etc. As a day-camp, we've used customer feedback surveys in the past to insure that our camp families were completely satisfied with a their child's experience after a week at camp. Sending surveys at the end of the week offered us some very valuable feedback on staff, location, and other suggestions on how we could improve the program. This year at The Handwork Studio, we implemented a mid-week survey and we saw instantaneous, real-time feedback on our camp programs. Below I've listed 5 ways the mid-week parent feedback survey to parents can help improve your day camp program.

1. Create better experiences

While we work hard to make sure that every single child and their parents had the most amazing week at camp, sometimes this is isn't the case. Sending a survey late on Tuesday helped us identify areas where a camper might not have been having the best possible experience and we could come in and make their time with us better. Sometimes it could be as simple as identifying a certain skill that the child was excited about learning. Whatever the circumstance may be, sending the survey before the camper leaves camp for the week is a sure fire way to turn around a situation and create better experiences for your campers and their parents. Even in the event that the parent and camper are happy, by taking any input they have and letting them know they've been heard, we are creating a memorable customer service experience for the the parents.

2. Understand how your parents perceive your camp

With multiple locations, our Camp Director can't be everywhere at the same time. The surveys we sent out helped us gather important feedback on how our parents were interacting with the staff. We were able to identify what the parent's expectations of staff were, where we needed to make adjustment, and generally overall how well of a job our counselors were doing to deliver amazing experiences to our parents and campers. In addition to this, the surveys also helps us collect some amazing testimonials about our camp programs that we can use in for the next summer.

3. Develop deeper relationships with your camp families

As we get responses back from each of our surveys, we are reaching out to each family that submitted feedback to thank them for their input and acknowledge that we've heard them. With the responses where parents are not completely happy our team collaborates to resolve the issue at hand as quickly and effectively as possible. Surveys have helped us take a more personal approach with our families. We are reaching out to them more and developing long lasting relationships. Parents are grateful for the responses we give them and we've heard from them that they are more likely to recommend us to a colleague or friend based on our quick and timely responses. Camp is a very personal business, and mid-week surveys provide our team another touch point with parents. As we gather the responses and respond to the families we are also able to identify the sites that are doing amazing work and acknowledge those teams during the week. Our site directors and counselors love hearing the feedback as much as we do! Giving all types of feedback to counsellors  in real time can be invigorating after many weeks of camp and can give the Camp Director insight into problem counsellors.

4. Gather valuable suggestions on how to be better

At The Handwork Studio, we are always striving to be better, do better and create amazing experiences in camp. Our surveys have helped us better understand what is important to parents and their children. It also awards us the opportunity to respond to ideas that parents have suggested. Parents want to be heard. Their investment in our program is an investment in their child, and we want to provide them a place to share their thoughts. Our mid-week surveys are the most ideal avenue for this feedback. At the end of the camp season, we'll take all of the feedback and put it into one document to see where we can continue to improve our program.

5. Identify areas to adapt your staff training for the next year.

Staff training is at the core of how we launch our camp programs each year. While we might think we've covered everything, there might be a few areas where we can spend more time. The feedback from parents helps us better understand how we can tweak our staff training for next year or continue to supply training resources throughout the the summer. The surveys also give us real-life documented examples of parent feedback that we can incorporate into future camp training.

Sending customer feedback surveys early in the week has been a game-changer for our camp. We are much more connected to our parents and are able to resolve any issues in an effective and timely manner. We are collecting real-time feedback while simultaneously ensuring that both the camper and their parents are completely satisfied with their time at our camp!

Do you use summer camp surveys for your day camp? Share your experience with sending camp surveys in the comments below!

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[from Travis:   This article comes to us from Megan DiFeo, curriculum & marketing director at The Handwork Studio.  Thanks, Megan!

About The Handwork Studio

The Handwork Studio LLC is a kids' needle arts and fashion studio. Our purpose is to pass down the tradition of teaching practical arts such as knitting, crocheting, hand and machine sewing, embroidery, quilting, fashion and crafts in a fun and relaxed environment. Our staff is comprised of professional artists, instructors and skilled teachers, dedicated to making each student feel special. Headquartered just outside of Philadelphia in Narberth, PA, we operate summer camps in 30 locations in seven states, bringing our brand of needle arts fun to over 3,000 campers every year. Learn more at thehandworkstudio.com.]


17 Quick Tips to Improve Your Staff Training

The best ideas we have for Leadership Training Week

Thanks to Dan and Gab for a great exchange of ideas for Staff Training!  A couple of my favourites:

  • Put on your Leadership Glasses
  • Develop (and teach) a Clientelle Mindset
  • Create a Manual People Will Look At

Check out the original post with the audio to see the rest of the list.

Podcast: Listen for free (and ON THE GO) in iTunes or the Stitcher App

Listen to the audio, find our Tools of the Week and links to our co-hosts info here: 17 New Tips for Your Staff Training - CampHacker #70