Spring Means Summer: Early Engagement to Retain Staff

Staff retention is more important than ever during the spring, when we can’t afford to have hired staff bail on us right before the summer! Here are three things we’ve been trying to keep staff engaged, involved, and committed in the months preceding summer:

  1. Discord: we launched a new Discord server for all our hired staff, with plans to continue expanding it in future years to alumni. Our hope is that this server will be a way for staff to introduce themselves, ask pre-arrival questions in their activity groups, and feel involved before they arrive on property. Discord is similar to Slack, and in the future as our alumni numbers on the server grow, we hope it will also become a professional networking resource for staff outside of summer months, where they have access to connections in the camp community all over the world. The server hasn’t exploded in popularity with our staff yet, but they are slowly joining and starting to engage with each other online.
  2. Pre-Summer Staff Meetings: with all the “zoom fatigue” from the past couple years, this one could be hit or miss, but we hosted our first staff meeting online recently, and it went well! We had about 75 join us live online, where we announced relevant news, had polls and giveaways, and some introductions. The best part of the meeting was the “breakout groups” we split into, where both new and returning staff chatted in groups of 5-10 people, based on their roles at camp this summer. Each breakout group had a facilitator that was either a director or a returning staff member in a leadership role, which gave more ownership to our returning staff. 
  3. Staff Dinners: One of our directors, Zach, has been crushing it on the road since January, and after each staff recruitment fair or college visit, he hosts a restaurant meet-up for both interested staff and alumni. Often alumni will show up to the dinner and bring friends who didn’t make it to the recruitment fair that day, or new hires will have the chance to enjoy a meal for the first time with members of the camp community. It’s been a great way to reconnect with old campers or former staff, as well as let new hires feel like they already belong. 

Other strategies I’ve heard from other camps include hosting reunions throughout the year, matching returning staff with new staff so they have a connection before arriving, starting staff book clubs in the off-season, starting staff training before the summer using pre-recorded videos, mailing postcards with photos and memories from the previous summer, and more. I look forward to hearing your strategies for engaging & retaining staff members until the summer begins!

Annie Ramsbotham

Falling Creek Camp