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Parks and Rec director, Jason Schaitz, shares guidelines for investing in staff training and education to make your team the best it can be.

Your program staff are your most valuable asset. You should invest in staff by providing training, education, teambuilding and networking opportunities while empowering them to do great things within your programs.

Here are some guidelines for investing in staff training and education to make your team the best it can be:

Have an orientation and training program to set expectations and review policies.

Setting the tone for your staff early is important. It will get everyone on the same page and acclimated to how you operate your programs and what you expect from them. Some of the things to review prior to starting are not always the most exciting so add things to spice it up to engage your staff during orientations and meetings. Here are some things you can do to engage with your staff at meetings:

  • Give small prizes for answering questions or making a great comment.
  • Role play different scenarios that are sure to come up.
  • Do group activities.
  • Add in videos and educational content.
  • Move around to different areas of your facility.
  • Encourage staff participation and Q&A.

Take advantage of outside resources for new ideas.

There are several great resources online that can provide you tools and education to improve your program. Continually search and seek out new ideas that may benefit your program to keep things fresh for your staff and participants.

Incorporate icebreakers and teambuilding to make your group more cohesive.

This is important for your staff development, but often overlooked. You have a group of individuals that may not know each other and within a few weeks of hire they are starting to work your programs. Not only are they expected to work together but also make your programs a success.

Sometimes this is easier said than done. You may run into situations of staff drama, arguing, individualism, or not getting along that may result in disaster for your operation. Building a cohesive team takes time and effort. If you put in the work prior, it will pay off. You can continue smaller teambuilding exercises, which may also include reward and recognition programs throughout your programs as well to keep your staff motivated and working well together. Here are some things you can do for teambuilding:

  • Do internal teambuilding activities.
  • Take an afternoon or evening to use your facility with just staff.
  • Go on an outing like bowling, sports game, escape room, arcade, trampoline park, etc.
  • Take the group out to lunch or dinner.
  • Bring in an outside group that specializes in teambuilding or go to a retreat center.

Stay on top of industry standards and best practices.

Similar to researching new ideas for camp, you also want to stay on top of the current trends, technology and industry standards. Not just from an operational standpoint, but new legislations that may bring legal aspects of how you have to operate. Stay in touch with some of the national camp organizations that provide these resources, visit camp conferences and expos, and do your own research to stay up to date on the latest trends. Things are always changing and evolving so make sure your camp doesn’t fall behind to the old way of doing things.

Provide networking opportunities to collaborate with other professionals to connect and share ideas.

Networking is important and another way to stay on top of all the things we have talked about above. Seeing and hearing how others are operating is a great way to see how you can compare and potentially improve your programs. Ask questions, share ideas, and tell stories to connect with others in the field. Networking is not only for directors. Bring your staff into the mix too. Here are a few ways you can connect with others in the field:

  • Join a professional association in the industry.
  • Attend a conference or regional training.
  • Connect online.
  • Team up with others in your area for joint activities or regular networking meetings.

Include your staff in the planning process and empower them to take some responsibilities on their own.

To really get staff engaged include them in as much as possible. Constantly just directing, giving orders, or just going through the motions with staff will not go too far and will cause your staff to check out sooner than later. Most will learn more by doing, so involving them in your processes and giving them their own responsibilities will develop them more and keep them motivated.

Get feedback.

Talk to your staff individually and as a group to get feedback on things like their goals, what motivates them, their thoughts on how camp is running, ideas on how to improve programs, etc. Your staff are on the front lines of your programs every day. Talk to them regularly and anything you can get feedback on can only help everyone involved. It will also make your staff feel like they are being heard and have a say in the operation of the program. This will continue to keep them motivated and you will get more out of your staff just by listening and getting that feedback.

If you start investing in staff training and education, your team will start to develop. Eventually you will see them taking the initiative to get the job done without having to be told while performing at a high level. The quality of your staff can make or break your programs so make sure to provide them the tools they need to succeed and empower them to do great things.

For more resources, visit The Summer Camp Source website.

Jason Schaitz

Jason Schaitz is a parks and recreation director with 15 years of experience managing youth sports, camps and recreation programs. He also created and manages League Source and The Summer Camp Source with the goal of providing free, high-quality resources for any type of youth sports or camp program. Take your leagues and camps to the next level by visiting our websites for free resources and education!

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