By Dina Gentile
The standard for the majority of corporations and educational institutions is to orient their new and returning staff prior to the start of a new business campaign or at the beginning of the school semester.
The benefits of an orientation or opening meeting can also be a valuable tool, and an often overlooked mechanism, to assist camp directors in communicating the mission and the goals of the seasonal camp.
Here's a step-by-step process for running this meeting, which precedes a typical orientation time…
Step One: Information Collection
Prior to scheduling the opening meeting with seasonal staff it is important to collect information from each individual. Documents such a copies of driver’s license, CPR Certification Card, First Aid Certification Card, social security card, permanent address, phone numbers, completed tax verification forms, updated resume, and any other documents or information which may be necessary for the delivery of the camp. All required materials should be collected prior to the opening meeting and avoided during the meeting in order to commit more time to preparing for camp.
Step Two: Timeliness
Camp directors should plan the meeting in a timely fashion, usually two weeks prior to the start date. The date for this meeting should also be communicated well in advance in order for the staff to make the necessary accommodations in order to attend the entire meeting.
Camp directors should mail the date, time (including start and end times), along with an agenda to each worker. Each individual should be made aware that the meeting is mandatory.
Step Three: Discussion Topics
This first meeting with the entire staff is the best opportunity to convey to each person the camp philosophy and camp expectations. A solid checklist of orientation materials can include:
Camp history -– Providing the history of the program offers the staff a chance to get to know more about where the camp started and to see perhaps its growth and evolution over time.
Staff introductions –- It's always a good idea to make sure returning and new staff members get a chance to identify themselves, their position and number of years with the camp.
Review of camp philosophy –- A camp philosophy guides and directs staffers in their daily routine and job tasks. For example, a philosophy for a recreational camp could be to teach the fundamentals of a particular sport in an environment that fosters fun, self-respect and respect for others.
A philosophy or mission statement also creates a culture for your staffers. The group works together on creating positive environments, job tasks are respected, and actions are geared toward the accomplishment of camp goals and objectives.
Camp rules –- Having simple and concise rules can also serve to guide your staff. Staff members can learn about not only their expectations, but also the expectations that each camper shall follow and abide by. Examples of camp rules may include:
• Have fun, but no horseplay, foul or abusive language or disrespect toward other campers and coaches allowed.
• Staff members lead and trail all walkers on hikes -- no campers in front of lead counselor or behind trail counselor.
• Camp discipline -– Camp staffers need to be well versed on how to respond to issues of discipline and disrespect. Appropriate discipline can be used ranging from polite requests to timeout to dismissal from camp.
Review of medical/emergency procedures -– All health and emergency regulations and forms should be distributed and discussed. It is paramount that each staffer understands their role in the event of the emergency and that they have the proper training to respond.
Discussion of staff responsibilities –- A hierarchy or chain of command is appropriate for seasonal camps. Staff members can visually see whom they report to and who reports to them. Clear lines of communication can be established through learning about each other's scope of responsibilities. Job titles and responsibilities can also be distributed to the group.
Review of camp arrival/dismissal procedures –- Probably the most stressful time in a camper's and staff member's routine is the start and the end of the camp day. It is important to go over the daily procedures in order to avoid chaos. Some of the tips used by camp directors can be:
• All campers will check in a central location.
• Campers store bagged lunches in refrigerator at XYZ location.
• Campers that fail to check in at the appropriate time. Roll call will be double-checked, parents will be contact to determine camper location.
• Campers will gather according to their preset groups prior to departure to ensure all campers are accounted for.
• Parents will be called if a camper has not been picked up.
Review of camp objectives -– Each director should outline three to five measurable objectives at the beginning of the season. The objectives should provide employees with direction. Outcomes should be measured so the director can determine if the objective has been met or if works still needs to be done to accomplish this goal.
Summary of camp expectations and code of professionalism –- The last part of the formal meeting can be a listing of camp expectations ranging from dress code to bus duty.
At this point in the discussion, staff members can learn exactly what they will be evaluated on at the end of camp. Directors can also implement and communicate their own monitoring or continuous review of employee behavior throughout the camp.
Step Four: Feedback & Open Discussion
Be sure to allow for some time at the end of your formal presentation for the staff to ask questions or even voice their opinions on the topics discussed.
Creating an environment whereby the staff can openly ask questions and discuss issues provides for a rich and healthy working setting. Remember your job as the director is to foster good working relationships amongst your employees.
Step Five: Staff Shirt!
A great sendoff to any informational meeting is to give out the camp shirt and a binder filled with the camp philosophy and all the policies discussed at the meeting. The camp shirt symbolically connects your seasonal camp team and the binder of information serves as a reference guide.
The importance of ensuring that everyone is on the same page can serve to motivate the staff and create a feeling of teamwork and commonality within the group.
The opening meeting is a terrific forum to present and review the objectives of the camp and mold a positive first impression with your staff. The opening meeting is an opportunity to connect with your valuable human resources.
Dr. Dina Gentile is associate professor of sports management and head soccer coach at Endicott College, Beverly, Mass.