There are times when the emphasis on OR/AND comes up in various situations and their use is key to finding/moving to a solution. The Staffing Summit Planning Committee would like to introduce a “This or That” reflection to help you think through some various scenarios around strategies for recruiting, hiring, and retention. Now is a great time to think back on the staffing process (effective or not!) for the recent summer in order to make plans for 2023. This tool will be incorporated into ACA’s 2nd Virtual Staffing Summit on October 24–26, 2022. 

“This or That” is similar to the “Would You Rather?” game that encourages folks to make a decision given only two choices. It can be challenging to go with one or the other scenario “as is” without justifying situations when both options could be implemented. We invite you to think about each “this or that” with regards to your own staffing strategies to gain insight for the upcoming recruiting season. 

Virtual job fairs or in-person recruiting events?

Virtual fairs became a necessity and now in-person events are being scheduled again. Where did you see the most success? What can be specifically credited to the conversion of a prospect to a contracted staff member? Take notes and track this!

Mini-application first or full application from the start?

Short applications ask a few quick questions that lead to a more in depth application later if the candidate is suitable for continuing through the hiring process. Which is required for folks to get “in the door”? Which one produces the most applicants to explore/interview?

Only full-term staff or some partial season?

This is a numbers game as hiring staff for a full summer potentially means hiring fewer staff (in theory this should be easier!). Which allows the most flexibility for unexpected conflicts that arise over the course of the summer, the inevitable dismissal/s by camp, or staff members leaving without completing their contract?

Domestic staff or international staff?

Let’s face it, US staff are more difficult to find and less likely to commit. International staff require a fee, visa, and travel logistics to get them through the front door of summer. Which group of staff will be recruited to fill the needed roles? Are there other benefits to consider for hiring a different mix this season? What aligns best with the camp’s values?

Kid experience or people experience?

Working at a summer camp requires all staff to come in with experience working with kids. Or does it? What if great team members are overlooked because they are expected to have spent time babysitting, coaching, or taking care of younger siblings? What are the advantages to hiring someone who enjoys working with people and is a good team player (yet has no formal experience working with kids)?

Hire for position or train for position?

The onboarding process is simplified when staff arrive at camp having the needed certifications and training. Without a doubt some positions must have certain requirements completed ahead of the application process to be considered for a camp job. What positions are flexible for training to happen after someone has been hired? What hurdles can be removed if the right people are hired first and training takes place later?

Recruit using Instagram or TikTok?

There are a large number of social media platforms out there and each one speaks to a different audience. Which platform reaches the people who are most likely to align with the camp's mission?

Hire high school/college or multi-generational?

A large number of seasonal industries rely on high school and college age students to work during the summer months. When the number of applicants/available persons is less than the number of openings, what creative avenues can be explored to find the right people to work at camp that span the multi-generational world we live in and differ from the preferred/typical age? 

Referral bonus at end or incentivize in stages?

We often hear that camps offer a referral bonus to a staff member who “brings a friend” to work at camp and that the bonus is paid in the event the referral completes their signed contract. What are possible ways to incentivize in stages (for a referral submitting an application, being offered a contract, completing staff training, and possibly pro-rating the number of weeks completed) so that staff are more inclined to participate?

Hire floaters or switch assigned roles?

Camps have a lot of moving pieces and rarely operate with 100% of staff on any given day. What offers the least disruption to the program schedule while providing optimal coverage (and takes into consideration the overall wellness/burnout of staff)? What would it take to hire floaters who could fill in just about anywhere so that staff assigned to various activities could stay there?

Self-care focused or care of others?

Today’s youth are no strangers to mental health and self-care. At the same time, camp employees are in some way responsible for the care of others (campers, peers, work crew, etc). How is the importance of an individual’s overall wellness at camp communicated before/during the season? What camp appropriate coping skills are practiced and developed during training and throughout the season? How are staff empowered to make healthy choices while taking care of others? What time-off options are available that promote wellness?

Hire a heart beat or a heart for the mission?

This is the question of the century! Are staff being hired because they are a warm body and have a heartbeat to make sure supervision ratios are covered? How can more staff with a heart for the mission of camp be attracted to the impactful work of shaping future generations?

Now that the end of the list of “this or that'' questions has been reached, you may have sparked some great reflection on your own or within your team. More questions may have surfaced. Truth be told, it is really hard to stick to one or the other choice for each category. So much is situational and can change in any given year. 

It is now time for the final two questions. From this list, what are the non-negotiables for your camp/organization and (it is possible to think about both!) what considerations for change can be given or made? Before making those decisions and/or if you would like some perspective from the experts and thought leaders within our industry, we invite you to join us for ACA’s upcoming Virtual Staffing Summit!

The 2022 ACA Staffing Summit will feature critical learning, speaker panels, roundtables and engaging sessions spanning three days (Oct 24-26) on most things “staff”. Here are the top 5 reasons to attend this timely event: 

  1. Amazing keynote presentations by Sarah Sladek, next-gen membership and workforce engagement expert; Jason Jones, organizational psychologist and CEO of LeaderPath, a company dedicated to sharing evidence-based methods for enhancing performance in the workplace; and Simone Gamble, founder of OAAARS, a people of color-led consultancy that provides social justice-centered education and training to create safer and inclusive workplaces.
  2. Over 40 educational sessions by thought leaders with practical solutions and strategies that will help move the needle with today's staffing challenges.
  3. Cutting-edge techniques for attracting, hiring, onboarding, engaging, and retaining great staff.
  4. Opportunities to connect and discuss staffing issues with peers. Come with your favorite promising practices to share and leave with a ton of new ideas! 
  5. View session recordings for a full 30 days following the conference.

Don’t miss one of the most important events of the season! 

This blog was written on behalf of ACA's Project Real Job, whose goal is to support camps in their efforts to recruit, hire, and retain staff. 

Kim Aycock, MST, has several decades of experience equipping young people with skills robots are unable to do. While blending the talents of a master teacher with the knowledge of a seasoned camp expert, Kim ignites learning for varying levels of camp pros worldwide through her interactive & innovative presentations. Kim speaks at regional and national conferences, contributes regularly to Camping Magazine and ACA blogs, and serves as Co-Chair of ACA’s Staff Recruitment & Retention Committee and Staffing Summit. Kim can be reached at