Employee turnover kills some companies. By employee turn over I mean the rate at which a company gains and loses employees. Finding, hiring, and training new employees takes money. Furthermore hiring a workforce of employees with special skills can be really expensive.
This camp I coach at in the summer has an incredible rate of employee turnover. Not because employees are quitting in clumps but just due to the general nature that we are a 12 week summer camp that breaks down into 12 x 7 day sessions. I don't have the exact numbers here but let's say it has roughly 400 employees of which 25% turns over each week. Another 50% of the staff only works 12 weeks a year. That means that they have less than 25%(100 employees by my estimation) that are employed full time and only about 20 or so live on campus.
Back to the 50% that will stay for the majority of the summer that need to be trained up at the beginning of the year and the 25% that need to be brought in and trained each week. How can you build a scalable business where 75% of your work force turns over so quickly? Let's examine some of the techniques they use to make this giant machine run.
As mentioned in my post on e-myth lessons applied to camp they have a hierarchy of directors that help facilitate hiring and training this massive work force. For each 12 or so employees there is one director. On the gymnastics coaching side we need roughly one coach for every 8 kids. You also need to take in the amount of consolers to stay with the athletes in their cabins, the ratio of trainers per athlete, and the amount of food staff we need to create the meals for the thousand or so campers and hundreds of staff members. This means that there is a pretty direct relationship between the number of campers and the amount of staff required to run the camp.
Since the numbers of staff members scales up so quickly and giving someone a director title adds additional expenses(a walkie talkie, the fancy collared staff shirts, more golf carts, a slight pay bump) they have created a layer in between director and base employee. A layer on the gymnastics we call Master Coaches. It's a way to allow your more veteraned employees to become guides, not necessarily managers as the master coach has no real authority.
When you first get here all employees whether they be a cook, a high level gymnastics coach, or a cabin mom go through a well scripted presentation that discusses everything from emergency procedures to social media policies. It allows them to control the quality of the training that all employees get pertaining to the general operations of the camp. They even detail how to properly promote our corporate sponsors to the campers and their families. One of the high level directors goes over through a brief slide show and talk before anyone is allowed to put on a staff shirt.
Additionally each department has its own orientation process. This process is designed to orientate each employee to their specific responsibilities and give them the information they need to carry out their jobs.
The separation of the general employee orientation and the specialized department orientation is important. If each department had to do the general orientation it inevitably would not be consistent throughout departments, furthermore it would cost more resources(director's time and energy) to spend the two hours to do their own separate version of the general orientation.
There are all sorts of visual cues all over the camp. Behind the cash register in the camp store the walls are plastered with little ques reminding the employees to restock merchandise, how to prepare a pizza, which sink to use to wash their hands before handling food. The registration area which has multiple purposes throughout the year has each piece of equipment carefully numbered so it can be brought out and put away in order. These simple ques help new employees quickly setup and teardown different camp related activities.
Often times the simple ques are not enough, tasks are so complex that they require a collection of these cues in the form of a checklist. Each one of the above mentioned orientations is scripted using one form or another of a checklist whether it be a laminated list of talking points or each slide of the aforementioned slideshow. The binders they issue master staff even have a list of bullet pointed responsibilities that assist in creating a consistent quality experience for our customers(the campers).
Orientation meetings, posted ques and checklists might be enough to fulfill most unskilled or general purpose positions but there are some positions that require expert technicians for example high level gymnastics coaches. They have figured out a way to actually benefit from employee turnover. Since they do have a budget for hiring one or two super high level borderline celebrity coaches each week they have created a program where those super high level coaches teach 45 minute long classes to the other 20 or so coaches. This over time raises the abilities of your entry level coaches allowing you to internally grow your skilled specialist technician workforce.
SIDE NOTE: They have actually turned this into profit by creating an opportunity for gyms to send their own coaches here to learn in exchange for some compensation given to camp. Kind of a camp university... genius...
SIDE NOTE 2: They allow non celebrity coaches(like me) to sharpen our teaching abilities too by doing clinics as well. It's not what people pay for but it allows me to raise my own ability as a teacher by practicing
Making my living working early stage tech companies I have experienced my fair share of employee turn over but it pales in comparison to what this camp deals with each week. It is amazing how they have taken that turn over and turned it into a strength. I am eager to see if we can take these simple principles and apply them to the our own industries.