Fall staff training is a tradition for most campus recreation departments. For the growing department of Recreation and Wellness (RecWell) at the University of North Florida, recurring challenges have prompted us to re-evaluate our traditional All Staff Fall Training.
What is All Staff Fall Training? It’s just what it sounds like — a training for every program area in our large department. This means upwards of 200 student staff from 17 different positions across Aquatics, Competitive Sports, Eco Adventure, Fitness and Wellness program areas. One of the main goals of All Staff Fall Training is to get everyone together as a RecWell team to go over common department policy and for an activity to promote getting to know each other across the department. The main challenge is timing. With the oversight and guidance of department administration and the supervisor team, RecWell is essentially programming for students by students. Even with the support of campus housing to allow early move-in, the week before the fall semester quickly fills with specific team training so RecWell programs and services can be available for the weekend before school.
The specific team training covers all the basics, so what do we really miss by not having All Staff Fall Training?
- A collective emphasis on common department policy.
- RecWell brand identity and having a greater awareness that each staff team is part of the whole.
If All Staff Fall Training was the vehicle for these outcomes we can find another way through shifting our focus to developing Team Leaders.
RecWell implemented a Staff Development Committee in the last year. With supervisor representation from each of our program areas, one of the functions of this committee is to consider ways we can invest in our staff through staff training, individual staff recognition and group appreciation. With our new focus on developing Team Leaders, this committee is developing a “common core” to support team leader training. A Team Leader is a staff member with a combination of at least a semester of experience and who demonstrates qualities like initiative to be a leader among their peers.
While most of our staff teams had a “Team Lead” designee of some type, we recognized there was room to improve the training to include a broader “common core” of responsibilities. While each position has specific soft and hard skills to the job — for example Member Services staff’s ability to provide customer service and manage point of sale for guest passes, membership and merchandise — the “common core” training will include topics like professional communication and trust, being a liaison between peer staff and the supervisor, learning to distinguish how and when to escalate topics to the supervisor, and a deeper dive into risk management themes. Team Leads will also learn to support through managing program forms, tracking inventory, sending payroll and other department reminders to peer staff, and assisting with interviewing.
You might be wondering how this Team Leader development gets us to the outcomes we were missing without All Staff Fall Training. Togetherness, common department policy and RecWell brand identity will be achieved and strengthened through Team Lead group training. Developing this connection among peer Team Lead representatives from each area will foster the sense of belonging to RecWell as a whole. The next time we have an end of the semester staff appreciation, Team Leads will be part of promoting it. The connection built among peer Team Leads from different staff teams also creates more unity at staff gatherings that can otherwise be staff teams sticking with their own group.
Benefits and Hopes
Staff retention is another benefit we anticipate of developing the Team Leader common core. Incorporating this clearly defined role across each staff team allows for professional growth opportunities within what can otherwise be a relatively short student staff career. Let’s take our Fitness Trainers for example. Starting as a freshman and working with a Fitness Team Lead shows the freshman that this could be an option for them if they stick around and show qualities of a team leader.
We are looking forward to investing in developing these Team Leads, watching them grow as young leaders, and seeing the connections start to build and strengthen our togetherness, better knowledge of department policy and RecWell brand identity. The ultimate goal is to develop these Team Leads to take an active role in future All Staff training or team building activities. The Staff Development Committee is patient to set when we will reach this goal. Our first priority is developing the common core training and getting feedback from our first group of official RecWell Team Leads.
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