What Summer Camp Taught Me About Employee Engagement

August 20, 2015
Sadly, I didn’t just come back from summer camp. I did, however, go to summer camp a few times as a kid. Back then, I thought the purpose of going to camp was to make friends, have fun, and learn some basic survival skills (moss grows on the north side of the tree, right?). And beside now knowing that I was probably there just to get out of my parents’ hair for a while, as an adult looking back, I realize that these camps taught me a lot more about leadership, motivation, and engagement than I could have ever known at the time. So let’s take a lesson or two from the camp-loving child version of myself.   “Our team is dy-na-mite…” Working well with others is a skill not everyone has, but being part of a team is crucial in the workplace, whether it’s your department, office, or the company as a whole. The benefits of being a team player in the workplace are implied. Make people feel a part of an extraordinary group, something they should feel special to be in, and I guarantee they will feel more motivated and work harder. “If you can hear me, clap once…” Something as simple as gathering in the cafeteria to sing a camp song or chant leadership skills we all learned during our stay proves that everyone is born with the inclination to join the crowd and follow others in the fun – despite how hard we try not to sometimes. Knowing that my peers were there cheering and singing out loud made me definitely feel that it was normal to want to sing along too. Everyone at camp was gathered for the common purpose of boosting morale, which taught us that being involved is a good thing. And it was contagious. We, as companies, need to create our “cheerleaders” from the inside out. The people in your business need morale boosters built into the environment, and to see others appreciate their workplace in order to help them feel the same. Culture, engagement programs, and appreciation will do this. “I’ll treat you the way you wanna be treated…” Just as teams are important, organizations must treat everyone as an individual and celebrate his or her differences. The person working in sales is not going to have the same attitude or personality as a person in IT; just like outspoken, active little children don’t have the same personalities and skills as those who keep to themselves and prefer reading. It is important to recognize this and recognize the individual. Give motivation that allows all employees to get the full benefit. "We're going on a bear hunt, we're gonna catch a big one...." I realize that it’s not so different trying to keep little kids engaged and excited about their environment, the activities they need to attend, and tasks they need to complete. Adults in the workplace are the same, but the source of motivation is a little different. Adults want to make money, be successful, and create a life they are happy to live. Children, if I remember my younger self correctly, want to have fun, have friends and fit in, and also feel special. I think it all comes down to purpose. If both in the workplace and on the campground leaders can give people (regardless of age) a reason to do things and a reward that makes them feel like they are important to the overall group, then that is motivation enough. The workplace will never be all "kumbaya," but there is plenty of room to grow and nurture employees by motivating them and recognizing them…even if it’s inspired by something we learned from summer camp.  

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