Motivations and Barriers for Seasonal Camp Employment


  • Dan Richmond University of Utah
  • Jim Sibthorp University of Utah
  • M. Deborah Bialeschki American Camp Association



summer camp, staff retention, employee motivation, staff development


Each year, many summer camps deal with the challenges related to retaining quality seasonal staff. Retaining seasonal staff from year to year requires knowing what motivates staff to return and understanding the factors that drive voluntary turnover. While research on employee retention and turnover is abundant in management literature, few studies have focused on seasonal summer camp staff. This study used a mixed-methods design and involved a national sample of 997 returning camp staff from a variety of camp types. Respondents completed an online survey that included a 40-item questionnaire measuring staff motivations to return to camp and a series of open-ended questions on drivers of retention and turnover. Exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis revealed 7 latent constructs that drive motivation. Within the whole sample, Job Impact had the highest subscale mean score followed by Camp Embeddedness, Value Alignment, Staff Development, Management, Job Fit, and Compensation. Analysis of open-ended responses confirmed that Job Impact and Camp Embeddedness were the primary motivations for seasonal camp staff to return and that Compensation, Poor Job Fit, and Other Opportunities were likely drivers of turnover. This study helps paint a picture of the key factors that bring back seasonal staff and the factors, both controllable and uncontrollable, that lead camp staff to pursue other opportunities. Findings may be especially useful to professionals in the camping industry interested in seeking out potential camp staff and retaining staff year over year.

Author Biographies

Dan Richmond, University of Utah

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Department of Health, Kinesiology, and Recreation

Jim Sibthorp, University of Utah


Department of Health, Kinesiology, and Recreation


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