What if I told you the recipe for planning a great staff development day is to not follow a recipe at all? If it makes you feel a little uncomfortable and confused, then you know how I felt when I learned you don’t have to strictly follow recipes in the kitchen. 

One of my earliest memories of cooking on my own was when I loudly exclaimed “Ewwww!” at the kitchen counter. I don’t even remember what I was making. But what I do remember is that the instructions said to “stir by hand” and I thought that meant with my bare hands which was too messy for me! While my stepmom explained that I didn’t need to take everything so literally, I spent most of my time in the kitchen following recipes to a T. If I didn’t have the exact ingredients or equipment, I just couldn’t possibly make the dish! 

It wasn’t until I started cooking with my husband, a professional chef, that I was encouraged to let go of my rigid recipe ways and learn to use my culinary instincts to get more creative in the kitchen. Not only was this more fun, but it made cooking easier since I wasn’t restricted to only what we had at home. An unexpected benefit is that my cooking skills and confidence have improved over the years.  

Planning an engaging staff development day can lead to a more engaging and effective experience like cooking without a recipe. Here are some ways to get started.

Personalized activities

Tailor activities to your staff's unique strengths and interests, like customizing a dish to personal tastes. Be sure to get staff input ahead of time on what they’d like to learn and do for staff development. Check out 5 ideas for unforgettable library training for example engagement activities.

Use available resources

Make use of the talents and skills within your team, akin to using fresh, on-hand ingredients. Invite staff members to lead sessions on their areas of expertise. This could be work-related or sharing a favorite hobby. Swap with a neighboring library where they send some of their staff to lead sessions and you return the favor for their next staff development day.

Consult an expert

I know I couldn't have built up my cooking skills and confidence without the expertise of my own personal chef! And with Learn with NoveList you have professional development experts ready to assist you. Our courses are available virtually or in person and focus on working with readers, practicing inclusivity, and promoting your library.

Make it fun

Incorporate elements of fun and relaxation. You could have a theme, play games, hold a contest, give away prizes, and of course, share a meal. If your library subscribes to LibraryAware, you can easily create bingo cards, themed signs and bookmarks, certificates, and more. 

Practical tips for an engaging staff development day

  • Start with clear goals: Even though you might not be following a recipe you still need a general idea of the meal you want to cook. 
  • Be flexible: Allow the agenda to adapt based on the flow of the day, just as you would adjust a recipe based on taste tests.
  • Gather input: Involve staff in the planning process to ensure the day meets their needs, much like asking for input on favorite ingredients.
  • Strive for variety and balance: Have a mix of structured and unstructured activities to cater to different learning styles, like offering a variety of dishes. Don’t forget to include a balance of activities to include socializing and downtime.
  • Celebrate efforts: Recognize and celebrate achievements, just as you would enjoy the final dish after a creative cooking session. In addition to celebrating years of service, consider acknowledging excellence in customer service, team building, program development, or community collaboration. Solicit staff nominations to reward hard work and build community among staff members.
  • Continue learning year-round: Build on the skills and foundation laid during your staff development day. Encourage staff to pursue the training they need to provide your community with excellent service. The Learn with NoveList Staff Subscription allows your entire staff to participate in engaging self-paced content covering a robust and growing catalog of over 45 hours of learning.

Need help planning your next staff development day? The expert instructors at Learn with NoveList can teach staff how to work with readers, practice inclusivity, and promote the library. These courses are designed for all staff and all skill levels!

April Mazza is a Learning Engagement Specialist for NoveList. She is currently reading How Can I Help You by Laura Sims.