The growing cost of labor is a top concern for campground owners and operators across North America. In this recap of our webinar conversation with Dan Invergo, regional operations manager at Northgate Resorts, we discuss how optimizing your labor management strategy can be the key to unlocking future success. 

Catch the highlights below or hear directly from Dan about how Northgate fosters a sense of ownership among staff members, aligns key performance indicators with team incentives, harnesses guest feedback, leverages technology for operational efficiencies, and more.

Understanding Labor Management

Labor management is the practice of adjusting staff hiring and hours based on the unique departmental, spatial, and temporal needs of a park. A simple example is planning ahead to staff up during your busy holiday weekends and tapering back employee hours during your off-season.

Labor management really started for Northgate in 2022 with their desire to heavily forecast labor needs following the post-pandemic camping boom. As guest behavior and occupancy changed in the industry at large, Northgate learned to predict fluctuations and adjust their labor practices, since labor was the company’s most controllable and largest expense. 

Garnering Team Buy-In

Dan acknowledges that labor management can be an emotionally charged topic. Because it’s not always easy to approach these conversations with your staff, he advises park operators to come with data in hand to clearly lay out the case and explain the “why” behind the changes you’re making. 

“The more data you can give your team, the better,” says Dan. If your decisions also make sound business sense and allow for greater team flexibility, your staff will be more receptive to the changes. Establishing this initial trust and making data-informed decisions from the get-go are essential to long-term staff buy-in of your labor management plan and most operational moves. 

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Budgeting and Planning All Season Long

It’s important to have budget discipline, both up and down. For multi-resort entities like Northgate, this means not going under the minimum budgets they set. To understand budget variance over time, Dan’s team relies on both historical data and regular conversations with each park’s staff. Where historical data is lacking, Northgate uses data from like-sized parks to estimate needs. 

“We allow our teams to push back and let us know if they think something is wrong,” said Dan. For example, if a field trip of 200 people is due soon but hours for activity staff have been reduced for that period, Dan knows the park will speak up about this. After all, “they know their business better than us at times.”

Interested in more of this content? Listen to the full interview with Campspot and Dan. 

Forecasting and Training Best Practices

Using Excel and Python, Dan’s team has coded and built a custom forecasting calculator for their needs. Across each property, though, the staff are an important sounding board. “We trust the onsite teams to ultimately know how many housekeeping staff they need versus activity staff,” said Dan. That’s because this isn’t always 100% accurate from Northgate’s proprietary forecasting tools. 

In terms of communicating changes from headquarters to each park, Northgate has found great success with Asana as a project management and team communication platform. Northgate utilizes Google Chat within Gmail for more impromptu conversations as well. 

To onboard hundreds of employees at a time and in a consistent manner, Northgate has standardized their training manuals and created standard operating procedures (SOPs) across departments. This is all factored into their labor-modeling thought process and tailored to specific seasonal hiring windows. Importantly, Northgate keeps the guest experience at the center of their training philosophy. 

Measuring Performance

Dan’s team provides forecasted labor requirements two weeks out to Northgate’s properties, which shows them where they are at by forecasted budget and labor dollars spent per department. “If we’re under budget, we check to see if this is impacting the guest experience. Is there a hiring gap? If our budget variance is high, then we talk about this, too, and adjust the hiring in-period by tapering back staff hours in a reasonable way,” said Dan. 

The foodservice industry is a logical and analogous case to underscore this mentality. If there are 10 servers waiting on 50 empty tables, there’s a mismatch between demand for that time period and labor needed to accomplish the job. 

ReviewTrackers is a tool that pulls in all reviews across all platforms—Yelp, Facebook, Google, and TripAdvisor in Northgate’s case. Northgate then loops this feedback back into different Asana projects by department to ensure the parks aren’t overlooking guest needs that they could address through their labor planning. 

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Happy Staff, Happy Campers

Dan shared how Northgate is always listening to its team and making changes based on the team’s direct feedback. Though there are some business parameters that can’t be altered, Northgate fosters an encouraging environment that welcomes feedback. 

“We always encourage staff to share the things they see on the ground that we can’t,” said Dan. Northgate has even adjusted their business rules in Campspot’s reservation software based on this feedback. In order to remain competitive with a property down the road, one instance included changing a park’s occupancy limits per site before an additional per person fee would apply.

Compliments are free, and staff recognition goes a long way toward making someone know that they’re an integral part of the entire operation’s success. Finally, communication communication between executive leadership and each park is still accessible and happens frequently—even as Northgate’s team and number of properties have grown.

To learn hiring best practices, such as getting the right staff onboard the first time, and insights from the live audience Q&A, tune in to the rest of the webinar.


Haley Dalian is a lifelong Michigander who takes advantage of recreation throughout the state’s changing seasons—from snow skiing to scuba diving in the Great Lakes. A former Campspot marketing manager, Haley holds a B.A. degree in public policy from Michigan State University and an M.S. degree in sustainability from the University of Michigan. She is passionate about environmental stewardship, exploring the outdoors, and has never met a potato she didn’t like.