Know Thy Staff: getting to know your team
This week I’m zoning in on why it’s super important for you as a childcare business owner to “know thy staff”. You might think you know them a little already – because you hired them – right? But how well do you really know them? And what do you do to ensure you’re getting the very best out of every single member of your team?
Over the many years that I’ve been running and growing my daycare centers, I am constantly learning that it is a vital part of my role as a business owner. I need to be appreciating the variety of my team members’ backgrounds and embracing all their quirks! Celebrating their unique approach to their work, and supporting them where they need to up their game.
None of this is easy, but I highly recommend taking more notice of your staff. Get to know them and help them flourish! I’m going to explain a bit more about why you need to do this to grow your business, but also how you can do this!
One size doesn’t fit all
When you carry out your interviews for team members, I bet that you look for specific skills, don’t you? You’re not looking for a cookie-cutter childcare worker. You’re hoping to find the team member with the abilities your team are currently missing. So what happens once you’ve found that person? Do you hire them and expect them to be like everyone else?
I implore you to take a look at the staff you’ve recently employed. What training have you offered them? Was it generic training – a one size fits all approach – or did you tailor it to suit their individual needs? This would be a great opportunity to do a skills audit and find out where the gaps are. Professional development is only useful and worth the time and money if there’s learning taking place!
(I just want to point out that it’s funny really, because – as childcare and education specialists – we pride ourselves on our ability to differentiate the learning for the babies in our care…but when it comes to our staff, we rarely do the same. Interesting to note, isn’t it? We should be paving the way for other industries, not doing what they all do!)
All walks of life
I bet that your team are as varied as the plants in your local park! Have you taken time to truly appreciate their backgrounds and unique experiences? Perhaps you could look back over their applications and resumes, or have an informal chat with each team member to figure out how best you can accommodate their needs and demonstrate an appreciation of their individual pathways into childcare.
Get to know your staff and really show them that variety is the spice of life and that you embrace it all! Be inclusive and ensure everyone feels welcome and supported in their journey with you in your business. Valuing your team members for where they’ve come from shows that you truly care about them, and those things shine through to families interested in your services.
Know thy staff to help them
Once you’ve made an effort to get to know your staff you can then help them more. This could be in the simplest form of training opportunities. For example, if you have staff that also happen to be parents, you might want to consider ways you can help them in order that they can be both brilliant parents but also a superstar childcare practitioner in your daycare. What adjustments can you make to help them, which in turn will help you.
Something simple and easily achieved is that you could look into putting all your trainings online. By creating digital training videos, you are saying to those team members with kids (or other caring responsibilities) that you appreciate that they’ve got priorities outside your facility, and that you care, but that you also want to help them grow their skill set. And by making things easier for them to access from home, you’re signalling this to them! They can watch at home, but still ask questions via an app like Slack to clarify things. It truly is the little things that make a difference.
So get to know them, take time to observe them. Be open and flexible. You want them to do their job better, but they won’t get there if you don’t notice what they need first.
Tools for getting the best from your staff
When it comes to enabling your team to their best, there’s three things that immediately pop into my head.
- The directions and instruction they need to get the job done. This is where your leadership matters. Steering your team along the right path, but knowing when to back off and let them shine. Trust is a huge factor here too.
- The physical resources that they need to perform their role well. For example, something as simple as crayons or curriculum sheets, or perhaps iPads for recording observations and notes, or play equipment.
- The soul – how you relate to your teams. Build a reciprocal and valuable relationship with staff.
This third point matters a lot. Because the way we deliver criticism is important. This in itself is a really useful tool. And just like any tool from your garage, you need to utilize it in a way that will get the job done well!
So, when you’re offering a critique, do it in a useful and constructive way so that they can learn from their mistakes. For example, I would point out something they’ve done well first, before highlighting something that needs work. And then cushion the blow with another positive. So you’ve given them a learning point but haven’t totally demoralized them in the process.
You want them to come away from your correction feeling like they understand the point you’re making. It’s all about encouraging and making learning a positive experience – just like we do with the kids, right?! Staff should be able to receive your critique and feel empowered to move forward, not like they should pack up their things and leave.
Finally, by knowing your staff really well, you can really support them in their journey to becoming the rock stars they’re destined to be in your childcare business! And a rock star team = customers who rave about your business! And that’s what we’re all aiming for, right?! When you know thy staff, you can grow your business into the successful vision you know it can be.
I hope you’ve found this blog super helpful. If you have, share it with a friend!
Also, if you liked this, I wonder whether you’ve found the Childcare Ninja Facebook group yet? We’re an army of childcare professionals who are sharing ninja-sharp skills to transform our businesses into childcare empires! This is Childcare Ownership all Grownup! Interested in becoming a part of the community? Join us for more tips on how to make your childcare business the success it deserves to be! And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram!