Childcare is serious business in an increasingly competitive market when it comes to attracting families and finding staff. Operators are continually looking for ways to streamline operations of all types in order to keep pace and find success.
Darby Ward, founder and Partnership Specialist at DW Bridges education business consultants, explains how organizing processes empowers childcare entrepreneurs to rise, survive and thrive.
The ‘toppling tower’ of best practice
Licensing covers the basics of buildings, physical environments – playgrounds and inside the classroom – adequate supervision, hiring, onboarding and training staff.
“We know that these licensing agencies set these ground rules to keep the children safe, and us safe as business owners to ensure we’re providing a healthy, safe environment to ensure quality and standards are met or exceeded.” says Darby.
Yet despite robust licensing requirements, she says many childcare operators are seeing rising injuries, in the playground, in the classroom from falling objects and even with something as simple as improper use of bottle warmers.
“So many of us work so diligently to stay on track and align with state requirements so why are these things still happening?”
Child injuries, damaged reputations and lost profits are the result of a ‘toppling tower’ of loosely defined, managed or implemented best practice standards.
Best practice is the foundation for any childcare organization but a reliance on paper-based systems makes it all too easy for processes to be compromised or skipped due to papers kept in multiple places contributing to paper fatigue.
Retrieving information or adapting to changes in policies is cumbersome when you rely on binders. Reporting is manual or non-existent, and without the systems in place to ensure all centers are operating from the same set of standards it’s difficult for owners to scale up.
So how do you establish solid best practice foundations? Follow these three initial steps:
1. Get into a good cadence of safety
With more than 200,000 children under 14 taken to the emergency room every year in the US, Darby says centers must get into “a good cadence of safety.”
This means defining, measuring and acting on the simple things through consistent and regular checklists.
“Just because we may have said it 100 million times, it just may be the first time a new person at your center is hearing it,” she says.
“I’m visiting centers and I notice some of the simple things we take for granted. [Owners need to] be the visionary but we still have to hold people accountable,” she says.
Being accountable is about paying attention to things like cords that could be trip hazards, and heavy objects placed too high for a young child. Proactively addressing potential hazards is a vital part of our daily routines.
As an owner, consistently stressing the importance of these everyday things helps to emphasize your expectations. Darby says your staff will recognize their role and the importance of ensuring safety for all.
2. Empower your people to share your vision
At the same time, giving your team the tools to ensure your vision filters through creates a shift in mindset from working “in” the business to working “on” business.
“With the decrease in qualified applicants, we’re fishing in each other’s pond so now more than ever you’ve got to support your people and give them the tools to simplify their job so they can really enjoy the experience of early childcare,” says Darby.
This can be done by identifying and nurturing the rising stars on your team to help you pass the “leadership shadow” and increase awareness of what’s most important.
“People get bored so you have to invigorate the environment just a little to provide the challenge so they want to be with you,” she says.
These people want to work for organized operators so create procedures that allow them to go back, self reinforce and become empowered through continual improvement.
Darby says the “dynamic tension” created among team members as a result of consistent standards will also support you in maintaining best practice across your organization.
3. Monitor and follow up your vision
Monitoring your best practice standards is the final and most difficult step.
This step involves bringing all of the things you’re doing together online so you can have real-time visibility and peace of mind that compliance is being performed, nothing is falling through the cracks and best practice is being followed.
With 1Place Childcare, photos are time and date stamped while smart workflows allow new employees to understand what you’re trying to achieve with best practice by clicking on helpful video tutorials, information links, or images to support the question.
From a management perspective, dashboards that are accessible from mobile, no matter where you are, give you a visual representation of what tasks are completed or partially completed in real-time. Further, from the same dashboard, you can drill down and see the details by day, by location, and even by room.
With automated and enhanced compliance processes, you can work to reduce injuries, protect your reputation and increase profits all while creating more time for your team members to focus on what we’re all here for – nurturing the most delicate members of society.