Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cultivating Communication

"Daycare. What do you want?"  I'll never forget the day I heard those words coming from a staff member at the center where I was a brand-new Assistant Director.  Really??  That's the way our staff answer the phones here?  I was stunned.....I suppose I just figured that simple phone etiquette must be common knowledge.  All I could think was "Who is on the other end of that phone and what must they be thinking right now?"

Obviously, in retrospect, not everyone knows how to answer a phone properly.  Which also means that not everyone is going to respond to a parent's (or potential client's) inquiries in the same way either.  So, how do you protect your program by making sure that the messages you would like to have shared with people are the same messages your staff will be sharing?  You have to establish the standard and then train your staff so that they understand your expectations.

You will need to establish a policy that addresses situations that you feel are important to your program and how you expect your staff to respond. 
  • How would you like the phone answered? 
  • What happens if you are helping a parent when the phone rings? 
  • How do you handle a conflict with a parent? 
  • What verbal and nonverbal techniques should be used? 
  • How do you take a message for another staff member....and be sure that person receives the message in a timely manner? 
 After you establish your policy, you need to ensure that EVERY staff member is trained on it during their New Employee Orientation.  You work hard to ensure the success of your program.  Don't let a mistaken assumption of common knowledge undermine all of your efforts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thank Your Staff (or Parents)

At this time of year when we stop to reflect on all of the things we are thankful for, I would like to suggest a quick and inexpensive way to thank your staff or parents.

Assemble a "Thank You" kit and present it to each person during the holiday season.  Choose 5 or 6 of these items to include (along with a note with the text so that they know what you are thinking):

  • A Couple of Marbles: To replace the ones you have lost.
  • A Hershey's Hug & Kiss: To remind you that someone cares.
  • A Jingle Bell: To ring for help when you need it. We're here to help one another.
  • A Puzzle Piece: To remind you that, without you, we wouldn't be complete.
  • A Tea Bag: To remind you to take time to relax daily.
  • A Starburst: To let you know that you are a shining star.
  • A Shape: To thank you for helping to "shape" the future.
  • A Packet of Seeds: To remind you that you plant the seeds of knowledge.
  • A Clothespin: To remind you to "Hang in There"; you're doing a great job.
  • An Eraser: To remind you that the good start you provide for children can never be erased.
  • A Penny: To remind you that you are priceless.
You can put these items in a gift bag, a simple ziploc bag, or even in a mug with an addition to the note to include:  A Cup: My hope that your "cup always runneth over".

Thank you for all that you do for children.  I hope your Thanksgiving is truly blessed!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reducing Child Care Staff Turnover

National estimates put child care staff turnover between 25% and 40% annually.  We all understand why this is bad; lack of continuity for children, the cost of hiring and training new staff (estimated to be at least $3,000 per employee), a decrease in staff morale, and negative parent perceptions leading to decreased enrollment.  The million dollar question is:  What do I do to retain my quality staff?

The obvious answer is higher pay, but we all know that is often not possible.  However, careful attention must be paid to the program budget to ensure that staff are compensated fairly and as well as possible.  

There are additional, low-cost steps that can be taken to reduce staff turnover.

The first step is to hire well.  Make sure that potential employees thoroughly understand your program philosophy and your expectations for their performance.  Develop interview questions that will help you understand how this individual would respond to various situations, how he or she will work with other staff members, and how the applicant will fit with the overall culture of your program.  You may want to consider scheduling a "working interview" to give you the chance to observe the applicant in a classroom with children as well.  

The next step is to provide a thorough new employee orientation.  Again, your new employee has the opportunity to really understand your program and your specific expectations for his or her position.  New employees see your commitment to a thorough orientation as an investment in them, feel more comfortable in their positions and develop greater job satisfaction.

The next step is to ensure that your program has a professional environment and that all employees are encouraged to continue their own professional development.  Highly-educated individuals tend to stay in the child care field longer than those who achieve only the minimum required training.  Educate yourself about programs that provide tuition reimbursement or other financial incentives that your staff members could access and share that information with your employees.  Encourage your staff members to attend professional conferences (where they can learn a lot while bonding with their fellow employees) and pay their conference registration fee if possible.

The final, often-neglected, step is to simply make sure that your program truly has an atmosphere in which each staff member feels valued and respected.  We often spend time in our programs teaching children how to problem-solve and make decisions, but then don't include our own staff in our own decision-making process.  Providing each staff member an opportunity to have some sort of "ownership" in the program is invaluable; in addition to being free to you and providing you with potentially untapped resources.  Perhaps your staff members could write articles for your newsletter, suggest agenda items for staff meetings, chair a project, or even come up with their own project they would like to implement.  Let them be creative...improve your program....and become loyal, long-term employees in the process.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Back to Sleep"....and More

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that all infants be placed on their backs to sleep. Since that time, death from SIDS have decreased dramatically, but other sleep-related deaths have increased.

Last month, the AAP released expanded Guidelines for Infant Sleep Safety and SIDS Risk Reduction. Three additions to the guidelines are:

  • Breastfeeding is recommended and is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.
  • Infants should be immunized. Evidence suggests that immunization reduces the risk of SIDS by 50 percent.
  • Bumper pads should not be used in cribs. There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.

The additional recommendations are:
  • Place the infant on his or her back for every sleep time.
  • Use a firm sleep surface. Car seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for routine sleep.
  • Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets, and bumper pads.
  • Do not use wedges or positioners.
  • The infant should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed.
  • Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development and minimize the occurrence of positional plagiocephaly (flat heads).
  • Avoid covering the infant’s head or overheating.
  • Do not use home monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  • Pregnant woman should receive regular prenatal care.
  • Women should not smoke during pregnancy or after birth.

All child care providers must follow these guidelines and help educate the parents of the children in their care on these guidelines.