Staff are one of a programs most important assets and resources. How we train them, support them, supervise them, and provide feedback says a lot about a program and its culture.
Picking the right staff is a great place to start. Without the right caring, dedicated and motivated staff your path to success and growth will be severely limited, if not halted dead in its tracks. Start by thinking about who you want to work in your program. Who you want to represent you. What kind of person would you want, and trust, caring for your own child? Develop a list of qualities and characteristics that you desire, and some that you will require. Use these in developing your interview questions, your ads or postings, and even the job description itself.
The next thing to consider is the initial training provided to new staff. What basics do you want to make sure everyone knows, and learns the same way? Don’t leave this to chance. Be sure to consider the training schedule so it is “chunked” and delivered in a way that maximizes comprehension, as well as retention at an appropriate rate for adult learners. In other words – don’t overwhelm staff and try to fit it all into a few long days. Consider your trainer too. They should embody the traits you are seeking to have staff display in their work and interactions with peers, children and youth, parents, and anyone else they come in contact with.
Be sure that the initial training is comprehensive, but also progressive to ensure additional trainings build on material already learned, and reinforces that previous learning. Enrich the training as well with activities, and challenge them with situations that push them to be creative and think through the development of action plans and responses – then discuss together, or as a group, to maximize learning.
Providing ongoing training will help both in maintaining staff knowledge, and increasing their capabilities, in areas most relevant to the services being provided to the children and youth in care. This will also play an important role in reducing turnover. Happy, engaged staff tend to stay longer than those who don’t feel there are opportunities to lean and grow.
Clear lines of supervision and responsibility are also important elements of providing support and guidance to staff. They need to know who to go to, and where to turn for assistance, when necessary. Additionally, this clarity offers a better understanding of what expectations they are expected to meet, and how, and by whom, they will be evaluated.
Regular meetings and feedback provide the support and guidance necessary for staff to implement learning and expectations, as well as continue their growth and development in line with the expectations placed on them, and already communicated to them through the interview process, training and their job description. This includes opportunities for individual (or one-on-one) meetings with their direct supervisor. These meetings should focus on strengths and positives, as well as opportunities for improvement. Provide regular feedback; follow up on previous discussions and goals to discuss status, hurdles and achievements; and afford staff opportunities for self, and guided, improvement. This way, when it comes time for performance reviews there will be no surprises. Group supervision sessions can also be extremely beneficial in providing staff the opportunity to provide each other feedback, and learn from others ideas and strengths, as well as when communicating the same information to everyone. Keep notes of the meetings, both individual and group, so you can reference back regarding what was discussed.
Staff need to feel supported throughout their employment. This begins with the hiring and training process, and continues each day. By giving them a defined role and participative voice in processes and improvements, they develop greater commitment and loyalty to ‘their’ program. Include opportunities for them to develop and lead projects and tasks, implement their own ideas, and even present training in areas they have an expertise. Your role includes supporting them with necessary, and reasonable, resources, guidance and constructive feedback and recognition.
Regular and ongoing feedback is an essential piece of the equation to close the loop. As mentioned earlier, by discussing feedback and documenting it throughout their employment, they are provided an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to learn and grow, while also creating a culture of support and eliminating stressful surprises during annual performance discussions and evaluations. Evaluations should be a recap, with no surprises. An evaluation should not be the first time an employee has heard about a concern or performance deficiency.
CypherWorx offers trainings that focus on numerous topics related to running quality school-age-care and out-of-school-time (OST) programs for children and youth. More information about these high-quality, affordable and easily accessible courses can be found online at https://collabornation.net/ostpd.