Leaping the Learning Curve: Five HR Practices that Improve Child Care Administration

Your role as administrator is one of great responsibility—especially as it involves a program that cares for children. However, the human resource function, which can be a full time career in other industries, is usually just a part of the child care administrator’s workload. Finding the time to get up to speed, not to mention locate child care specific resources, on all the HR aspects of administration can be near impossible. This means learning on the job through trial…and sometimes error.

The good news? There is a way to leap the learning curve.

The recently released HR Toolkit from the Child Care Human Resources Sector Council (CCHRSC) goes a long way to bridge the knowledge gap between the human resources theory and practice of administering a child care program.

The online Toolkit is the result of a collaboration between the CCHRSC and a number of early childhood education and care employers to “increase understanding of good HR practices, as well as provide practical solutions to HR challenges.”  Content includes downloadable tools and resources, as well as sample templates, making it flexible enough to be an excellent reference for both new and seasoned administrators.  There are even separate learning paths for caregivers and board members.

To get you started, we’ve highlighted five practices to jumpstart your knowledge of human resources and improve the administration of your program. In a nutshell? Make your job a little easier.

1. Have great policies and procedures

Great policies and procedures are the precursor to consistency in a child care program. When you have documented standards, both you and your staff know what to expect and the processes to follow.  Proper HR policies show leadership, promote equity from the top down, and generate increased trust and respect from staff.  Covering subjects like health and safety legislation can increase child care worker knowledge—which can lead to better on-the-job professionalism.

Following written standards also allows for a greater level of accountability.  You can reduce the organization’s exposure to liability by referencing employment legislation.

Sounds straightforward, right? But all policies and procedures are not created equal. Even if they exist within your organization, they may not be as effective as they could be, or they might be out of step with current laws and standards. And, if your organization doesn’t already have documented policies, it means knowing where to find the samples and resources to use as a starting point.

How the HR Toolkit Can Help…

The HR Policies & Employment Legislation section of the Toolkit offers suggestions and resources for meeting legal obligations and dealing with day-to-day centre and personnel issues.

Highlights: How to develop HR policies; sample policies; links to provincial employment, health, safety and human rights legislation

2. Hire Wisely

In larger companies, a person—or even a team—may be solely devoted to finding qualified individuals who are “a good fit”.  This will be only a part of your duties…but an important part.  There are good practices to follow and the right questions to ask to ensure you get the best person for the job.

A person lacking proper child care knowledge and experience can directly affect the safety and well being of the children in your care.  Even if all the professional qualification checkboxes are ticked, hiring someone who lacks interpersonal skills and does not get along with other staff can have a domino effect in your child care program.  It can create tension that may result in decreased employee professionalism and satisfaction—which may affect the overall environment and the children.

Sometimes, the only solution to an unwise hire is termination.  And even that has its problems—not the least of which is the waste of both the time and money that goes into training.  The children and families you serve can also suffer, as continuity of caregivers can be especially important to newcomers who are already going through significant changes in their lives.

How the HR Toolkit Can Help…

The Recruitment/Hiring pages of the kit give you the resources you need to make informed hiring choices, including creating job descriptions and managing the interview process.

Highlights: Laying the groundwork for hiring; building job descriptions; interview processes and sample questions; selection criteria; staff orientation

3. Retain great staff

Once you know how to hire the right people, the next step is keeping them.  The CCHRSC reports that, “retention challenges are primarily caused by staff turnover, with close to nine of every 10 new recruits being required to replace existing staff.”  Losing a new hire can cause upheaval with families, but losing a truly skilled, longstanding staff member can deal a difficult blow to the children, their parents and the rest of the team.

Engagement makes the difference between a job and a career in child care.  Taking the time to conduct regular and thorough reviews sends the message that child care is a profession—and that you see each member of your staff as a professional.  Performance evaluations not only serve to ensure that individuals are working effectively with the children, but are also a way to challenge and motivate through examining goals, coaching and planning for career progression. While routine may be good for kids, it does not make for a challenging or dynamic adult work environment.  By periodically objectively questioning existing practices, child care workers can stay current and remain engaged in their job. That being said, feedback needs to be given in a consistent, constructive and positive manner.

Recognizing employees, as a group and as individuals, is another motivational tactic that can lead to employee satisfaction and generate “staying power”.  Employees who feel valued are generally happier in their job and more loyal to their organization.

How the HR Toolkit Can Help….

The Retention– Keeping the Right People section covers ways to engage, recognize and retain employees.  It also looks at the flip side that includes disciplining and terminating employees.

Highlights: What factors influence retention; retention challenges and strategies; how to manage—and ideas for—employee recognition; performance management, including occupational standards checklists and performance appraisals

4. Create opportunities for learning

Learning has a wonderful effect on both individuals and organizations. But is up to you, the administrator, to cultivate it.

Research indicates that one of the most important features for safe child care delivery is the education of the team.   Knowledge gained from professional development promotes high quality programming that supports the learning and wellbeing of children.

Some rewards are less tangible—like improved confidence, self-perception and the perception of others. Caregivers who are confident in their abilities are more likely to assume positions of leadership, share what they have learned, and positively influence co-workers.   And, seeing how new ideas and techniques can impact children allows for meaning and value in work. These benefits can, in turn, increase the confidence and security felt by newcomer parents, for whom your program may be their first experience with group care.

Encouraging learning at your facility shows support for your staff’s career objectives, improves morale and retention, attracts like-minded new hires, and helps you get the most from your people.

How the HR Toolkit Can Help…

In the toolkit’s Learning, Training & Development section, you can quickly get up to speed on adult education, what affects learning, and find out how to implement an employee development and training program.

Highlights: Searchable directory of learning, training and development opportunities; links to other organizations that offer professional development resources for child care workers

5. Manage your risks

When you think of risk in a child care program, your first thought are likely about the children and their safety—which is of primary importance.  However, there is also risk in human resources areas, such as compensation, hiring, occupational health and safety, and employee management. As an administrator, you need to account for this.

Identifying areas of potential exposure to risk is the first step towards reducing it.  Strategizing ways to manage risk is the second. This means having the processes, polices, documentation and monitoring systems in place to ensure that your organization—yourself, your team and the children—are protected.

How the HR Toolkit Can Help…

The Risk Management area of the HR Planning & Infrastructure section offers insight into applying risk management to HR, as well as tools to help assess risk in your child care facility.  Note that you can also review legislation in other sections of the HR toolkit as a means of reducing risk.

Highlights: List of HR activities and associated potential risks; sample risk map to evaluate risk in your organization

Childcare Administration: Simplified

Administering a child care program, and all the HR knowledge it entails, can feel daunting.  By focusing on the five practices outlined in this article, you can make your job that much easier.  And, thanks to the new CCHRSC HR Toolkit, you don’t have to go it alone, start from scratch or personalize the samples provided.  You just have to know where to look.

The full Child Care Human Resources Sector Council (CCHRSC) HR Toolkit can be accessed at http://www.ccsc-cssge.ca/hr-resource-centre/hr-toolkit.