This summer, many childcare and preschool directors are busy planning for the year ahead. In a recent webinar, we asked our community of early education leaders what their best tips were for strengthening their businesses in the new school year.
We hope these strategies will inspire you and that you’ll find some new ideas to try at your center! Here are the sections we'll cover in our post:
- Reflect on the past year with your staff team and families at your center
- Plan ahead for retaining and motivating your staff members
- Implement new, creative incentives to increase family referrals
Reflect on the past year with your staff team and families at your center
The end of the year is the best time to pause and reflect on the past 12 months at your center. As a director or administrator of your program, you may be accustomed to doing this by yourself or with your leadership team. However, it can be extremely valuable to gather year-end insights from your staff members and the families in your program as well!
By asking them for their big-picture feedback on how the past year went, you’ll remind them that they play a role in shaping the future of your business, helping to increase their sense of ownership and inclusion in your program. You’ll also have a clearer understanding of what went well and what could be improved from a number of different perspectives!
You can use these questions as a starting point for gathering feedback:
- What should we start doing in the new school year?
- What should we stop doing in the new school year?
- What should we keep doing in the new school year?
Ideas from our early education community—year-end reflection activities for your staff and families
- Send out newsletters to your families that reflect on the past year and ask them to respond with any reflections of their own
- Set out suggestion boxes for staff and parents at your center
- Send family and staff surveys using a tool like Google Forms
- Host a year-end party with your staff team to enjoy each other’s company, reflect on the past year, and plan for the year ahead
- Go over your handbook with your staff team and make adjustments to policies based on what worked and what didn’t for the upcoming year’s handbook
- Send a thank you letter to families that includes a survey about how the past year went
- Set new years’ resolutions for career growth with your team during a staff meeting
Plan ahead for retaining and motivating your staff members
The past few years have been some of the most challenging times in regards to staffing issues. A NAEYC report conducted earlier in the year revealed that 80% of childcare centers are reporting staff shortages, so if you’re experiencing hiring and retention challenges, you certainly aren’t alone.
Staff retention is a big, complex issue, and there are many contributing factors that you can’t control. However, don’t underestimate what you can do to boost morale for your team! We’ve heard from countless providers that it’s doing the “little things” to support your staff that make a world of difference, such as covering your teachers’ classrooms so they can take a break, or simply asking “How can I help you today?”
If you haven’t already, take some time before the year ends to block off time in your weekly or monthly agenda in the new school year for staff support. Small acts of support done consistently can oftentimes make a bigger impact on your teachers than just doing one big thing every so often can!
Ideas from our early education community—simple things you can do to boost staff morale throughout the year
- Give your staff opportunities to grow at your center by delegating tasks they actually want to do
- Verbally tell your staff how great of a job they are doing
- Ask your staff how they are doing and prioritize friendly conversations with them
- Surprise your team with coffee at staff meetings
- Give your staff a paid hour break
- Start an employee of the month program
- Cover your teachers’ classrooms for 30 minutes so they can take a break
- Help prep classroom materials for your teachers, such as making copies or gathering supplies for them
- Ask your teachers what kind of support they need in the classroom
- Send frequent messages of gratitude
- Bring your teachers a thank you card, just because
- Ask your staff what they need or what they need help with
- Be available every day by having an “open door” policy
- Assist in the classroom so your staff can take a walk
- Provide your staff with a floater for harder days
- Provide longer paid breaks compared instead of just the required minimum
- Regularly ask, “What will make your life easier?”
- Prepare a resource binder with ready-to-go art, activities, games in case your staff need inspiration for their lesson plans
Implement new, creative incentives to increase family referrals
Word-of-mouth referrals from families can be one of your most powerful marketing tools, as new parents are more likely to trust other parents they’re already connected with. If you aren’t already using a referrals program at your center, the new school year is the perfect time to start! And, if you are, it’s well worth your time to see if you could improve your current program to make it more creative and compelling in the new year.
Ideas from our early education community—creative referral incentives to boost enrollment at your center
- Offer one free week of tuition to every family whose referral successfully enrolls in your program
- Host a “family fun night” at your center where families can invite their friends who are looking for childcare options, and give families a gift card for every prospective family they bring
- Offer after-hours childcare for a parents’ night out or moms’ night out for every family who refers a new student
- Give gift cards to local businesses
- Offer 50% off tuition for one week and mention families in your newsletter for every successful referral
- Host a family fun day once a year for every parent who refers a new family
- Offer a $50-$100 cash incentive
- Gift families who refer new students tickets to something fun and local, like a concert or day at the museum
How brightwheel can help
With brightwheel, you can make the next school year the best year yet at your center. Brightwheel makes it easy to:
- Help your staff enjoy their jobs more by giving them time back to spend time with students
- Delight parents by sharing photos and videos of their children’s learning, all within the brightwheel app
- Easily collect tuition online and give families the option to use autopay, so you never have to chase down late payments again
- And much more!
More helpful resources for strengthening your business
Check out these free resources to help you start the new year off strong!
- [Webinar] The 5 Things to Do Now to Strengthen Your Childcare Business in 2022
- [Free eKit] The Parent Communication Toolkit: How to Wow Families with brightwheel
- How to Onboard New Childcare Staff: 8 Inspiring Ideas