A blueprint might appear quite complex but, at the core, it is simply a guide for making something based on best practices.
The blueprint’s purpose is to help you visualize the overall architecture that guides design, development and cooperation throughout your organization.
Early Childhood Education programs operate with a blueprint, formally or informally, made up of years of research and best practices plus their own leadership signature that makes each program unique. So let’s ask ourselves, what is your ECE house built on?
Child Care Biz Help Founder Caroline Jens is a mentor, leader and coach with more than 30 years experience in finance, construction, banking.
Whether you are a well established program or just starting out, Caroline says there are five essential components that every Early Childhood Education program should include in their blueprint.
Including these components in your blueprint will help you manage the school of your dreams that your staff and families want to be a part of and rave about.
Caroline also reveals how 1Place Childcare software can support you in defining, managing, and monitoring your blueprint so you can make best practice the new standard at every stage of growth.
Caroline’s top 5 blueprint must-haves:
1. Vision and purpose
If you get this piece right, everything else will fall in line.
It begins by asking yourself what is the vision for your school and how do you want to get there? Or if you’re an established school, what have you learned from this past year that requires a fresh look at your blueprint?
“Dream about the school you want and you’ve always imagined you’ll have, and let’s make that a reality,” says Caroline.
Your vision is seeing that future state for your school, where you’re headed, what you’ve learned retrospectively, and always keeping your purpose and reason in front of you. And so you must;
Define it – ask yourself why do you want staff to believe they’re there?
Believe it – don’t let fear or past failures stop you from reinventing your school. “Deep down inside you have to believe the vision so your team does too.”
Live it – as a leader, your job is to cascade your vision or purpose down to your team and empower your leaders to live that vision.
Align it – to everything; job descriptions, policies, procedures, hiring procedures, what you’re doing in the classroom. That’s going to allow your vision to come alive.
Your people are the second most critical piece in your blueprint.
“You can have the vision and the purpose but you need the right people around you to execute it,” says Caroline.
She says finding the right people and retaining them is hard and a daily struggle.
“Before covid it was hard and, as we reopen, it’s been triply hard but there is hope – we work with some schools that have a 100 percent retention rate. We know it is possible!”
You can find the right people if you seek employees who:
Align with your purpose
Caroline says it starts in the job ad and your online presence to draw the right people into your organization.
Don’t ask the same interview questions like ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses?’
“Ask what they’re involved in in their personal life, and how that relates to your purpose so you’ll know whether they’ll be the right fit for your organization.”
Are entrepreneurial and empowered
Find people who have an entrepreneurial mindset where they know they’re empowered to make decisions, says Caroline.
As a leader it can be scary to let people be able to ‘take things off your plate’ but it’s a mindset we have to adapt to.
With clear expectations, policies, procedures and checkpoints, the more empowered your team can be.
1Place Childcare software provides the perfect set of digital tools to help define, audit, and measure your team so they feel their role really does matter.
Some decisions you could hand over to your team include:
- ordering supplies
- giving them a small budget for fun events
- allowing them to set the menu
Don’t be afraid of bringing in someone to train your team on being an entrepreneur either.
“Creating the entrepreneurial spirit will help in a really great way.”
Knowing how to communicate your vision, expectations and how you’re going to hold your team accountable is the core of every highly efficient organization, says Caroline.
“When your team knows these things, you’re really going to be able to make something magical happen.”
Communication is being mindful that your team is watching you, whether you think they are or not.
“People are constantly creating expectations on what we’re communicating verbally and how we’re acting. Be careful as leaders, that you’re living what you’re saying,” says Caroline.
She stresses the importance of being present, visible and available.
“People need to know that you’re available and how they can count on you. This will give you a really strong communication channel that will help you with feedback.”
Some ways of being present and opening communication could be;
- Develop communication plans for families and staff.
- Establish two check-ins a month with staff; one formal five minute one-on-one covering the same questions every time. The other is ‘rounding’; a casual conversation in the working environment that is still scheduled in your calendar.
- Establishing regular check-ins with families.
- Holding regular staff meetings to share where you’re at with goals, staffing, and great wins. You could personally call out two people living our vision.
While most organizations are good at writing procedures, not many are good at the accountability piece, says Caroline.
“Keeping those metrics in front of people is so important,” says Caroline.
This is where 1Place Childcare’s smart workflows can help you communicate consistent best practice standards and stay tuned-in to your team.
Schedule tasks, reminders, maintenance tickets and regular checklists to keep you and your people accountable and ensure things don’t fall between the cracks.
With real-time visibility, you can see when work is completed on staff level and the data to know areas that need improvement.
Lynn Wenger, Vice President of 1Place Childcare North American Operations, 1Place Childcare can support you in building relevant and meaningful connections with your teams too.
“Having information at your fingertips is a critical component of strong leadership, especially when giving feedback while daily routines are happening.
“It shows you care, that you’re connected and up-to-date, whether you’re there daily or not. It helps staff feel supported and that their job is relevant in every way.”
4. Training and development
Is also an essential element of every early childhood organization’s blueprint, and falls into three focus areas:
Because the first 90 days to the first year of employment is critical, “don’t just train them on the classroom tasks but also culture and purpose. Ask them if they know the purpose and what they know the company is about. Check in regularly.”
Spend time training your people on how to unify their team, give them freedom to be creative and a budget to have fun activities.
“Because all of that supports your vision,” says Caroline.
It’s also important that you share your passions and personal interests, and show that you are interested in your employees’.
We need to get to know our employees and coworkers and what they want to get out of their life, so have a mindset that you want your people to achieve success in their personal life.
They will want to work harder for you because they are going to be happy.
“This is one of the most rewarding experiences if you can dive into that personal side of your team,” says Caroline.
The final element of your blueprint for success is engaging with your families and employees by making them your “raving fans,” says Caroline.
The ‘raving fan’ experience starts before they start with you. Then, once they enroll or are employed by you, it’s the experience they have; are you engaging with them? Are you communicating with them and developing them?
Showing value and gratitude is a rewarding way to build engagement, says Caroline.
On a company level this includes considering things like incentives, bonuses, food, snacks in the break room, and merchandise that make people feel appreciated.
On an individual level, it could be thank you cards, a post-it note acknowledging something you’ve witnessed, giving a team member extra time off if they need it in their personal life, paid training, or being their mentor.
Caroline says it’s important to have fun with it and not look at it as a burden.
“Showing gratitude is going to change so much about your school and take so much off your plate that you’re going to focus on things that really matter. Gratitude becomes part of your culture and spreads.”
Events and how you can extend learning into the home are fantastic engagement builders too.
“Build resources for staff and families to make them excited to be part of your organization,” she says. This will remind them of the purpose and passion and the why behind what you do.
1Place Childcare can also be utilized here to send out surveys for feedback, whether for staff or to your families, says Lynn.
“It comes back to accountability, where people feel valued and there’s a purpose.”
So let’s build your ECE house
With these fresh insights, now is a great time to inspect (or reinspect) your blueprint.
A clear vision and purpose, a focus on employing the right people, communicating well, providing robust training and development opportunities, and engaging with your families and employees will create a comprehensive blueprint to guide you on your journey to building the successful organization you have always dreamed of creating.
By partnering with 1Place Childcare, you will have the data on-hand to celebrate successes and best practices. The software’s digital dashboards enable you to proactively monitor, manage, and identify any gaps or cracks in your blueprint – giving you the peace of mind that your ECE house is built on a solid foundation.
Whether you are a well established program or just starting out, let your blueprint be your guide!