July 22, 2020
Last month, Y4Y hosted a four-part Human Resources webinar series on identifying talent, recruiting and hiring staff, training and developing your team, and retaining staff. Are candidates proficient at engaging students remotely? Flexible and creative? Committed to the work? The following must-know tips from the series are the place to start, and the Y4Y Human Resources course will take you to the finish line in the race to hire, develop and keep top dogs.
Your program may or may not be planning to recruit this summer, but one thing’s for sure: if you ARE hiring, your priorities look a little different than in the past. You might have an even larger bank of candidates to draw from and be focused on different core competencies. Your first step should be expanding your program team. Some organizations shy away from larger deciding bodies because it’s hard to get broader buy-in. But in 21st CCLC programs, you want the perspectives of all your stakeholders, which means including those stakeholders. We’re in a different world than we were a year ago, so don’t assume that the opinions or priorities of partners like families or school-day professionals are the same as in the past. Reconvene and set a new tone. You won’t go wrong by adding local health department officials and other community members to your team. Check out Y4Y’s Program Team Roster tool if you’re building or adding to your team.
Your program leader has a lot on her plate right now. Reviewing human resource policies and recruiting staff should be a shared responsibility. Once your program team is established, develop program-wide guidelines for recruiting and retaining staff. Your sites can tailor these guidelines to their specific needs. Y4Y’s Human Resources Planning Checklist will keep your team on task.
As your sites are identifying the talent they need on staff, reflect on the hard and soft skills you’ll be looking for. Hard skills are measurable knowledge and skill sets. You may suddenly find you’re adding “extensive social media experience” to the list of hard skills on your frontline staff job description. Soft skills are less measurable, and relate to the personal characteristics that will ensure your staff’s success at engaging students and families. In a virtual or reduced-contact environment, staff members who are good at establishing relationships with students in person but require constant supervision might be less successful than candidates who are good with students AND self-directed.
Recruiting and Hiring Staff
It’s time to market your positions! Even this task looks different these days. There’s no more gathering at the water cooler and casual word of mouth, so your program must be proactive and creative to attract the best candidates. Involve those partners! Families are a great resource for bringing in talent who know the community. Also, many university students have had their internship opportunities curtailed — this is a great time to mine that resource for a win-win situation.
Be sure to have a system established ahead of time for ranking your candidates, or you may never get through the stack once resumes start rolling in. Ask yourself: What core competencies are the most important for each position? For example, if your program demands that staff be multilingual, candidates who don’t meet that criteria can be eliminated in the first round. Save time by moving to phone screening next. Ask scenario-based questions. Scenarios help you see how candidates might apply the knowledge they’ve claimed “on paper” to the real-life, in-the-moment situations they’ll encounter in your program.
Zelda Spence, 21st CCLC project director for Plainfield Public Schools in New Jersey, warns against rushing to “get the position filled.” A warm body is never your goal in out-of-school time, but especially not in the current environment. Invest the time and effort to find the right person, and that staff member will be more likely to stay with the program. She advises, “Be yourselves with candidates.” If your program has a funky personality, fly that colorful flag and bring in new staff members who dig the vibe and can see their place in it.
Training and Developing Your Team
Be sure to take advantage of Y4Y’s downloadable and customizable Sample Human Resources Packet. Firm and well communicated policies and procedures are crucial in 21st CCLC programming where there are many moving parts, judgment calls and autonomy in sensitive situations — now more than ever! The most important piece of onboarding new staff is proper training. Give thought to what training is appropriate for each position, and budget time accordingly. Examples of role-specific trainings include intentional activity design, project management, de-escalation techniques, instructional strategies, budgeting and emergency response. Be sure to check out the full set of trainings Y4Y offers that can be tailored to your organization’s needs. These PowerPoint presentations lend themselves easily to virtual trainings.
How are your staff trainings being impacted by a slow open in your state? Despite the uncertainty, you’ll want your training plan to provide a clear roadmap for staff that illustrates where your program is today, and where you’d like to take it together. Consider the four dimensions of source, delivery method, dosage and level of detail as you design that training plan. You may have other resources available to you to optimize training of existing and new staff, such as university or school district partners. Your training modes may be restricted right now, but you can host webinars, direct staff to self-paced e-learning and offer job aids. Dosage and level of detail will depend on the staff member’s position and experience level. Your training design plan will provide the clearest roadmap when you ensure that positive culture and climate are at the core of all implementation efforts.
Speaking of Positive Culture and Climate…
You’ve set your program up for success. Now follow through with staff retention efforts. Continue to offer opportunities for your staff to grow and flourish, both professionally and personally. Everyone should feel safe and supported, not just students. Hold meaningful team-building events that invite staff to share in the forward direction of your organization. Keep a staff and student “bright ideas box” to signal you want their ideas and input. Follow the continuous improvement cycle that you do for programming, and consistently assess and reflect on ways to better your efforts. Partner staff whose skills and abilities complement each other — you’re always stronger together!
The most successful organizations, whether a 21st CCLC program or major corporation, have clear, reasonable steps to be taken when it doesn’t feel stronger together. Program directors and site coordinators like Felisa Sanders, a site coordinator in Plainfield, New Jersey, spend a lot of time on their feet observing staff. Felisa offers constructive, in-the-moment feedback, always praising in public and correcting in private. In this summer’s environment, the equivalent might be popping in daily on every Zoom session or Google classroom. Annual evaluations are NOT when a manager should bring up deficits for the first time, and certainly staff should not face any surprises. Instead, missteps should be addressed as soon as they’re noticed, and treated as opportunities for staff development rather than occasions for punishment. Adopt a proportional, progressive discipline process for those worst-case scenarios where the well-being of students or your positive work environment are jeopardized by a staff member’s behavior.
In 21st CCLC programs, we know that love of children, eagerness to educate and the energy of super heroes make our staff top dogs all around. As Lewis Grizzard notes, “If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” Kudos to your staff for navigating this crazy new landscape.