“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” These words are usually credited to the acclaimed genius Albert Einstein. Have you ever stopped and looked at what you do in your setting and look at ways to improve your business, bit by bit make small incremental changes to improve your overall service?
Change can be extremely difficult for companies and individuals. COVID-19 has certainly highlighted the major benefits of using technology. You will find advice, tips, and stories from some of the thousands of Early Years practitioners, managers, and owners around the country that have rolled out Child Paths successfully. If you are thinking strongly of signing up to Child Paths you can use this document as a reference and go-to place. You can come back to it as many times as you like, each time taking another piece of advice and implementing it within your setting.
To get started, you must ask yourself why you should change the way you have been doing things for years. With more and more pressure put on the early years industry, something needs to happen to relieve some of the pressure. Child Paths is obviously part of the solution when it comes to paperwork, cutting down on costs, communicating with parents but more importantly it is about spending more time with the children instead of doing administration. Child Paths will help you work quicker and smarter to capture, store and showcase more of your excellent work to parents and inspectors. Can you imagine your world without all the paperwork and parents giving you and your staff more praise for the excellent work you do on a day-to-day basis? They probably don’t see this enough because you both do not have the time or the platform to showcase this, now you have.
But first, you need to know a change management programme requires a leader who has to be absolutely committed to it and drive the process through; that is you. Once the Owner/Manager is enthusiastic about the change, they are advocating there is a much better chance others will be. Child Paths will be a significant change to your setting, and with all such changes, you need to be clear you understand the benefits and value it will bring so you can reinforce that message to your staff.
Here are some of the benefits of Child Paths you can question and discuss with your staff:
- Do you think it will help parents feel more involved in their child’s day?
- Will it help cut down on paperwork eliminating day sheets/notebooks, observations etc., while saving time writing repetitive information over and over?
- Will it act as an evidence tool for your inspectors and help with compliance?
- Will it save money on paper, ink and photocopying?
- Will it simplify Aistear and Siolta and act as a learning tool for staff?
- Is it a business management tool where you can record most things in one place?
- Will it cut down on the amount of storage?
- Will it satisfy your customers looking for real-time peace of mind updates on their child throughout the day that your competitors can not offer?
- Will it attract new customers looking for this latest technology to help them feel more involved in their child’s day?
If you can answer yes to any of the questions above you are making incremental changes that will improve different areas of your business. It will not only help you compete against other Early Years settings but also help you become more sustainable.
To help you do this, you need to have somebody called a change agent. This will be the person on the ground who will manage the change in your company, whether it’s you, your Manager, your Team Leader or a staff member who is good with technology. You need somebody to be the champion of Child Paths, so they monitor, support and assist everybody. If you do not have the time, you need to delegate this responsibility to one or more people otherwise you reduce your chances of successfully using Child Paths.
You may find some resistance to change due to either wanting to do things the old way or fearing technology. People need to understand what the objective is. What this means is how the change will benefit staff. By showcasing the future, that will emerge as the result of Child Paths, will help them see why it is the right decision. This might be done through the reduction of paperwork, positive feedback from the parents on the excellent work done by the staff, or through linking Aistear and Siolta within the observations, curriculum, and milestones tools; staff will find this very easy. Expecting resistance to change and planning for it from the start will allow you to manage objections effectively. This process begins with setting a vision or a clear reason for the change and communicating it clearly and as often as possible. People need a good reason to alter their way of doing things. They need to believe and understand the reasons for doing it, and they need to see the potential benefits for themselves and the company as a whole.
You need to have some short-term targets/goals which map the way to the result. What we recommend is:
- removing the day sheets after the first week
- going live with the parents after the second week
- doing their first observation after the third/fourth week and so on
That will show clearly that the change is working and you are not overwhelming them with change, and it is done bit by bit until everybody is confident and comfortable using the software. Some staff may need extra support and time to get up to speed with the software, so it is crucial to identify who those people are and offer support. Quick wins are essential to get buy-in from the staff and to ensure motivation and momentum keep going. These wins, when achieved, should be repeated as often as possible to as many people as possible to show that those results are not only achievable but have been reached. Manage your staff’s expectations about what should be achieved and what you expect from them. If they do not know what they have to do, how will they do it?
Just to give you an example of one setting in Wicklow that has roughly 80 children. We trained them on a Wednesday in their setting, and on Friday, they rang looking to go live to the parents. We asked them to hold off as we assumed it was too early as they had been only using the software for two days really. When we did a performance review where we go in and check how each room (staff members) are using the software, we were delighted to see they were using it exceptionally well. They were documenting every area on the tablet, which was previously done on paper. They had loads of great photos of what the children were learning and creating rather than just pictures of the children themselves. As they had no children’s faces in lots of the photos, they were able to send those pictures to all the parents, so they showcased what the children had done that day through photographs. They were able to select all children in the room and upload the photos in one go and click send. Again with activities, they used the software efficiently by only adding the activities in blocks/groups, one block in the morning, another early afternoon, and another group of activities late afternoon. They were using the communication area to discuss what the children were learning.
They did a fantastic job rolling out the software, and within the first two weeks, they had most of their parents using the software. We don’t expect everybody to go live to parents within two days; however, this is an excellent example of how it is possible to be using the software correctly, consistently, and enjoying the benefits after two days if it’s correctly managed. However, it is necessary to have somebody to lead, support, and assist in the beginning. They micromanaged the process from the start. What I mean is they monitored very early how the staff were using the software, showed them the correct way, supported them with any questions or concerns, and ensured that everything they were doing with pen and paper was on the software correctly.
We recommend you have regular meetings and brainstorming sessions with the staff to all share their thoughts and what they find easy or hard. This is where your staff will help each other by sharing how they do things better or quicker. You need to ask the staff do they see themselves doing all this paperwork and more that will come in the next few years. If the answer is no, well, then they need to know it’s happening now. The company can not sit and wait years before they make changes, it needs to happen as soon as possible, and their buy-in to the process is critical. The Owner/Manager needs to get people thinking and talking about the need for change. Communication is essential to the success of Child Paths in your setting. The Owner/Manager needs to communicate frequently and forcefully as it needs to be repeated over and over before it entirely filters down the change is happening for the right reasons. It needs to come from the top to everybody so nobody hears the information incorrectly and can make their assumptions. Make sure you communicate clearly, and it is understood by everybody as they need to understand the reasoning behind it. This must come from the Owner, Managers, and Team Leaders, and everybody has to be onside together if this is to be successful. Half the battle is having people around you that will in themselves simply change the culture, have an influence over others, and be committed to the changes ahead. This team will help spread the communication of change and maintain the necessary momentum to see it through.
It is very important the staff remain consistent in their work. Just because you see some good results early does not mean they can take their foot off the gas. It is important they keep the same level of communication with parents. They need to ensure they are meeting their regulatory requirements when it comes to inspections, and again the Owner/Managers/Team Leaders need to reinforce this message over and over again otherwise, it will end up failing. When new staff starts, make sure they are trained and supported by the staff you class as a Super User/Change Agent, somebody who knows the system inside out. Sharing experiences and processes from room to room is an excellent quick way of improving both efficiencies and confidence using the software. It is essential to support those finding the change difficult and let them know you and the rest of the team are there to help anytime. The sign that Child Paths has become a success is when the change stops being a process. It becomes a core part of the business; it’s culture and your working day where it becomes natural, and everybody uses it instinctively in the new way of working without even noticing.
You need to speak with all staff and get their input and feedback. Share quick wins and better ways of using the software between each room. Have some brainstorming sessions/meetings in the first few weeks, and remember to delegate, so you do not take too much control. Otherwise, it will eat into your own time. Change can be challenging and not easy to bring about however, with the right level of commitment from the Owners, Managers, and Team Leaders, it will become a huge success. Micro-Management, in the beginning, is critical. If you put the time and effort in for the first few weeks, your staff will be committed, confident and competent using Child Paths which will allow you to go back to dealing with your day to day duties. Remember, we are here for you every step of the way, and that includes after you have rolled out to parents. It is just the beginning of what we are creating, and we would be delighted to have you with us on this journey.
Please speak with one of our team today to see how Child Paths can help transform your business.