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Organizational Systems to Support Staff Members

Much of your role as a manager has to do with organizing and supporting the individuals who provide direct care to children and families. This means that you must have organizational systems in place that help you hire qualified staff that are a good fit for your program, onboard new staff in a way that sets them up for success, create schedules that keep children safe and honor staff members time and needs, and provide ongoing support for the staff’s professional growth. In this lesson, you will review key components for setting up systems that will allow you to do these things efficiently and effectively in collaboration with your leadership team.

  • Define systems that are needed for hiring, onboarding, supporting, and evaluating staff.
  • Define and reflect upon the shared and distinct roles and responsibilities of a Program Manager and coach in supporting staff development and program quality.
  • Distinguish between the role of coaching and performance evaluations.
  • Understand how to work with coaches to analyze data and support individual and program wide staff goals.



We all know the old saying, “it takes a village.” As a Program Manager, it is your responsibility to support and facilitate the work of people who make up that “village” to care for children and youth at your program. This requires organization and careful planning that starts from the moment you put up a job posting for a new staff member. In the previous lesson, we reviewed key components of organizational systems, with a focus on the more logistical side of your role as a manager (budget, documentation, safety and building procedures). In this lesson, we will shift our focus to creating and sustaining systems that are needed to manage and support your program personnel. Organizational systems and planning can help you make sure that you are recruiting, hiring, and onboarding staff members who will become effective members of your team, who carry out the vision of the program. Organizational systems for scheduling and for responding to unplanned absences help you to make sure that ratios are consistently met and that staff have the break time, coaching, and personal time off to allow them to thrive as professionals. Finally, systems for working collaboratively with coaches to identify and make progress on program-wide and individual professional goals is essential to maintaining high-quality care and education for the children and families you serve.

Before we review these systems, it is important to first consider how you share the roles and responsibilities of personnel management with your program’s coach and other members of your leadership team. The makeup of leadership teams varies program by program. Regardless of your program’s leadership structure, it is important that you work together as a team and hold each other accountable for working toward the program’s shared vision and mission. When it comes to supporting staff, you will want to work with your program’s coach to clearly define what role each of you plays in processes related to hiring decisions, welcoming and onboarding new staff, monitoring staff completion of training and clock-hour requirements, and supporting staff’s professional growth. You want your staff to view yourself and the program coach as a team that works together to support their growth. This is accomplished through establishing a positive working relationship with the coach, in which you meet and communicate on a regular basis. You each should feel comfortable giving each other feedback, expressing concerns, and making goals together in order to improve the ways that you support staff professional development. This also requires making it clear to staff how exactly the two of you work together to support them.

Process for Hiring and Onboarding

A strong process for hiring and onboarding new staff is one way to keep turnover down in your program. High turnover is costly, and has a negative impact on continuity of children’s care and on staff morale. Making sure that you are recruiting, hiring, and welcoming individuals that are motivated and committed to growing as professionals, being team players, and passionate about providing high-quality care to children and youth can go a long way in supporting staff retention. The process that you use to hire and onboard new staff should meet the basic criteria for an organizational system that we reviewed in the previous lesson. This means that the process should involve clearly defined steps, roles, and tools and documentation that help make sure that everything is completed as intended.

Job Posting and Interview Process

Your program likely already has some standard job postings drafted and a process for interviewing new hires. While you may not have a need to hire a new staff member right away, it is still a good idea to familiarize yourself with the recruitment materials, interview questions, and review process soon after you start as a manager. This way, when it comes time to hire a new staff member, you are prepared, and have had time to think about what specific qualities and skills you want to look for in a new staff member.

Make a checklist of each of the steps associated with recruiting, interviewing, and hiring a new staff member. This will include things such as:

  • Writing and sharing a job opportunity posting through various outlets (e.g., on your program website, online job search engines, community bulletin boards and newsletters, etc.)
  • Reviewing applications that are submitted, screening for basic requirements, and notifying applicants that do not qualify that they are not being considered for the job.
  • Calling listed references, if applicable, to confirm previous employment or other experience listed on an applicant's resume or application materials.
  • Identifying applicants who you are interested in interviewing and arranging a date and time for the interview.
  • Interviewing each candidate using a standard set of questions that you developed with your team.
  • After all interviews are complete, meeting to discuss applicant’s qualifications, interview responses, and overall fit for the program and making a first-choice selection.

Creating this list, deciding who is involved and responsible for each step, and documenting that each step has occurred will help you ensure that the hiring process is completed in a timely manner and supports you and your team in engaging in the process objectively and fairly.

If you do need to craft a new job posting or recruitment materials, work with your leadership team to identify what should be included. In addition to basic qualifications and job requirements, think about including your vision statement and mission statement or including language from those statements in the list of job duties. From the moment a potential hire starts to interact with your program, you want them to understand what you and your team are committed to doing to support children, youth, and their families. You also want to share what makes working at your program so great—use what you have learned in your conversations with staff to think about what this means for your program. What are you particularly proud of? The supportive teamwork environment? The family-centered emphasis in the care you provide? A priority for professional growth and support for staff development? Including these things in your job postings can help you attract the types of people who are ready and excited to commit to the same values (Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, 2021).

When preparing to interview candidates, draft a set of questions that you will ask all potential hires. These will include basics such as their previous experiences, education, and qualifications, but you will also want to include questions that help you get to know them as an individual and understand what is motivating them to join your program. Again, these questions should be guided in part by your vision and mission statements. Be sure to ask questions that help you understand if and how the potential hire is likely to be committed to being a part of the team and working to move your program forward. You will want to be on the lookout for responses that are particularly well aligned with your values and vision, as well as those that could be a sign of misalignment. For example, during the interview you might share with the candidate that there is an expectation that they will work with a coach regularly to support them in learning about and using new teaching practices. If the candidate responds that they don’t need coaching or ongoing development because they are already experienced, this might be a sign that their view on continuous improvement is not aligned with your program’s vision. Lesson One of the Program Management course in the VLS Management track offers more detailed information on the interviewing process.

Onboarding: Setting New Hires Up for Success

All new staff should engage in an onboarding process that is designed to help them feel welcomed into the program team. This requires careful planning with your leadership team. Taking the time to set up a standard system for onboarding can help make sure that each new staff member is getting the information and support they need. This can save time and frustration later by helping you avoid needing to repeatedly explain or clarify expectations. It is likely that your coach will assume much of the responsibility for providing initial training and support to new staff. However, it is still important for you as the manager to be involved in the planning process and spend time meeting with and getting to know all new hires in their first few weeks at the program, to allow you to begin building a strong relationship with them.

Consider creating a standard onboarding agenda or timeline. You can use this as a checklist to confirm that each new staff member has received the written policies and documentation they need and has had the opportunity to engage in the activities planned to support their successful transition into the program. It is important that you clearly define who is responsible for carrying out each of these steps and documenting that they occurred (as needed). A timeline for onboarding for a new staff member might look like (Abraham, n.d; Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, 2019):

Prior to the first day
  • Send new staff members a welcome letter and agenda for their onboarding process.
  • Send new staff members any paperwork that needs to be completed (background check, payroll, etc.)
  • Create a file for the new employee, where all required documentation and paperwork will be stored as it is received
  • Send new staff member a copy of the staff handbook (overview page will be signed, copied, and placed in the new employees file)
  • Send an onboarding agenda to current staff members who will be involved in supporting the onboarding process
  • Assign a peer mentor for the new staff member, connect the two via email, and ask the peer mentor to send a welcome note
Day 1
  • Tour the program
  • Confirm receipt of all required paperwork, background checks, required training completion, etc.
  • One-on-one welcome meeting with the Program Manager (discuss program organizational structure, onboarding agenda, and what the first three months will look like for the new staff member)
  • One-on-one meeting with the coach to review program policies and answer questions
  • Welcome lunch with peer mentor and other staff members
  • Begin orientation training with staff member
Day 2
  • Check-in meeting with peer mentor to answer any additional questions
  • Check-in meeting with classroom staff to review responsibilities for the day
Day 5
  • Check-in meeting with Program Manager to answer follow-up questions, provide additional support
  • Share performance evaluation form and discuss the timeline for first observation so they know what to expect
By the end of week 2
  • Check-in meeting with Program Manager to answer follow-up questions and provide additional support and clarification of expectations
  • Planned lunch or coffee break with a peer mentor
  • New staff member joins classroom team in a coaching meeting with the coach
By the end of week 3
  • Check-in meeting with Program Manager to answer follow-up questions and provide additional support and clarification of expectations
  • Coach observes new staff member
  • New staff member meets with coach to outline goals and create an action plan
By the end of week 6
  • Check-in meeting with Program Manager to answer follow-up questions, provide additional support and clarification of expectations
  • Coach observes new staff members and provides targeted support
By the end of week 12
  • New staff member completes self-evaluation using the performance evaluation checklist
  • Program Manager conducts formal evaluation observation
  • New staff members and Program Manager meet to discuss the evaluation and create a professional development plan

Although all components of the training should be provided in writing (so that the new staff member can refer back to policies or notes when needed), training should include interactive components and offer opportunities for new hires to ask questions and the opportunity for them to meet and talk with multiple staff members, not just you and the coach. This gives the new staff members an opportunity to begin to get to know their new colleagues and get insight and support from their peers who have gone through this process before. Consider assigning an experienced staff member as a mentor to connect with the new hire. This can be someone that they can go to with questions in the first few weeks and who will commit to helping the new hire feel included on the team. Your onboarding system should also be more than just a single meeting—there should be a process for providing support over the course of the new employees first few weeks or months in their new role. Have regular check-in meetings during the first few months at the program to talk about how things are going, see what new questions they might have, and plan for goal setting. There should be opportunities for staff members to provide feedback on their experience with the onboarding process, including what went well and what else would have been useful to support them in their first few months at the program (Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, 2019). You should also continuously reflect on the process with leadership team. Do most staff members have the necessary skills they need once their formal training is complete? Do staff members generally struggle to complete all training requirements on time? Think specifically about whether there are any expectations that you see new direct-care staff members consistently having trouble with or needing follow-up training on. Because the coach will be the one supporting the initial training and is also the one who engages most frequently with staff members in their classrooms, they will be able to offer insight that you can use to make updates and improvements to your onboarding process.

Staffing Schedules

One of your most important (and perhaps the most logistically complicated) jobs as manager is to set up staffing schedules. Your priority in creating schedules is to ensure that ratio requirements are met, proper supervision of children occurs at all times, and that primary care groups are maintained. To do this successfully, you need to have the following information organized and available to you:

  1. For each classroom or group of children or youth enrolled in your program, you must know the specific ratio requirements and how they change based on different age groups and scenarios (e.g., if a child has a health condition, naptime supervision requirements for preschoolers vs. Infants, rules during times of transitions). This is particularly important to understand when you have spaces or times of day (such as early care or aftercare) in which you have some mixed age groups. Refer to your licensing standards to be sure you understand ratio requirements in all of these scenarios. You can also learn more about policies and strategies for assuring proper supervision in the VLS Management Track Course on Safe Environments.
  2. For each classroom or group, you also need information about when most children arrive, and if there are times of day when there are more or fewer children and youth present. If this fluctuates in a predictable and consistent way, you can make some scheduling decisions based on this—however there should always be an additional staff member available should there be an unusual or unexpected flow of children and youth on a certain day. Times in which there are generally fewer children and youth present might be an opportune time to schedule release time for lesson planning, coaching, or longer staff breaks (Harris, 2005).
  3. You likely have staff members with varying hours at the program, either because they work part time or because your program offers care for more than eight hours a day. You might consider using an online calendar or scheduling system to allow you to visualize more clearly when staff members are scheduled to be in the building. Start by laying out the hours for direct care staff who are permanently assigned to a certain classroom or group of children, then identify when those classrooms need added coverage. This will include time for staff breaks, release time for lesson planning and coaching meetings, and times when additional help is needed, such as during transitions and meals. Once you have permanent classroom staff schedules on the calendar, you can then work to assign your floating staff to fill in the gaps to assure ratios are being met.

Floating Staff Members

Many programs use floating staff members to provide additional support, assistance, and supervision in classrooms. A floating staff member is a caregiver that works in more than one classroom in a program on a regular basis. Floating staff members are included in staff-to-child ratio, provide direct care to children and support other direct care staff in daily responsibilities. It is very important to be thoughtful and strategic about how you effectively utilize floating staff members’ time. Plan schedules several weeks in advance so that floating support staff can be prepared for what classrooms they will be working in. Keep in mind that in some cases, your floating staff might be among your least experienced staff members. You can support them by keeping their classroom assignments consistent, and as often as possible within a single age group. This has several advantages. First, it can help floating staff build relationships and feel like they are a part of a classroom team, and it helps them have time to build relationships with individual children. Consistency of care for children is a key component in scheduling. Policies, procedures, and best practices for different age groups vary, which can be hard to keep track of, particularly for new or inexperienced staff members. There will of course be times when you need to make changes to the schedule to accommodate unexpected absences or other circumstances, which may require scheduling a floating staff member to support a classroom that they are unfamiliar with. Be sure to have posted signs and reminders about key safety practices and ratio requirements to help staff that are moving in and out of different classrooms and age groups throughout the day. You can also be intentional about placing new floating staff members in classrooms that have more seasoned staff members who are able to provide more support and mentoring.

Make sure you have a consistent system for communicating to staff who will be in what classroom at what times. This might be through a board posted in the staff room, a schedule card that floating staff carry with them throughout the day, or a digital calendar.

Preparing for Direct Care Staff Time Outside of the Classroom (Planned and Unplanned)

A staffing schedule is of course more complicated than simply assigning adults to a classroom. You must account for various fluctuations in needs throughout the day. This includes plans for regularly scheduled variations (release time for coaching, staff breaks, staff planning time) as well as unplanned or less frequent variations (staff members out sick, staff members taking time for personal days, someone doesn’t show up for a shift, etc.). Consider the following recommendations from Lori Harris, a longtime program director, about planning for direct care staff’s time out of the classroom:

  • Set up your schedule so that all direct care staff members get a break at least every four hours. Exact requirements will vary state by state, so be sure you understand the relevant labor laws and your Service specific requirements.
  • As much as possible, create an overlap between staff shifts in the classroom by 15 minutes. An example of this would be: If you have a lead teacher who is scheduled for a 15-minute break at 10 a.m., you would schedule a floating support staff member to be in that teachers’ classroom, at minimum, from 9:45 until 10:30. This helps ease transitions, which helps staff members and children alike.
  • Make sure that all direct care staff (regardless of whether they are designated as a lead, assistant, etc.) have time away from direct care responsibilities to plan.
  • Look for times of day where supervision demands are lower (naptime for older children, early mornings or late afternoon when some children are gone for the day, etc.) to plan out opportunities for longer breaks, meetings, and planning time.

Ensuring that direct care staff are given the release time from the classroom needed for planning and professional development is critical for demonstrating respect, supporting engagement, and creating a positive work environment. Be observant and pay close attention to how frequently you have to ask staff to return early from a break, skip planning time, or regroup children to keep ratios and supervision covered due to unexpected changes. These types of things should be happening relatively infrequently. If they happen often, this could be a sign that there is a need to hire additional staff or make an adjustment to staff members’ shift timing.

Make sure you have strong backup plans for what to do when there are unexpected absences. Communicate what these plans are to staff members, so that when these situations arise, they know what to expect. This might include moving floating staff members to a different classroom for a full day when a staff member is sick, you or your program coach stepping into classrooms to provide coverage or having a pool of substitute teachers that are trained, meet basic requirements, and can be called in to provide last-minute support.

Your schedule planning system should allow you to look out further than just the day or week ahead. Make sure that staff members can request time off at least six months or even up to a full 12 months in advance. Have a single, consistent form (whether it be online or on paper) that staff members submit to request time off. You should have a file on your computer, or some sort of tracking system, to allow you to review and update how many paid hours of leave each staff member has left to use. You can use your scheduling calendar or tool to confirm that there are not multiple requests for the same time off. Allowing staff members to request time off in advance demonstrates that you view them as professionals and individuals who need regular time away from the program to meet their personal needs and to recharge in order to be effective care providers.

The Program Manager’s Schedule

Your program likely provides care for children and youth for more than eight hours a day. It is of course not possible for you as the manager to be there at all times of the day. Be planful about what times of day it is most beneficial for you to be present, and consider varying those hours to allow you to observe operations of the program at different times and to spend time with families and staff members who work early or late shifts that you might not usually get as many opportunities to interact with. If your program has an Assistant Director, it can be helpful to coordinate your schedules so that there is always a manager on site and available in the building. You must also be mindful of who is in charge when you are not in the building, and how this information is communicated to staff members and families. There should be a qualified and experienced individual (T&CS, Assistant Director, Lead Educational Tech) who is well-informed and trained in protocols for responding to emergencies. Select someone who has experience at the program, will be familiar to many of the families, and who has strong leadership skills and can calmly take charge should an emergency arise. You will also want to consult with your licensing standards and program policies to learn about any specific training or qualification requirements that this staff member must meet. Be sure to clearly communicate to staff who this person is, times when they are the acting manager, and what their role is when you are absent from the program.

You might consider keeping a prominent board or display that indicates who the acting manager is that includes a photo of that individual so that families or other adults who may not know that staff member well, will know who to look for if they have an urgent need. Set up a system for this staff member to leave notes for you to review when you return. If this person oversees opening or closing the program, create a checklist of tasks that must be completed to ensure that the building is secure and ready to receive children and youth.

You can learn more about developing a clear and consistent staffing schedule in Lesson 3 of the Program Management course in the Management track.

Supporting Professional Growth and Completing Performance Evaluations

Professional Development

One of the biggest ways that you directly impact the quality of care and education that children and youth in your program receive is through your support for the direct care staff’s professional development. Making sure that every child and youth receives quality care requires a leadership team that is committed to providing the time, resources, feedback, and opportunities for reflection needed for direct care staff to meet their professional goals and continuously improve their use of developmentally appropriate and evidence-based practices.

A Program Manager and coach play distinct but complimentary roles in supporting staff professional development and ensuring that all program expectations and policies are being met. The program coach acts as a member of the direct care staff members’ support team. Their goal is to create open, honest relationships with direct care staff members that allow them to engage in ongoing cycles of goal setting, action planning, and reflection related to providing high-quality care. Your role as a Program Manager is to create environments in which coaching and professional development are prioritized and can be completed regularly. You are also responsible for evaluating whether or not staff are meeting job expectations and using practices that align with licensing and safety standards. Though your program’s coach will spend more time engaging with staff about their professional goals in the classroom, there are still several ways that you as a manager are involved in this important process as a supportive supervisor:

  • You can demonstrate a commitment to teachers’ professional development by being intentional and diligent about making sure staff members get the release time needed to engage in coaching and professional development.
  • You can organize and plan your program budget such that there are funds earmarked each year to support professional development. This might include travel to conferences, planning materials, materials for dedicated meeting and workspaces, etc.
  • You can engage in your own ongoing professional development to stay current on trends in the field. It is important that leadership teams engage in their own professional development and seek feedback and mentoring. This applies to skills and knowledge related specifically to leadership and supervision, but also to practices and trends relevant to direct care. You should regularly reflect on knowledge or competency areas that you might want to engage in additional professional development around (supporting children with disabilities, positive behavior support, supporting staff and families from diverse backgrounds, etc.) that will allow you to act as a more supportive supervisor.
  • You can learn about the systems a coach uses to support training and professional development for staff members and work with your program coach to review data and patterns to plan for program-wide professional development and training needs (we will review a process for doing this below, through data provided by the Virtual Lab School system).

Performance Evaluations

Performance evaluations are another important part of the process for supporting staff members in working toward their professional goals. Performance evaluations are generally conducted and documented by a Program Manager and not the program coach—they serve a different purpose than coaching observations and meetings. Performance evaluations serve two purposes: (1) They are an accountability tool to help you identify potential lapses in adherence to policies so you can address them and clarify expectations, and (2) they are an opportunity for you to engage with staff as they work on their goals for growth as professionals. While performance evaluations can and should be an opportunity for you as a manager to support the individual goals of each staff member, there is a focus on compliance that is distinct from coaching. Your role as a manager is to observe and understand if and how staff members are meeting expectations and standards associated with professionalism, following safety procedures, demonstrating basic competencies associated with providing quality care to children and youth, and engaging in activities and practices that demonstrate growth over time.

Performance evaluations will include job-related competencies such as arriving to work on time and following dress code requirements as well as competencies related to safety, supervision, and education of children and youth, such as turning in lesson plans on time with all expected components, adhering to staff-to-child ratios, and always using active supervision. Your evaluations should directly align with the expectations that were communicated to staff through their written job description, your staff handbook, and your onboarding procedures. The same structured observation tool or checklist should be used for all staff members' performance evaluations. In the Apply section, you will have the opportunity to explore a sample evaluation tool and reflect on what you would add or change for your program’s needs.

Evaluations should always be a conversation—the flow of information and reflection should go both ways. In other words, performance evaluations should not just be you as a manager telling a staff member what is going well and what is not. Though it is important to be clear and firm about meeting job expectations, particularly those that directly affect the safety and well-being of children, these evaluations should still be approached from a lens of identifying opportunities for growth and change to make staff members feel successful and that they are meeting their own professional goals. This means that there should always be a component of self-reflection and goal setting by the staff member. This also means that performance evaluations should be reviewed together by a manager and staff member, and not just handed to a staff member or placed in their file. The performance evaluation is not an end point, but rather a part of a larger growth process. Below is an example of a process you might use in conducting a performance evaluation with a staff member:

  • Share the performance evaluation tool with the staff member. If the staff member is new, this should occur within the first few months of employment. Encourage them to review, ask questions, and reflect on how they would score themselves on the items
  • Set up planned opportunities to conduct focused observations of the staff member. Keep the evaluation observation tool with you to help you focus your observation.
  • Reflect on your observations and interactions with the staff member and complete the form. Be sure to make specific notes with examples of things you have seen them do or opportunities that were missed to demonstrate a certain expectation.
  • Schedule at time to meet with the staff member. Review your evaluation forms together to see where you agreed and where there are discrepancies. Discuss each, being sure to balance positive feedback with constructive feedback.
  • Engage in goal setting with the staff member. Ask them to identify two to three goals that they have for themselves based on your conversation and feedback. Discuss these goals and determine if any other high-priority goals (such as those related to safety or other urgent compliance issues).
  • Create a plan for follow up. This should include (1) asking the staff member to identify what they need to feel supported in making progress on the selected goals, (2) reflecting with the staff member on how it will be clear that those goals have been met, and (3) reflecting and deciding with the staff member an appropriate timeline for checking back in to discuss progress on the goals, adjusting support as needed. This plan should be documented, and a copy should be given to the staff member and placed in their file.

Planning for Observations

Creating a system for regular observations of staff and the environment will assist you in knowing what support is needed for your program to operate effectively. As a Program Manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that staff members have the knowledge, skills, support, and resources to do their jobs well. Observing staff regularly will assist you in knowing whether staff members are meeting the expectations outlined in their job descriptions and what additional supports they may need. Observing and evaluating staff should be an ongoing and planned activity. It is important to be transparent with staff by sharing the tool you will be using for the observation, letting them know ahead of time that they will be regularly observed, and how they will participate in the process.

Plan time for a post-observation meeting so that you can share your observation notes with staff. Your notes need to be specific, factual, work-related descriptions so that they can serve as objective feedback and act as supportive evidence of what took place during the observation. Feedback based on observed or verifiable data is more likely to influence staff behavior than feedback which cannot be supported by firsthand information. Post observation meetings should also permit input, comments, and questions from staff members.

Program Managers routinely use both formal and informal observations to collect data for evaluating staff performance, enhancing program environments and improving program quality. Formal observations are planned and structured, while informal observations occur while you walk around the program and check in daily on classrooms and program spaces. When planning observations, be sure to vary times and days to allow you to capture a variety of experiences. Because observation systems are not static, you will need to develop an organizational system to ensure that the appropriate tools are used for collecting data and that data is collected in a timely manner. Consider what systems you have put into place to support the timeliness of conducting observations and providing feedback following observations. When planning formal observations, you will need to factor in the number of staff and the number of observations that will be required. For example, if you need to observe 20 employees quarterly, this means that you will make 80 observations per year. Think about how you might complete this on a weekly basis and how you may fit this in your annual calendar.

The table below illustrates different types of observations and offers suggestions for when or how often each type of observation should occur. Refer to your Service specific guidelines to determine the specific requirements for conduction staff and program observations.

Formal Staff Observations

Evaluate staff quarterly for annual performance review

Informal Staff Observations

Check-in daily with staff

Formal Program Environmental Observations

Evaluate program environment annually or bi-annually for measuring growth

Informal Program Environmental Observations

Daily program walk-arounds

Supervise & Support

Watch the video below to learn about how a Program Manager and coach work together to support the direct care staff at their program.

Working Together to Support Staff Success

Listen as leaders discuss how they collaborate to support staff’s development and success.

The following practices can help support new Program Managers set up the organizational systems necessary to support staff members in the program.

In your first 30 days:

  • Work with your program coach to clearly define what role you each play in various aspects of managing and supporting staff members.
  • Learn about and review existing materials and procedures for hiring and onboarding new staff.
  • Learn about the existing scheduling tools and procedures that your program uses.

In your first 60 days:

  • Begin observing and documenting when there is a challenge providing breaks, release time, and coverage for each classroom.
  • Review any existing tools or materials used for performance evaluations and familiarize yourself with the VLS coursework and tools.
  • Review the existing scheduling system and determine if it meets the criteria outlined in this lesson related to offering release time, breaks, etc.
  • Review your onboarding process, written materials, and performance evaluations to make sure these align.

In your first 90 days:

  • Set up a system for staff members to request time off several months in advance if one does not already exist.
  • Share any updates to evaluation forms and procedures with staff members.
  • Create a standard agenda for onboarding new staff members and ask current staff members for feedback on the onboarding process and make updates onboarding materials based.
  • Identify three professional development goals for yourself for the next year related to direct-care practices, leadership and supervision skills, and aspects of program operation and organization.


In addition to setting up systems for day-to-day scheduling, it is also your responsibility as the manager to schedule and plan staff meetings. It is important to be thoughtful about how you are using this time effectively. Staff meetings should offer opportunities to share information, accomplish tasks and make decisions that need to occur as a team, engage in team building, and share celebrations and goal setting as a program. Read the resource articles below and think about how you can apply some of the tips and suggestions to the staff meetings at your program.


Quality observations are a critical component in identifying a professional's strengths and needs and assessing their competency and performance. Observations of staff must be objective and provide detailed information to support goal setting and reflective conversations about performance. Use the Quality Observation Checklist as a tool to evaluate your observation notes for quality.

Using a standard form to guide performance evaluations helps ensure that you have appropriate documentation of each staff member’s engagement in the evaluation process. Using the sample observation and evaluation forms as a guide, work with your leadership team to create or update your program’s performance evaluation form. Be sure to think about whether all of your program expectations and policies are reflected in the form and think about how you will encourage and incorporate planned opportunities for self-reflection and goal setting with staff members.


The processes in which new hires are integrated into the organization


True or false? A Program Manager’s role is separate from the coach, and a manager is not involved in direct care staff’s professional development and growth.
Which of the following is not a strategy for effective onboarding of new staff?
Which of the following is an example of a component of high-quality performance evaluations:
References & Resources

Abraham, C. (n.d.) Characteristics of a successful orientation process. 

Childcare Lounge (n.d.) Employee performance appraisal. 

Harris, L. (2005). Staffing at the child care center. Exchange, 165, 70-73. 

Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (December 23, 2019). Ensuring new employees’ success: Best practices for employee onboarding. 

Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (May 29, 2021). Developing a search strategy: Your roadmap for Hiring. 

Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (March 12, 2018). Conducting effective interviews: What you need to know. 

LeeKeenan, D., & Ponte, I. C. (2019). From survive to thrive: A director's guide for leading an early childhood program. National Association for the Education of Young Children. 

MacDonald, S. (2016). Inspiring early childhood leadership: Eight strategies to ignite passion and transform program quality. Gryphon House.  

Schmidt, C. (2017). The childcare director’s complete guide: What you need to manage and lead. Redleaf Press.