Mother with daughter cuddling

Parental involvement – solving the puzzle

Do parents at your service rush in the door in the morning, handing over a child with tangled hair, a full nappy and a quick goodbye? When it comes to pick up time, are you chasing them down the hallway with an accident report which needs to be signed?  

For many educators, it can feel as though parents don’t have time for the “musts” of being involved in an early childhood education and care (ECEC) service, let alone any of the things you would like, such as input on new policies, or a contribution to the quality improvement plan.  

With life being so busy for families and educators alike, how can services encourage parents to be more involved and engaged?  

Mother and daughter cuddling

Before any of the more practical ideas are put forward, it’s essential for educators and leaders to be empathetic with parents, and try to understand their stress levels, strengths, weaknesses and overall capacity.  

2020 has been a tough year for many, financially and in terms of mental health. Parents are no doubt doing the best they can, and no matter how hard you try, not every parent will want to engage with the service, or be involved.  

One size does not fit all, and so remaining open to new ideas, and being receptive to the feelings of the families in your care is key to getting families on board.  

The personal touch 
Greeting each parent, being sure to say hello, smiling when they drop their child off, and greeting their child/ren can set the tone for engaging them more deeply in the service. It’s a simple gesture, but one which makes parents feel welcome, which can lead to more willingness to engage later on.   

Over time, get to know the parents a little more, perhaps by asking what they did over the weekend, talking about pets, hobbies, passions etc. This leads to more in-depth conversations and deepens the rapport. Asking about things they have talked about previously will solidify the bond.  

Use social media 
Many parents are active on a variety of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc. Some services shy away from engaging on social media because of privacy concerns, but there are a number of ways to use these platforms without compromising children’s right to privacy.  

Perhaps favourite recipes could be shared, photos of learning environments, recordings (sound only) of children singing, or providing links and suggestions to activities taking place in the local area.  

By adding an interactive element, such as a poll, an “ask me anything” question box, or by offering contests and giveaways, parents are more likely to interact with the social media presence, and increase engagement. 

Many ECEC providers use CCS management software to streamline their processes. Kidsoft joins with integration  partners like KindyhubStorypark and many others to allow services and families to seamlessly communicate, sharing video, pictures, learning and much more, all in real time.

Using platforms such as these helps parents to feel connected to the service, and also to feed information back.  

The old fashioned touch 
Reaching out to families with a “sunshine call” sharing a moment of good news or delight can really lift their spirits and make a long day feel bright. Calling at least one parent a week to relay some good news about their child/ren will leave a smile on your face, and theirs.  

Make “Sunshine” Calls – Reach out with a quick phone call when you see that parents need some cheering up.  Or make a practice of calling at least one parent a week to relay good news. 

(Tip: Keep track of these sunshine calls and make sure each family receives the same amount of calls throughout the year.) 

Invite them in  
When restrictions allow, invite families into the service at various times – before, during and after a standard working day. Setting up activities for the children and families to work through together can be a great way to showcase the important work which happens in your service each day.  

For families who cannot attend the service, perhaps they can work together to make a family poster, filled with photographs, drawings, notes or handprints, to bring something of their family in.   

Families, communities and services all around Australia, and indeed the world, are unique and special places. While some of the advice above may not work for each service, trying many different ideas, and continuing to try and connect, should eventually yield a return.  

Further resources; 
Department of Education, Skills and Employment – Connecting with families? Bringing the EYLF to life in your community.  
Emerging Minds – Engaging with Families and Children  
Community Early Learning Australia – Connecting with Families  

clock with pink and blue background

The 5 biggest time wasters for Childcare Centre Managers (and how to reduce them)

clock with pink and green background

We know that on a daily basis, Centre Managers and Operators are being pulled in multiple directions. They’re under continuing pressure to not only ensure a Centre is running smoothly, the team are motivated, and families are happy, but also meet occupancy targets and changing regulatory requirements.  

And that regulatory administration workload is coming at a significant cost to Childcare Centres and the industry as a whole. According to a recent study by Canon, 63% of businesses are wasting up to 10 hours per week on manual and repetitive (yet necessary) administration tasks. For a Childcare business, that equates to $20,800 of a Centre Managers average salary per year that is allocated to administration work alone. That’s a staggering financial cost to any Childcare business, and one that needs to be addressed now!  

So how can you cut down on your administration workload and increase productivity? We discuss the 5 most time-consuming activities for Centre Managers and how to reduce their impact. 

1. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork

Managing records, incident formsenrolment paperwork, CWA’s and attendance – there’s no getting around it, running a Childcare Centre comes with a lot of necessary paperwork. We’ve got two words for you, automation and technology. Automation is a lifesaver for Childcare Centres who are looking for ways to streamline daily tasks while saving both time and money. Why not: 

  • Create, customise and automate the Family enrolment process to alleviate the pressure on you and make sure it’s a smooth process for Families. iEnrol and  Childcare CRM are two great options on the market to help make this happen. 
  • Digitise paper forms and processes (such as incident, illness or trauma forms) using PDF fillable forms, or software programs like 1Place Childcare to make these processes easier to complete and store online for quick access and sharing.
  • Digitally capture attendance and then outsource the manual process of auditing your attendance and rectifying any submission discrepancies that come up. Enrolment Hub can help you here. 
  • File regularly and oftenHere is also a great resource for managing paperwork storage at the Centre.  

It’s time to embrace technological advances and outsourced solutions to reduce your administration burden.  

2. Responding to new enquiries

With the average enrolment equating to $12,558 per year – every unanswered enquiry can cost Operators thousands of dollars in revenue. Now more than ever, it’s important that every single enquiry you receive is answered and the development of personal connectionwith prospective Families are prioritised. On average, it takes 10 points of contact to convert a new lead to an enrolment, so here are some easy ways to simplify this process for you:  

  • Funnel all your enquiries into one locationsuch as a specific enrolments email address or digital waitlist database to help you keep on top of them. Never let them fall through the cracks again. 
  • Create a range of email templates to allow you to communicate quickly with Families, whilst still ensuring that your brand is always represented appropriately 
  • Allocate two blocks of time each day to review your enquiries and respond accordingly. That’s all.  
  • Get on the phone – a single call could reduce back and forth email communication by half. 
  • Allow Families to book a Centre tour directly on your website to cut down the emails. A web developer can help you here and you can set up rules for times and days tours are available.  
  • Still running short on time? Businesses like Enrolment Hub or Childcare CRM can help manage this entire process for you. 

3. Sending, explaining and investigating Family statements

Child Care Subsidy (CCS) entitlements can be confusing for Families – and the confusion looks set to increase, as Families circumstances and entitlements change with COVID-19.  

This is a great task to outsource to an experienced team – as the investigation into discrepancies alone can sometimes take days. If you’re not ready to outsource, create an ‘Accounts’ email address and direct Families to send their enquiries there. That way you can keep on top of queries and it won’t clog up your inbox. Set time aside three times a week to manage these queries and respond. You can also create automated payment reminders when Families miss a payment through iParentPortal or why not look into integrating iDebtPro? It’s important to ensure your debt ledger never gets out of control. 

4. Applying for CCS, ACCS and QKFS

Cue big groan. Applying for CCS, ACCS and QKFS are some of the most time-consuming activities for any Centre Manager and very rarely are they straight forward. Here are a few tips to make it more manageable: 

  • Ensure your program is set up correctly from the get go (including entering all Family details accurately) to mitigate issues occurring down the track. It will save you hours! 
  • For QKFS funding, look at outsourcing the assembly of the forecast calculation and reconciliation spreadsheets each semester. That way you simply need to review and approve before submitting. 
  • Create various cheat sheets that you can send to Families to help them apply for CCS and ACCS. This will save you time explaining the process multiple times and give Families a clear roadmap. 
  • For ACCS, look at outsourcing the gathering of application information to a third-party (such as Enrolment Hub) to take the pressure off your team. 

5. Booking casual days

Every Centre should provide Families with the option to book casual days as they’re a great source of additional revenue and have become much easier to facilitate over the last 18 months. Why not: 

  • Digitalise the process and give Families the ability to book casual days using programs such as KindyNow. 
  • Set an hour aside at the end of every day to manage and confirm casual bookings received that day. Template any booking confirmation communications so you can work through them quickly. 
  • Families still wanting to book directly with you? Have specific rules around casual day bookings (such as they must be booked at least 24 hours in advance) to give you the opportunity to plan your roster and minimise that last-minute request stress on you.  

Looking to the future, decentralisation is going to be the key to success for many Operators and Centre Managers. Outsourcing key business operations (such as Administration Support and Enquiry Managementwill allow businesses to thrive into the future. 

Like any new process it takes time and commitment to developKnowing how to prioritise and make the most of your time is essential to you, your Centre, and your work/life balance. 

Enrolment Hub, a Kidsoft partner, supports the ECEC sector by maximising enrolment opportunities, converting enquiries and streamlining processes to allow businesses to thrive. Learn more about Enrolment Hub and how they can assist your business by clicking here. 

Not sure where to start? Enrolment Hub Director Scott Monaghan is always available to chat about how best to streamline your processes and remove that administration burden. Why not give him a call to discuss how he can help you – you can reach him on 02 8123 2300 or send him an email at: 

Man with phone, computer and paperwork

The Importance of Software in Streamlining Your Business Operations

Man with computer, phone and paperwork

Software has largely become an indispensable part of modern business. When used properly, it offers significant benefits by helping businesses improve their operations and run more efficiently. 

Software must be chosen carefully and deliberately, and can be incredibly useful for childcare businesses in particular. A solid tech stack should support employees through their day-to-day tasks, as well as improve and facilitate the overall experience for all stakeholders, from managers to parents. 

Here are just some of the benefits that can be afforded to your business by implementing software.

Ramps Up Productivity
With advances in tech, a lot of business software now includes AI features that allow businesses to ramp up their productivity — without hiring any more employees. 

Machine learning is able to tackle the more tedious tasks required during business operations, which frees up staff members to get on with the more important tasks that demand a human mind. In this way, software can help your business scale up and simultaneously cut costs.

Boosts Efficiency
Applying software, when done right, will create efficiencies in every part of your childcare business. For starters, as mentioned above, automation helps to cut the time your team is spending on admin tasks – a major time drain in the childcare sector.

Generally speaking, business software also helps improve communications between various stakeholders, thereby boosting efficiency. For example, Kidsoft includes a communications platform that facilitates the process of emailing families, which cuts down on unnecessary time spent writing and sending emails. 

Furthermore, having all your business ops information in one place and easily accessible to all relevant parties means that staff members will spend less time trying to dig out information from filing cabinets or hard drives. 

Improves Compliance
Many industries — including childcare — are subject to sometimes complex regulations that they must comply with. Implementing software, such as
1Place Childcare, is key to ensuring that everyone feels comfortable operating under these regulations by allowing staff to track processes and more easily maintain compliance.

Facilitates Integration
One reason it’s important to have the
right software is to ensure that your different tools integrate seamlessly to make processes even more efficient. Using various software that isn’t able to interact will make certain tasks easier but can still lead to headaches if you need to transfer data from one tool to another, for example.

However, choosing the optimal tech stack for your childcare business means that your tools will sync and operate in tandem, ensuring that no information gets lost along the way and making it easier to track tasks and processes. Kidsoft offers an ever increasing list of public API’s allowing our clients to integrate with more platforms than just our existing ecosystem. This coupled with advanced BI and Data Visualisation integration offers an exciting roadmap that is constantly evolving.

Promotes Accountability and Ownership
A major pain point for business owners is accountability when things go wrong due to human error. When trying to solve problems, it can be difficult to find out exactly what went wrong and why.

With the right childcare software, managers can put this headache behind them. Each user will have their own ID on the system, which makes it easier to track down the source of any errors that arise.

This promotes ownership of tasks, and also enables managers to have better visibility on the actions being taken by employees.

Prevents Lost Information
The loss or misplacement of vital business information — whether it be payroll, HR documents, or client information — can be a major issue for business owners in the childcare industry.

But when humans are running processes, this kind of loss is bound to happen from time to time. Information accidentally gets trashed, lost forever in the wrong folder, or just never gets collected in the first place. 

Software can ease this process by providing one centralised location to store all your important information, automatically sorting it into the relevant place and prompting users to add necessary details when appropriate.

Furthermore, having a centralised location for all your business information means that employees won’t lose as much time searching for various files.

Improves Onboarding
Business software is designed to be user friendly — after a short training session, most childcare employees will understand the ins and outs of how to use it for whatever tasks they may require it for.

This is a vastly different experience from having to learn and carry out various different processes, all created by different people for different reasons. Software makes onboarding easier and gets new employees up to speed quicker. All the checks you can put in place also lessens the risk of new employees making mistakes that impact the business.

Any one of these streamlining benefits should be enough of a reason to consider implementing software to help your business operations. Put them all together, and you’ll see a huge improvement — saving you energy, time, and money. 

Contact us to learn more about how Kidsoft can help streamline your childcare centre and business operations.