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Early Childhood Expert Q&A: How to Build Your Dream Team

June 22nd, 2020 | 4 min. read

By Ashleigh Craven

How to Build Your Dream Team by Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Early Childhood Staff with Author Thomasa Bond, EdD


Gryphon House author Thomasa Bond, EdD, recently hosted a webinar about how early childhood professionals can build their dream teams by recruiting, training, and retaining the right candidates. Learn how to recognize the importance of hiring and retaining the right person to maintain stability for the program, families, and children. (Hint: Dr. Bond shares that this will occur when leaders communicate, respect, and acknowledge their employees.) Learn more in Build Your Dream Team: How to Recruit, Train, and Retain Early Childhood Staff.


What if the wrong person that was hired, works for a school district, and belongs to a Union? 

Unions have clauses that address performance. It is possible to terminate a union employee. It may take a little longer and require more documentation than you would like. But if you follow the procedures outlined by the union, terminating the employee is possible. If the employee is not meeting the needs of the children or placing them in situations that are not safe, their behavior should be addressed in the following manner. Start with a verbal warning, followed up with a written statement that outlines the steps and timeframe for the change to be implemented. Recognize that immediate change is not possible in all situations. During the verbal warning, have the employee explain what is needed for them to be successful. With the second infraction, provide a written reprimand. With the third infraction, the employee should be terminated. Belonging to a union does not protect employees that do not meet expectations set for them. The main thing is to follow the policies that are in place, while being consistent with all employees.


How do we address diversity needs within an organization, especially during the hiring process, to reduce bias?

If you have a written hiring policy, it will make sure that you are hiring the best person for the job. However, if you are working within a diverse area and the staff do not represent the children, you might want to ask yourself why. Is it because you are not looking for diverse employees? Having bias is not the problem; not recognizing your biases or working to change your them is the problem.   


What if a position needs to be filled ASAP and no one really meets the criteria? 

If you have an opening at the center and you cannot find anyone that meets the requirements, it is time to implement “floaters.” Start by hiring people who are in school for early childhood education, or willing to take the necessary training to be a lead teacher. This will take time. However, once you have floaters in place, you will not find yourself having to hire out of necessity.


And, how do you get your program to buy in to this approach with an evident deficit?  

Explain that the deficit will grow if they do not work to change it. That is the best way to convince them. 


With everything going on with COVID-19, would you recommend some type of testing or some type of clearance from the candidate before coming in to interview or officially joining the staff? Is there a procedure to follow? 

You can complete a Zoom or TEAMs call when you can interview the candidate without being in the same room; or, you could interview the candidate after hours when the center is closed. Because COVID-19 protocols are changing frequently, it is best to check with your local health department for specific guidelines.  


As it relates to equity and equality, what type of questions can we include during the hiring process? 

Ask questions that are relevant to the candidate’s understanding of child development. The candidate’s answers will provide insight into their temperament. I have listed questions in the interview section of my book, Build Your Dream Team: How to Recruit, Train, and Retain Early Childhood Staff.


Safety in the classroom is very important. How do you know if the person has enough knowledge and experience with regard to safety for infants and toddlers? 

Ask candidates questions that are appropriate and relevant to working with infants and toddlers during the interview process. For example, you could ask how a candidate would implement “tummy time”, define the role of the primary caregiver, and how to ensure each child receives the correct bottle. The candidate’s answers to these, and other infant- and toddler-specific, questions will help you to determine their knowledge of infant and toddler development, as well as their ability to create a safe environment. 


Should there be a probation period and, if so, for how long?  

I do not like the word probation because it has a negative connotation. I prefer “observation period”, and yes, you should observe new employees for at least six months before transitioning them to full-time. I have provided examples of things to do during the observation period in my book, Build Your Dream Team: How to Recruit, Train, and Retain Early Childhood Staff.


What if a candidate said (s)he would take the required courses at the time of hire, but does not complete them because of financial or family issues? Should the center fund the courses to support? 

This is a business decision that should be part of the center’s policy. If you pay for one employee, you should be prepared to pay for others. If you make it a case by case situation, you will still need specific guidelines, of which everyone is aware, so as to not convey that you provide special treatment. 


Does experience trump education with regard to the “right” hire? 

You want to look at the whole picture, as both are important. If you have a candidate that has years of experience without the required education, and you feel that they would be a great addition to the center, you can still move forward. Explain that they would need to obtain the education requirements for the position, and you can hire them as a “floater” until they acquire the additional requirements. If you have a candidate that has the education without the experience, you will want to make sure you have time to provide the necessary training.  


How do you handle 'linked' applicants that might be 'linked' to a powerful employee or parent? 

You must put the best interest of the children first and follow your hiring procedures for every applicant and application that is received. You cannot be accused of playing favorites or not being fair if you follow your hiring procedures for every candidate, without any exceptions.



About the Author 

Thomasa Bond, EdD, author of Build Your Dream Team: How to Recruit, Train, and Retain Early Childhood Staff, has more than 14 years’ experience as a child care licensing consultant and 30 years in early childhood education. She earned her doctorate in Organizational Leadership and she works with program directors to help them build centers that are not only safe for the children but also provide quality learning environments. A sought-after presenter and panelist, she researches and writes articles on her blog.

Author(s)Thomasa Bond, EdD

Ashleigh Craven

Ashleigh Craven has a decade and a half of diverse category experience from agency communications to athletic apparel to automotive to education, developing and executing communication strategies in both traditional and social media. She has supported national product launches and corporate events for the likes of Soffe, Buick, Chevrolet, Wake Forest University , Kaplan, and others. She has an BA from the University of Michigan in English and Communication Studies and an MA from Wake Forest University, where she focused her studies on argumentation and presidential rhetoric and speechwriting. She served as director of marketing for Gryphon House from 2017- 2020.