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The Ultimate Guide to Hiring New Staff for Your Youth Activity Center

How Do You Hire Your Activity Center’s A-Team?

So you’ve written a business plan, developed a value proposition and gained traction in the marketplace – right? Or you have an established program where you’re putting an expansion plan in place that includes offering new activities, building onto your location or opening a new one. In any case, you’re going to be hiring.

You probably have a handle on what you’re best at, where you need improvement and what things are easiest and most difficult for you.

Guess what? Some of your challenges can become wins with the right people in your corner! Making good hiring decisions will enhance your staff and business future.

In other words, you want to find your rock stars.

Top two hiring challenges for youth facility owners 

As an owner, it’s a great practice to keep an ever-changing list of rock stars that you would LOVE to have on your staff when the time is right – size-wise and/or budget-wise.

Two most common hiring challenges for owners are:

  •       Finding the time to source good talent that fits your hiring needs.
  •       Convincing people that your youth activity center is the right/best place for them to work.

Who should you be looking to hire?

You have a list of candidates in-hand and you’ve cleared time on your calendar for interviewing. Now the burning question is ‘who’ should you hire?

At the foundational level you need 2 things:

  1. People who can get things done.
  2. People who fit into your culture.

This isn’t an either/or. You need people who both these statements describe perfectly.

Set the bar high, recognizing where the bar is for the different roles you may be trying to fill and seek out the perfect fit for that role. No 80-20 rule here. You don’t want someone who is 80 percent right for the job because they will be 20 percent not right.

To understand who you need to hire, you need to do a few things:

Define what unique skills you have.

From this list you can see where your time and talent can best serve your business, after all, only you can be you. Your core strengths are the things that you and only you should handle for your business. These areas are where your interests are most likely to lie and where your passions originate. Automate, outsource or hire for the rest. Streamline and organize workspaces, leverage technology and personnel and outsource where it makes sense.

Take inventory of current staff members’ skills.

Understanding the skills that your existing staff has is imperative in this process. You can’t accurately identify your expertise gaps without knowing what you already have. If they don’t already, your office employee files should include records of staff members’ skill sets. Don’t skip this step to save time or you’ll end up hiring for skills you already have.

While taking staff skills inventory, you might also review your use of your cloud-based class management software to make sure that you’re levering all of the features that can help your staff gain even greater efficiency. 

Taking this inventory will also help you leverage everyone’s skills and this will help your office staff put their best foot forward, make parents and students happy and bring in more business.

Decide if you will consider hiring family.

Some people love working with family members while others can’t bear the thought of it.

If you own a small business – like a gymnastics gym, a dance studio or care center – it’s highly likely that you’ve considered employing – or you have already employed – a member of your immediate or extended family. 

After you’re committed to the situation, how do you handle it if that family member isn’t quite doing the job? Or if other employees think you’re showing family favoritism?

Hiring a family member can be a risky option and the level of that risk sort of depends on whether you work side-by-side that family member or whether you are that family member’s manager or they are yours.”

To prevent work relationships from stepping on family relationships, it’s probably – no it’s absolutely – a best practice to make a policy to never hire familial candidates. 

Hiring a family member can start a war, but if you’ve made the crazy decision to do this, here are 4 of the pros and 4 of the cons:

Pros of hiring family:   

1. Familiarity | Know strengths and weakness

The ‘shorthand’ that family members often have with each other can work to their benefit.

2. Fun | Working with family can be fun

You know your relative’s sense of humor and what makes him laugh.

3. Trust | You always have someone around you can trust

Trust in a family member takes that emotion to a higher level.

4. Enhance relationship | Build new levels of admiration for each other

Experience new ways to have success with family members.

Cons of hiring family:

1. Management | Disciplining/firing a family member is very difficult

Mixing business and family can hurt both sides.

2. Respect | Respect between family members is often non-existent

This disparity can hurt morale or invite similar disrespect among others.

3. Balk at authority | Rules for others don’t apply to them

Often resent disciplining efforts and misunderstand why raises aren’t given. 

4. Harm relationship | Family relationships can be challenging to mend after a rift at work

Working together runs the very real risk of damaging all sorts of family relationships if things go south.

A family member – unlike an employee – doesn’t just leave after being let go. They’re around for the long haul. You really have to look at these pros and cons, talk to your family member honestly about the risks that exist and go into the relationship with all eyes wide open.  

Some business owners have strong feelings about this and make it a policy or best practice never to hire family. Others have enhanced their relationships through working together and consider working together as a family part of their great success. 

Define the details of the position.

Be sure you understand the tasks and responsibilities that you need the most help with in managing your youth activity center. That way you can stay involved, informed, and be the manager without having to do each task yourself.

What kind of expertise gaps do you need to fill?

  •       Bookkeeping/accounting and help in posting fees,  handling accounts receivable and payables?
  •       Class management software?
  •       Student and faculty relationships?
  •       Student registration, class placement, meeting coordination and facility management?
  •       Studio communications and social media?

It is imperative that your new hires have the skills that you will fill your skills gaps. That could be intimate knowledge of how an organization exactly like yours works or specific skills like working in QuickBooks or teaching special needs children.

When you’ve done these things, you have a bevy of information to define the ‘who’ it is that you’re looking for and you can pinpoint with great accuracy the skills you need to hire for and the role or roles that may need filling for your organization to click.

You may discover that you need to hire multiple people or reduce hours in one area and hire part-time help with a completely different skill set. You may find you can leverage technology in new ways that free staff up to have more human interaction that will heighten customer elation and open doors to expanding services, curriculum or even locations!

How can you find who you need to hire?

Once you overcome the challenge of understanding the ‘who’ you’re looking for, how can you overcome the challenge of finding these people?

Encourage others to recruit. If recruiting time is what you’re sorely lacking, train those you trust within your organization to recruit for the team. Just be sure that you’re clear on what you’re looking for and what role you’re looking to fill.

Whether you have formal referral programs for this or not, your staff can be the best at finding people to join a team they’re excited to work on. Teachers know other teachers – especially within specialties.

Get the word out. Use community boards, personal and professional networks, program alumni and parental contacts to identify those you may want to ‘interview.’ You never know who among other business owners in your community, your friends or your organization’s parents may know of good candidates to fill your hiring needs. Work these networks and reap the benefits!

Develop compelling differentiators. You’re not going to hire that phenomenal tap teacher, for example, if you have less-than-inspiring reasons for someone to come to work for you. Whether it’s flexible schedules, opportunities to create original curriculum or extraordinary pay, be sure you have something compelling! 

It can be age-specific or role-specific. It could be very simple – like free snacks and drinks – or complex – like benefits and bonuses. Whatever it is, just make sure that it creates some level of excitement or interest in being one of your staff. You might survey those who already work for you or talk to non-competitor owners to see what works for them. 

But, for sure you should:

  • Take care of employees: One sure way to attract hires to your organization is to take care of your people. When candidates are interviewed, they will potentially ask your other staff how they like working for you. If you take care of your people you know what the answer to that question will be. It will be fantastic! 
  • Offer benefits: Benefits are important because they show those who work for you that you value them and their contribution to your business and because of that benefits also shape your culture.
  • Nurture culture: Your business’ culture can be a huge differentiator for you when it comes to bringing new people onto your staff and it’s a topic that those who already work for you will happily discuss. Culture is something that takes constant work. That is why it is nurtured and not simply created. Culture isn’t what your staff does every day but is how they do what they do every day. Are they happy? Helpful? Compassionate? Outgoing? Trustworthy? Loyal?

Use ads. Post in Facebook groups, Craigslist, online boards, community groups and business associations.

Make sure your ads provide adequate detail to compel the right people to respond and cull out casual applicants.

Ask question in job postings that are helpful in the hiring process:

  •       Tell me why working at a youth activity center is your ideal job.
  •       When replying with your interest tell us your favorite color.

If a candidate fails to respond to one of these requests included in the ad, they shouldn’t make it through the initial screening. They  didn’t read through the entire ad or didn’t care enough to complete each item.

Make sure you provide good response information. Perhaps create a hiring@ email address and dedicate a phone line for taking responses so candidates don’t get mixed in with day-to-day business. 

Get help from the outside staffing sources. If you’re too busy and want help with hiring, bring in an employment agency. There is value to doing so in accessing broad candidate networks, saving you time and keeping processes pure and unbiased, but be sure you are ready to pay the price and share control of the process.

Regardless of where you find potential staff members, make sure you take the time to get hiring right. 

There is no need or benefit to rushing the process of hiring new staff for your facility! Companies that take the time to understand who they need, seek that person out and screen them thoroughly for role and culture fit have the greatest success in bringing on new staff who enhance – instead of disrupt – the team and the culture.

Every role at a youth activity center comes with a few qualifiers to even begin to fit into the child-centric learning organization. So when you’re hiring, look for these traits in addition to the skills that your hire’s specific role demands. 

6 things to look for in every hire

  1. Passion for helping children learn. Even if it’s office staff, everyone working in your youth activity center needs to AT LEAST be good with children and PREFERABLY love to be part of a child’s learning process – whether it be dance, gymnastics, swim, cheer or music. After all, you’re in a child-focused business.
  2. Mindset for working with your size organization. It’s a bit of a shift for someone accustomed to dealing with the details and needs of a few thousand children and their parents in a week to reduce her scope to working with a couple of hundred. And vice versa: the comfort zone for one associated with a small group to suddenly face a huge one.
  3. Preference for your style organization. Some organizations are more contemporary and others are more traditional. Being a good fit for one kind of studio does not mean you are a good fit for all of them. The more specific you can be about your talents, the easier it will be for you to find employment you can be successful with. 
  4. Desire to keep learning. Everyone in your organization must engage continuous learning – from bookkeeper to tap teacher. Keeping current with seminars and articles, paying attention to details and taking cues from students and parents enhance your business and make your organization a better choice in the community.
  5. Stays networked into the industry and community. By staying engaged at all points, your hire can be a strong asset to your organization in making your culture better, improving your social media presence, keeping pace with the market and moving organization’s program forward.
  6. Takes time to bond with students. Students will engage in their learning experience more fully when they are in a place filled with those who make them feel special and recognized, provide positive reinforcement and have fun with them.

Be considerate of candidates

Just as you would like those you’re considering for employment to respect you and your company, you must reciprocate. Being respectful of the privacy, time and needs of your candidates earns you their respect from the get-go. Being respectful of those under consideration for hiring includes:

  • Sharing candidates’ sensitive career and interview information appropriately.
  • Sticking to schedules established for calls, in-person interviews and follow-up communications.
  • Following through with promised actions and information.
  • Ensuring that the owner or hiring manager responds in a timely manner. 
  • Treating those who don’t receive offers with respect.   

“When you show respect to all who enter your hiring process, you’re elevating the potential for the person who takes the job to genuinely want to be a member of the Jackrabbit team and to begin their career at Jackrabbit with early insight into what the company is all about,” notes Director of Human Resources, Tracey Chantry. “And that makes new hires find their fit into Jackrabbit’s core values based culture more quickly and easily.”

Take the responsibility of hiring to heart.

The old adage is true.  

Hire slow: Even though you may be tempted, don’t rush through this process. Take your time seeking, screening and hiring someone who you’re about to invite into your business and your life.

Fire fast: If things go south, cut the cord. Don’t take your time in making the firing decision. Don’t let someone who isn’t working out stay and potentially poison your culture.

Your business is your baby and the fruit of your life’s passion and you’re offering to share it with your hires after you’ve poured hours and hours of time and energy (and lots of money) into it. Time isn’t wasted on a detailed, painstaking process when it results in bringing on the right people for your business.

About the Author:

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After studying graphic design at the University of Georgia, Jill held several positions in media and marketing including Art Director, Editor and Marketing Director. As a student of dance, she has spent plenty of time in children’s activity centers and puts that experience to work for her in the work she does with Jackrabbit. In addition to her interest in dance, Jill also enjoys sports, gourmet cooking, entertaining, singing and spoiling her five grandchildren.

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