This year has been a rollercoaster for early childhood professionals, and most of us are looking forward to leaving 2020 in the dust—but with many child care franchises still reeling from recent events, preparing for the future feels like mission impossible.
The good news is post-COVID trends are becoming clearer.
From an increased reliance on technology to a focus on social-emotional learning, the last year has helped the ECE community pinpoint what’s important—and businesses are using this knowledge for good.
ECE leaders now know they can use this time of chaos as an opportunity to adapt and thrive long-term, and the big question has shifted from ‘What’s going to happen next?’ to ‘How do we get to where we need to be?’.
It hasn’t been easy, but some brands have flourished over the past year. We took a look at how some of the biggest brands have successfully navigated the Covid era—and how you can do the same.
Check it out!
Great businesses are built to overcome the unexpected.
From how they communicate to the tools they choose, each decision should be made with future productivity in mind.
But the first step is understanding what trends can impact those decisions.
Here’s a quick rundown of the important trends circa 2021:
Customer experience is the name of the game in 2021.
The families you serve have been through a lot of trauma over the last year, and they need to know you’ve got their backs—that means keeping them up-to-date and making sure your practices are sympathetic to their needs.
ECE expert and author, Cindy Terebush explains, “Many people—children, families, early childhood professionals, and administrators—have experienced a trauma and we can't just go back like it can be erased. Administrators and their staff need to learn about trauma-sensitive approaches to setting up their environments and having interactions.”
After a year of uncertainty, early childhood professionals need some extreme TLC.
From upping inter-business communications to offering extra mentoring and support, there’s a lot your child care franchise can do to show employees you’re there for them.
“We have to expand our thinking beyond the child and recognize that the social-emotional support we need to provide has to extend to everyone,” says Cindy.
Child care franchises are only as strong as the systems that support them.
That’s why 2021 is all about updating policies, strengthening processes, and choosing the right technology to carry your biz into the future.
Even before COVID hit, digital transformation was one of the ECE industry’s top trends—and now, tech is more important to child care franchises than ever.
“If the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns have shown schools/early childhood education centers anything, it’s the need to quickly adapt their practices to digital platforms,” says Dr Erica Vernold Miller, CEO at Professor Patty Cake Consulting.
Now that we know the top three trends for 2021, here are a few examples of how some big-name brands tackled their obstacles this year and succeeded:
“We actively work on improving our engagement scores so that we are the best place to work and the best place for [our] children.” —Sarah Redgrave, VP Total Reward and Operations at KinderCare
Being human is good business—but for ECE, the human connection is about more than numbers on a spreadsheet, it’s about committing to care for people, no matter what.
And that means great client experience from beginning to end.
The awesome thing about client experience is that it goes back to basics— communication, care and compassion. But to succeed in 2021, you need to polish those basic offers until they shine.
KinderCare is one company that knows about top level client experience. When it comes to showing they care about children, families and employees, they go above and beyond.
In an interview with Fairygodboss, Sarah Redgrave, VP Total Reward and Operations at KinderCare explained, “Every year, we measure how engaged our employees are and how engaged our families are (the parents and families of the children in our care). From there, we actively work on improving our engagement scores so that we are the best place to work and the best place for [our] children.”
So, how do they improve their scores? With some pretty awesome tech.
And their approach is clearly working.
“We just won our third Gallup Great Workplace award, and our families are giving us higher and higher engagement scores each year,” said Sarah.
From the invention of the wheel to computer technology, humans definitely know a good tool when they see one. 🤖
Lightbridge Academy CIO, Ben Blake, is no exception.
When faced with the challenge of too many wasted hours on outdated processes, he knew it was time to bring on a smart child care management system—and he decided to do so midway through the COVID pandemic.
COVID disrupted our business, but we took advantage of the downtime to move our technology platform forward to better meet customer needs... We had a decision to make: should we try to get the five centers we had planned for a pilot rollout onboard even though they're closed? Or should we wait until things are back up and running again? We decided to go with option C, which was: let's not just bring on five as we planned, but let's bring on all 14 additional centers and a franchise center for the pilot, because what better time to do that than when everything is shut down?” he said.
Ben’s advice for anyone wanting to update their child care management system is simple: “We learned that the child care management provider is not going to do everything for you—they can’t because they don’t know your business, they don’t make all of your choices during the onboarding. So, you’ve got to do these two things: You have to know what you want, and you have to be willing to put forward the resources to make it happen.”
Employees are the nuts-and-bolts of an organization, and Primrose School is one business that knows the #1 route to success is to strengthen their work-family in every possible way.
“The disruption to children, families, teachers, the owners of the child care centers across the country—it’s just disheartening… [but] the need is there and we’re all doing the best we can in a situation we never dreamt we’d have to face,” Jo Kirchner said in a recent CNBC interview.
For Jo, the key to succeeding in these tough times lies in how strong your teams are.
She uses these three pillars to bolster her employees:
In an interview with betheboss.com, Jo explains how Primrose School approaches employee support across their 424 franchises: “Building a culture of trust with franchisees requires a never ending focus on the details. Consistent, quality communication is vital. Trust also flourishes when listening comes first and then two-way communication is fostered.”
For Jo, constant evaluation is the third pillar to success.
“The world is constantly changing, so we need to be as well. Performance benchmarking and ensuring continual improvement for service excellence has to be embedded in the culture to sustain progress and competitive advantage,” she says.
As we gear up for 2021, it’s time to accept that the baseline has shifted and the future of ECE has changed for good.
From showing your biz’s human side on Youtube, to updating your child care management tools, there are plenty of powerful ways you can utilize the human/technology connection for the good of your business.
Many ECE businesses have already taken the leap. How is your organization gearing up for the future? See what MomentPath could do for your center!