As a Program Director or Site Director you have a unique opportunity to develop a high quality, sustainable afterschool program that can make a huge difference in the lives of children and young people and the vitality of your community. Your success will depend on a variety of factors – one of the most important of which is the way you approach staff development. The most successful afterschool program directors define staff development as a system that goes beyond technical assistance and training to guiding and shaping the attitudes and behavior of their staff and developing and strengthening their skills and self-confidence. They make a serious investment in people, focus on personal as well as professional growth and ensure that everyone:
- Understands and embraces their program’s vision, purpose and goals;
- Buys into shared norms and expectations for working together;
- Becomes increasingly skilled, effective and self-assured in their work; and
- Is excited about the value and importance of what they and their colleagues are doing.
When staff development is approached in this way, people feel really connected, supported, confident and empowered. Outcomes for children and young people measurably improve and staff retention rates dramatically increase. The process begins by asking yourself how you define staff development.
- Do you see it as a series of workshops that provide the information you believe is most important, or is it about building the capacity of your staff to become increasingly capable, confident and excited about their work?
- Do you rely on formal training as the core of your staff development approach, or do you use training as a starting point for creating a system that provides people with the support they need to be successful?
- Do you focus on content or see staff development as a way to align the individual interests of your employees with your program's vision and goals?
In working with hundreds of programs, we've discovered that by adopting a staff development approach that goes beyond technical assistance and training to providing a system of support, you'll be able to create a culture of excellence that brings out the best in everyone and moves your program much more quickly toward the accomplishment of its goals. This doesn't happen by giving your staff a few trainings and walking away. It means providing the support they need to successfully translate what they’re learning into practice.
The essence of successful staff development is coaching. It requires spending time with your staff in their own environments, getting to know them as people, building on their individual strengths and addressing specific areas in need of improvement. Coaching sends a clear message that you really care about your staff and are there to support them in every way you can. It builds trust and keeps people excited, engaged and enthusiastic about their work. Most importantly, it makes all the difference in your ability to develop a high performing team that’s capable of doing what it takes to produce the positive results you want for children and young people!
To find out more about staff development, please read our article, “Creating a System that Supports Staff Development” You can also take our Staff Development Quiz to assess your own staff development practices and check out our Staff Development Service Packages.