There’s no doubt about it, childcare centers are very busy places. With scores of energetic children, noisy babies and adventurous toddlers as well as lots of activities both indoors and out, there’s plenty to keep the passionate staff occupied in simply looking after the children. So much so that often there’s very little time left over for managing the business side of things. And let’s face it, childcare professionals don’t always make the best administrators and managers. Furthermore, childcare centers are often franchise operations and there’s a whole host of form filling and paperwork that goes with that relationship. In an environment such as this, an intranet can make a real difference. From simplifying business processes and monitoring compliance to reporting on children’s progress and the sharing of best practice, a childcare intranet can help in all these areas. Staff will, therefore, have more time and will be better equipped to get on with the essential job of nurturing the children.
What Is An Intranet?
Private websites that can only be accessed by authorized personnel, intranets have been around since the 1990s. Originally they were developed as information sharing and communication tools. The technology has, however, evolved to also include business automation and collaboration tools. Essentially, in one platform an intranet can help you to run your business more efficiently and to communicate and engage with staff more effectively.
Below we identify some specific areas that childcare centers address on a daily basis and we look in detail at the impact an intranet could have.
Using A Childcare Intranet For Compliance
Ensuring compliance is a huge issue for childcare centers. There is a wealth of state and national legislation as well as safety and health regulations that affect the governance of childcare centers. With such an important role as looking after our children, the requirements are entirely appropriate and necessary, however, from the point of view of center managers organizing that whole process is challenging. And yet the consequences of not managing that process properly are almost too catastrophic to contemplate. Failing in any aspect of compliance could irreparably damage the center’s brand and good name.
An intranet will help to manage the process of compliance more easily. One very important way in which it can do so is by automating internal controls and workflow processes. And so instead of maintaining a paper-based register of children with food allergies, for example, the register can be automated on the intranet and access given to all staff members. This mitigates against the potential for human error and the loss of forms and documents. Furthermore, automation provides an auditable trail that can be used to demonstrate compliance to inspectors or regulators.
The ongoing professional development and training of staff is another essential element of compliance. Continuing with our example of food allergies, the intranet is a great tool for onboarding new staff in the center’s policies and procedures. Using online intranet training resources such as webinars, videos and quizzes, staff can be trained in how the center deals with allergies. This could be in relation to recording and maintaining the register, aspects of food preparation as well as how to deal with a food allergy emergency.
In addition, the legislative and regulatory landscape is constantly changing and staff need to keep up to date. Intranet company, team and internal news pages can be easily and quickly updated in response to changing regulations unlike the more traditional paper-based manuals and policies.
What’s more, a record of staff members’ completion of training and certification is maintained on the intranet. And the intranet also has the functionality to verify that key staff have accessed and read certain content – for example, updates to the safety and health manual. Both are very useful to produce as evidence in any regulatory audit situation.
Simplified Business Processes
The intranet can simplify a range of business processes within the center. From staff applying for holiday leave to expense and maintenance requests and supplier information – all these processes can be automated on the intranet, eliminating the need for paper-based systems or email and providing one central source of knowledge within the business.
As we’ve already seen, many childcare centers are franchise businesses. Often this means a duplication of effort with requests going to head office for approval or copies of documents also being forwarded. An intranet will make it much easier for the franchisee to keep in touch with head office as forms and documents can be shared directly rather than by email or fax.
As well as streamlining business processes with head office, the intranet can also promote connectedness and remove that sense of isolation that franchisee childcare centers often feel. The improved flow of information and communication between head office and the center that the intranet fosters will have knock-on effects in terms of increased employee engagement and improved staff morale.
Sharing Of Knowledge And Best Practices
Working days at a childcare center are already full and hectic so that snatching even 10 minutes for a team meeting can be a real struggle. Staff members often take breaks at different times which means that opportunities for sharing ideas, information on best practice as well as team or company news are necessarily limited as looking after the children is top priority.
Internal communications are much easier with an intranet. Staff can login at a convenient time for them and keep up to date with all the latest news and updates. And from the management’s point of view, these important company messages are being consistently delivered at much the same time.
Blogs and forums within the intranet can be used by staff members to share best practice information or simply to communicate tried and tested ideas that work. How can you keep 25 two-year olds happy and engaged on a wet afternoon for example? Or how do you settle a 6 week old baby girl that has separated from her mother for the first time? Where do staff members go for the latest research on early education? The intranet can be the one central resource for all staff that are looking for specialist information and support or who want to share ideas and data.
Reporting Progress On Children’s Work
Reporting on the children’s progress and maintaining portfolios of their achievements is another possibility on the intranet. All staff will have access to each child’s portfolio and can report on and upload photos or videos of, for example, their artwork, singing and dancing performances or other activities and achievements. These will provide a wonderful visual record of the children’s time at the center and can be used to report to parents on their child’s progress. Indeed, these portfolios could even be shared with parents in what’s called an extranet where part of your intranet is made accessible to external parties.
Improved Daycare Business Management
As a passionate and committed childcare professional, your primary focus is naturally on providing a high standard of care for the children at your center; however, you also have a business to run. An intranet will enable you to run the business side of things more efficiently and effectively so that you can spend more time on what’s really important.
If you would like an informal discussion on how an intranet can improve the business management of your childcare center, then contact the helpful team at MyHub.