You’ve completed the difficult task of selecting qualified program staff for the upcoming school year. But the work doesn’t end there. Now, it’s time to make sure they have the tools and knowledge to be valuable members of the team.

You’ve completed the difficult task of selecting qualified program staff for the upcoming school year. But the work doesn’t end there. Now, it’s time to make sure they have the tools and knowledge to be valuable members of the team.

The quality of a program’s staff influences the program’s effectiveness and success, according to Child Trends. And frontline staff is most responsible for executing the program strategy. By investing time and resources upfront, you can ensure your staff is equipped and prepared to contribute to your program’s overall success.

To help you get started, we’ve shared five ways to prepare new program staff to take on the upcoming school year:

1. Schedule regular staff meetings.

It’s easy to get caught up in the significant task of providing a safe, nurturing and well-supervised program for students day after day. But it’s equally important to check in with program staff on a regular basis, especially new staff members.

Meetings may be held once a month and last a few hours depending on the size of your program. You can cover program tasks and goals; discuss existing issues and concerns; review program policies and procedures; and gauge staff satisfaction. These meetings are also a great opportunity to show your appreciation and recognize staff for their outstanding work.

Here’s a rule of thumb for holding regular staff meetings: Make sure each meeting has a purpose and clear takeaways. Though staff meetings can be helpful, they’re also notorious for wasting time. To be effective, make sure meetings are productive and valuable for your staff.

2. Plan team-building activities.

It’s essential for program staff to connect and work well together. Not only does it improve communication, boost morale and build trust among them. But great staff connections also help to create a positive learning environment for students.

Staff members have little time to build connections while the program is in session. But planning team-building activities and games can help them learn about one another - how each person thinks, works, solves problems and has fun. Arrange a group lunch or fun outing for staff to get to know one another outside of the learning environment. Alternatively, squeeze in quick team-building games - like this simple icebreaker - during staff meetings or at the start of the day.

3. Offer ongoing training and professional development.

You selected staff with the top experience, education, credentials and skills for the job. But as author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy once said, “Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field.”

The afterschool field is constantly evolving due to new research, trends, policies and standards. Even more, standards and processes in your program may need to be updated without prior notice. With ongoing training and PD, you can help staff keep their skills sharp and make sure they’re up-to-date with program policies and procedures. For help with providing training that’s effective and enjoyable, check out The Big Book of Brain Building Games.

4. Reinforce program culture.

Every afterschool program has its own unique mission, goals and values that form its program culture. Done right, the program culture can provide direction and shape how staff interact with students, engage with families and carry out their job duties. In fact, research shows that employees are more productive and engaged when they’re invested in the company’s mission.

To get staff invested, find multiple opportunities to reinforce your program’s mission, values and goals. Introduce them during onboarding, discuss them during training and review them in staff meetings. The ultimate goal is to build a staff that’s committed to contributing to your program’s success.

5. Empower them.

According to an article on Business.com, making employees feel important and trusted leads to better and more productive work. And as program leader, it’s your responsibility to empower your staff to take initiative, make decisions and do their job well with little guidance or supervision.

The key is to equip them with the knowledge, tools and resources to do their job successfully. From there, you have the opportunity to entrust them with important program decisions and responsibilities. And an empowered staff shows energy and enthusiasm for what they do, which has a direct impact on students.

There are a lot of parts that make up a successful afterschool program, and a well-prepared staff is one of them. Use the tips and strategies above to make sure your program staff is ready to kick off the new school year on the right foot.