Human Resources: Our Approach
How Community Connections for Children, Inc. Shifted Their HR Culture
Written By: Heather Spitzlay and Christy S. Renjilian
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase human resources?
A sifter of resumes? An enforcer of rules? Or maybe even the termination engineer? The latter is a term made popular by Up In The Air, a movie starring George Clooney.
I hope these ideas aren’t the ones that pop into your head. But so often, human resources can bring up negative feelings or thoughts. Partly due to the influence of media and culture. And partly due to your past experience—or the strong feelings or wild tales of someone you know.
So what does an effective, people-forward HR approach look like?
Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC), like most nonprofits, small businesses, and large corporations, shifted its approach in the past decade—especially in the past two years, given the pandemic and tight labor market.
Why Are Human Resources Essential to Your Culture?
Human Resources is the foundation and core of our organization.
Our talented, committed, and respected team serves our community each and every day—and without them, we wouldn’t be able to meet and exceed our goals and objectives.
Treating our employees well, really well, is essential to our success.
And human resources, as a department, ensures that we continue to reflect, recommit (if necessary), and re-evaluate our policies, procedures, culture, and day-to-day interactions.
They also set the example of how to treat one another and follow it relentlessly.
By listening to and guiding the team, the human resources team aligns our work with our values.
A Look at the Organizational Structure and Retention
Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is one of the region’s largest nonprofits, with a $175 million budget and a total of 81 team members, eight of which are part of the leadership team.
The departments include Child Care Works, STARS, Community Services, Community Engagement, Finance, and Human Resources.
You may remember that in July of 2018 CCC expanded its footprint—and doubled the number of staff. Nearly 80% of the team that was working at CCC prior to that expansion are still with us.
And we’ve experienced even more recent growth. In April of 2020, CCC had 75 employees. And now, in mid-2022, we have 81.
Since the start of the pandemic, only one person has left to accept a position outside of the organization. That’s one person in over two years during what has been dubbed the ‘Great Resignation.’ It’s unheard of and something we are very proud of.
The team here at CCC is both loyal and tenured. Collectively, we have over 300 years of experience. And five team members have been with CCC for over 20 years. We have a strong history of advancement within the organization.
We’re proud of our retention efforts. And our turnover rate, which averages 2% per year. That number reflects all reasons for separation—like retirement, relocation, leaving the workforce, and medical reasons.
If you’re interested in our mission and working with CCC, we currently have two openings, both in our Finance Department. To learn more, visit childcareconsultants.org/job-openings.
What do you look for in new hires?
In the past four years, CCC has grown exponentially. And our human resources team has developed an exceptional hiring and onboarding process.
With possible candidates, we look for people who are committed to creating and nurturing our positive work culture. And those who are committed to service and fostering relationships with children, families, child care providers, and communities.
Experience is always weighed heavily, especially in specialized positions. An example is our Keystone STARS department—we look for persons with degrees in education and experience working in child care.
And CCC is committed to an inclusive and diverse workforce. We know that a welcoming, collaborative culture brings out the best in each team member. We strive to attract and retain a diverse range of skills, experience, and perspectives.
A List of Nine Effective Interview Questions
As for the actual hiring process, our approach includes both open dialogue and job-specific questions. The questions we ask to help us discern if the candidate and our organization are a good match.
And because we believe in transparency and sharing best practices so that everyone can succeed, we want to help you either prepare for an upcoming interview or optimize your hiring process.
So, here are nine of our favorite interview questions:
- If you were offered this position, what do you think your biggest challenge/learning curve would be in the first month?
- If you thought a coworker was doing a task incorrectly or not following the proper procedure, what would you do?
- Tell us about a time when you had to work hard to establish a good working relationship with someone. What was challenging about the situation and what did you do to address the issue?
- Tell me about a situation when you had to adjust to changes over which you had no control. How did you handle it?
- What’s the most difficult decision you’ve had to make at work? How did you arrive at your decision? What was the result?
- What traits do you consider to be critical for your coworkers to possess?
- How do you define service or serving others?
- How do you work with others who are different from you? Have different values, life experiences, and cultures? What specific experiences do you have working with diverse communities?
- At your retirement party what would you want your coworkers to say was your greatest accomplishment at CCC?
We tailor these questions, as needed, and really strive to understand each candidate’s thought process and scope of talent—and if they align with our culture and desires for the open position.
Work Values at Community Connections for Children, Inc.
The leadership team and human resource professionals at CCC understand our job is to support our staff. We serve them (not the other way around).
And we know our success rests on our entire team being–and feeling—supported, respected, engaged, and valued.
That’s why we practice what we preach. We have a culture of work-life balance. We serve families and our community, but not at the expense of our staff’s families.
One of the most-liked benefits at CCC is the generous paid time off. And our HR staff and entire leadership team encourages staff to use their PTO to promote work-life balance in our company.
And as a team, we strive to have open communication and believe that a culture of excellence and fun are not mutually exclusive.
A Shift in the Human Resources Approach
“In order to build a rewarding employee experience, you need to understand what matters most to your people.”
– Julie Bevacqua
In the past five years, CCC has made quite a few changes to our human services efforts.
The first big change was adding a manager to oversee the human resources department. By having an experienced person leading this function, we run more smoothly as an organization and our employees are taken care of even better.
As many businesses have, we’ve been flexible in the face of the pandemic. And sustained that flexibility, with remote and hybrid schedules that consider people’s work duties and their preference for working remotely or in the office.
We also support the needs of the team’s families and social isolation—providing opportunities for additional connection and support with fun virtual activities, like book clubs, trivia nights, and lunch and learn sessions.
And we’ve increased our wellness support, both physical and mental, by offering the Healthy Minds App and sharing wellness tips each month.
It’s all about reinforcing the team—human resources is a support system, along with its policy function. Both elements are important. Policies are in place for a reason, to protect and uplift the team. And it’s HR’s duty to enforce them ethically.
At the end of the day, our human resources efforts are about being an advocate, ally, and support to our team of employees.
About Community Connections for Children, Inc.
Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic.
CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees for you and your business, saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.
Heather Spitzlay serves as CCC’s Human Resources Manager and Christy Renjilian is its Executive Director.
To learn more, visit childcareconsultants.org.