Customer Safety Toolkit: Employment Practices

Staffing is central to all forms of safety. Below is a curated list of our top employment practices resources—covering the measures we recommend our customers prioritize and work to implement first. These are, of course, only the beginning to ensuring all children and youth in your programs are safe. For more tools, guidance and resources, please visit our employee safety resource library.

Hiring Staff & Volunteers

In order to create a culture of safety, you need the right staff in the right positions with the right tools and resources to do their job safely. This begins when you are hiring staff, as well as volunteers. The more layers of protection that you can put into place, the more effective you will be at keeping the youth in your care safe.

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These are the first steps an organization can take to make sure they are finding staff and volunteers who are a good fit for their organization:

Job Application
It’s important to demonstrate your commitment to keeping children safe at every step of your hiring process—especially the outset. On your job or volunteer applications, include a Zero Tolerance Statement that clearly states that you will thoroughly investigate all potential employees or volunteers in order to eliminate potential child abuse. Sending this message early on may deter a potential abuser from applying if they have malicious intentions. The following is an example of a Zero Tolerance Statement is:

Our organization views protecting children and youth as an integral part of our mission. We have a zero-tolerance policy for child abuse and mistreatment of any kind in our organization, and consistently employ many policies and practices to ensure the safety of children in our care.

Reference Checks
Employment and personal references should be checked for all program volunteers and employees. It’s important to reach out to every reference, and to document the interaction in a personnel file. Additionally, requiring a family member or close personal contact as a reference opens up the opportunity to learn more about an applicant—as family members or close personal contacts will usually have a broader picture of an applicant’s personality and behavior over the span of their entire life, not just within a specific job or position.

Background Checks 
At a minimum, we recommend that organizations are running nationwide checks, and including any state the potential employee or program volunteer has lived or worked in.

Interview Techniques
Job interviews are a critical part of the hiring process. How those interviews are structured, however, can make a huge difference in their effectiveness. Paige Bagwell—Redwoods’ Chief Operating Officer—wrote an article on critical job interview techniques for creating safe organizations.

Performance Management 

Hiring is just the beginning. HR practices and performance management at your organization are critical risk management tools which will help ensure that all staff remain focused on safety, and continue to develop and hone their skills during their tenure.

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In order to be effective, it’s important to ensure that your performance management approach:

  • is a continual process between employees and managers
  • allows the opportunity, and responsibility, for both parties to give and receive feedback
  • sets expectations clearly during the hiring process, onboarding and throughout the employee’s employment.

In addition to hiring (see above), this applies to all stages of the employment cycle, including:

New Employee Onboarding
The interview process can help eliminate unsuitable candidates, and prepare successful ones for the work they will be doing. However, once an employee is hired, it is important that your expectations of them are reinforced throughout the onboarding process—including providing training and a more complete explanation of your safety practices.

Ongoing Performance Management
Your ongoing performance management system should be designed to help hold employees accountable to expectations, as well as identify areas where they can grow and improve. Ideally, this will include both a clearly defined and documented performance review process, as well as a progressive discipline policy that corrects problematic behaviors or underperformance wherever possible, before they escalate to become major issues. Visit our resource on performance management for tips on implementing effective performance reviews and a progressive discipline program.

Building a Strong Organizational Culture

Organizational culture is essential to shaping, correcting and rewarding team behaviors. And it’s a key indicator of your sustainability—or ability to attract and retain the best people—as an employer. Yet organizational cultures aren’t created overnight.

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Below are some different strategies to building a strong culture:

  • Trust and empower employees to do their best work. Trust is the foundation of positive culture. Organizational leaders have to commit to building trust to create meaningful, mutually beneficial connections and a sense of shared purpose. This needs to be a priority for all stakeholders, including employees, peers and members of the community.
  • Give employees a voice. Invite employees to weigh in on issues that impact them. Encourage a safe, supportive culture of communication— where team members are empowered to approach organizational leaders with feedback without fear of reprimand.
  • Recognize employees’ contributions to the organization. Employees want to be acknowledged for doing good work. Effective leaders make sure the right systems are in place to celebrate and reward employee contributions and achievements.
  • Make the workplace feel like a community. When employees feel respected and inspired—as though they’re part of something bigger than themselves—they can more easily align their daily tasks with broader organizational goals. When they feel they belong, they’re more likely to develop loyalty towards their organization and its mission.

Sample Tools & Templates

We have compiled a list of sample tools and templates that will assist your organization as you begin to implement a comprehensive employee safety program.

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