The final prong of the process of perfecting our product is looking at the QUALITY of our classes and our CUSTOMER SATISFACTION.
The idea of “quality control” becomes more and more important the larger any business grows. Looking at McDonalds for an example, it’s a major part of the management focus inside that company. Their goal is to provide consistency to their customers and maintain a certain standard that we’ve all come to expect. A Big Mac looks and tastes the same across every single McDonalds around Australia, and pretty much most McDonalds restaurants around the world.
Maintaining consistent high quality training and customer experience throughout a full timetable is challenging. I remember the first few years of my studio when it was just me teaching - they were the good old days. I knew exactly what every customer was getting, because they were getting me. These days I teach about a 10th of the classes in our timetable.
We are passing a huge amount of responsibility onto our teachers, and relying on them to be brilliant in every class, maintain our studio values, provide high quality dance education and vibrant, friendly interaction with students and their parents. I can tell you one thing I know for sure… I don’t think I devote enough of my time and energy supporting my teachers with sufficient training and guidance. I don’t know about you, but I realise that I’ve been trusting that they’re more than capable on their own. Perhaps it’s that I fear micro-managing and have erred on the side of not enough? Or perhaps it’s just that I’ve prioritised my time elsewhere. They might be outstanding, but better and more consistent management, encouragement, empowerment and support from me as their principal would (I believe) improve our overall quality across the studio.
In our dance studios, we’re certainly not trying to create a cookie-cutter approach to all of our classes - I strongly believe that it’s crucial that our teachers are given the freedom to bring their own personality and unique style to their teaching. But it’s our businesses, and it’s our vision and our product that we need to ensure every customer is receiving.
The first thing to think about (and I have no doubt your mind wanders with these thoughts often already), is whether or not your teaching staff are meeting your own standards. Here are a handful of questions for YOU to answer about each one of your staff:
- ARE YOU PROUD OF THE QUALITY OF THEIR TEACHING?
- WOULD YOU WANT THEM TEACHING YOUR CHILD?
- IF YOUR BEST FRIEND BROUGHT HER DAUGHTER TO YOUR STUDIO, WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS TEACHER’S CLASSES?
- DO YOU FEEL LIKE THEY FIT WELL INTO THE CULTURE, BRAND AND VALUES OF YOUR STUDIO?
- COULD MORE TRAINING AND GUIDANCE HELP THEM BE A BETTER TEACHER, OR ARE THEIR WEAKNESSES AND LIMITATIONS INHERENT?
Depending on your answers for each staff member, it might be time to consider reallocation of classes / hours for next year.
I have previously posted a teacher’s SELF-EVALUATION sheet. I’ll repost it so that it’s easier to find here in this group. I think it’s a great way for teachers to remind themselves of their responsibilities and think about their teaching outcomes. The sheet is designed for them to fill out and put into their own teaching journal - not to give to their superior.
Here are some other things STUDIO OWNERS can (and should) do to improve consistency within their studio and elevate the quality of dance training for their students by providing better support, direction and motivation to their teaching staff:
Have formal one-on-one meetings with each teacher at least twice a year to keep an open line of communication and discuss challenges being faced in class, the progress of students, lesson plans, concert routines etc.
Post a weekly memo on your FB staff group to keep them in the loop about everything going on in the studio.
Have semi-regular staff social dinners and fun events like games nights, bowling, escape rooms etc. to bond the team.
Write a concise document clearly outlining your expectations for all staff, plus any extra expectations you have for specific staff, and have them read and sign it at the beginning of every year along with their contract.
Make sure they sign a contract. It doesn’t have to be epic and complicated - but some clarity around their duties and responsibilities, and your expectations is crucial. Establishing some boundaries and rules, and clarifying on paper what the conditions of their employment are, including pay rate etc.
Schedule a staff development day for every holidays, and consider bringing in someone from outside of the team to lead a seminar or workshop. Use this time to brainstorm teaching techniques, re-establish expectations, plan for the term ahead etc.
Try to get around to each class at least once a term for their full lesson, even if it means having to get someone to cover your own classes, so that you can teach the class WITH their normal teacher. Demonstrating your methods, your demeanour and your example of how you would like the class to be run. They don’t need to copy you exactly, but it’s a refresher for them to see how you take the class, and might inspire some extra motivation, ideas or even just confidence.
Consider a staff uniform if you don’t have one already. (Don’t make them pay for it though). This is especially effective for studios with quite young teaching staff. I’m implementing a studio uniform next term for all my teachers under the age of 25.
Be clear about how you would like each class to be structured. Eg. What approximate breakdown of technique / stretch / combo in a Junior Jazz class. When to commence learning routines for concert etc.
Set up a student reward system that is studio-wide, and brief all of your staff on it.
Don’t be afraid to approach staff about things they’re doing that you’re not completely happy with. I know it can get awkward, but healthy open constructive communication is essential and if you don’t have that with each and every one of your staff then it’s a priority to change your relationship with them to make that not just possible but comfortable. Open and honest. And expect the same in return.
Teach your assistants how to actually teach, so that if and when they work for you, they’ve been trained up properly with effective classroom management and communication skills.
Raise your own standards for what you need your teaching staff to provide to uphold (and grow) your studio reputation.
Provide example scripts for teachers for when speaking to parents, and guidelines to follow for communication.
Encourage your teaching staff to do their own dancer/choreographer development as often as possible (eg. Taking pro classes, seeing professional shows, doing workshops, accessing online tutorials etc.
Make sure they’re a member of our Studio Savvy Teachers group.