Pampa Mondal Center owners Arup and Pampa Mondal (Ellicott City and Rockville, MD) are well aware that creating an environment that promotes meaningful student progress is integral to center growth and establishing the right reputation for their business. This means having the right people in place to deliver the Mathnasium program effectively and motivate their students all the way to success. Instructors “are the face of our business,” Arup says. “They’re the ones who interface with the children. They carry out and maintain our center culture. Who are these people, and when we find them, how can we retain them? This is extremely challenging.”

Arup and Pampa are extremely selective about those they hire. “It takes a lot of effort to find good people,” says Arup. “I get tons of resumes but my success rate in terms of hiring people is like a half-percent. So if I get 200 resumes, I’ll probably hire one person.” They’re always on the lookout for potential staff members—“I continually place ads online and on Craigslist. I also tell my Instructors, ‘If you know good people, tell them to apply.’”

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The Mondals seek out candidates with the availability to work as many shifts per week as possible, connect well with children, and can teach math all the way to calculus. When a resume catches their eyes, they schedule a telephone interview to get a better idea of whether a candidate would be a good fit. “I ask them if they’re comfortable teaching up to calculus. If they aren’t, we don’t proceed. Have they had experience working with kids in the past or are they good with kids? I’ll also tell them our pay rate and ask if they’re comfortable with this before we move forward. If they say yes, then we schedule a time for them to come in.”

For the face-to-face interview, “there are hiring steps we have to follow. No exceptions,” Arup tells us. “They have to come in and take the Math Literacy Test. We won’t hire people who score below 85%… not a chance.” Then they schedule time for a trial teaching session to get a sense of how the applicant interacts with children. “We either do this on the day of the interview if there’s time or we schedule another time for them to come in.” For the trial, “we show them the answer key [for the material the student is working on] and tell them not to give the student the answers to any questions. Instead, [we prompt them] to ask the student questions that will lead them to the answer. Another Instructor will be there next to them to help. They’ll work with the student for about 10 minutes under strict observation either by me or a [Lead] Instructor, just to see how they deal with the kids. Does the applicant hesitate when explaining? Does he or she smile?” Once hired, all new Instructors must complete MU courses 101, 102 and 103 before they can teach.

Arup and Pampa really value their employees’ unique contributions to their business’ growth and center culture and manage with retention in mind. Arup understands that clarifying expectations eliminates a lot of on-the-job frustrations, so he’s created clearly defined steps and procedures for his staff members to follow—what Lead Instructors have to do and what regular Instructors have to do. On the importance of documenting procedures, Arup feels that “this business has a lot of little pieces, and they’re all equally important. It’s easy to lose track of things, which could lead to issues.” Staff members know they can always come to him with their concerns. When any changes or reminders about center policies need to be addressed en masse, Arup is quick to get everyone on the same page with a group email. He also makes himself available to Instructors after center hours to hear them out.

Arup and Pampa make it clear to Instructors that opportunities to move up are available—“we don’t hire someone off the street and just make them a Lead Instructor without having them put in the time working in the center and learning how things work here. Those who love their jobs and are excited to take on more responsibility—they’re the ones who go on to become Lead Instructors.” He and Pampa are fortunate to have Instructors with relatively open and flexible schedules that fit with standard Mathnasium operating hours. They want to give Instructors as many hours as possible—close to full time in many situations. “Typically, no one works less than four hours a day. That makes most of them happy because then it’s worth the gas money to come in,” Arup says.

As a result, Instructors at Mathnasium of Ellicott City and Rockville feel invested in their work and in the centers’ success overall. “You can see the difference in quality as they really own their jobs, and they work from their hearts,” Arup says. Employee retention and morale are high—“when our employees leave, they either want to pursue higher education or they get a federal job. We haven’t had anyone leave yet to go work for another private company.” As an added bonus, parents and students love that they see the same familiar, smiling faces whenever they come into Arup and Pampa’s centers.

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With over 200 enrolled students at Ellicott City, which opened in December 2011 (Rockville opened in March 2013 and currently has 58 students), plus strong referral business all around, it’s clear that parents and students are pleased with the results Mathnasium delivers. Customers love the vibrant, math-positive center culture Arup, Pampa, and their staff have in place at both centers. “Kids don’t complain about coming to Mathnasium and they’re making progress. When we ask parents, ‘How did you find out about us?’ they say, ‘Oh everyone talks about you.’ So people are definitely talking,” Arup concludes. “We’re so fortunate to have the right people in place who will carry the right message we want for our business and do good quality work.”