Hiring the best nursery staff for your business is one step, but childcare settings across the UK are struggling to retain them. As much as you’d like to, with tight budgets, offering raises isn’t always a viable option. We’ve put together 6 practical ways to keep your staff happy at your setting.
Check out our practical suggestions to combat these common issues.
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in major disruptions to home and working life. How are you able to keep your head above water? Stay flexible! The pandemic forced Early Years settings to adopt more remote and flexible working options. They planned lessons and prepped resources, attended meetings, conducted parents’ evenings, and more – all from their kitchen tables. Therefore there is no reason why you cannot adopt more flexible working hours for your team going forward without your nursery business experiencing ramifications.
It’s important to support your staff to build an environment where they would want to stay. How do you do this? Support all your staff, those with valuable skills and experience but also those with aspirations to upskill. One staff member may have different aspirations to the other and that is perfectly normal, so you need to tailor your support to each one. While this may seem like a challenge and a lot of work initially, the time, energy, and money spent on searching, hiring, and then training an individual will tip the scales quickly – and not in your favour. This is particularly important in a sector where word of mouth about staff can make parents race towards (or away) from your setting.
Another important aspect of supporting your staff is putting measures in place to help them take care of their mental wellbeing. Read more about staff mental health.
Think of the last time your line manager, partner, family, or friend recognised something you did well. Was it with a bouquet of flowers, or a simple “well done!”? How did it make you feel? Celebrating and rewarding your staff’s successes is vital. This does not mean a salary increase every time, but sometimes a simple “you did a fantastic job” can boost morale and motivation enormously. And with very little effort (and financial costs) on your end.
When it comes to rewards, try implementing an extra day off during term time as tangible recognition of their continued efforts. And while it’s important to develop your team’s skills, it’s also vital to recognise talents and skills they already have. Recognise the value they already contribute to your nursery business each and every day.
Another route to look at is to implement ways to improve staff and parents’ communication. If you present staff as experts in the Early Years sector, this will not only improve your parent-nursery relationships and encourage attendance, but it will also make your staff feel valued for their skills. Ultimately, this helps your staff retention.
Do you have proper policies in place for allowing staff to give feedback? How often is this feedback reviewed? It’s important to give staff access to these communication channels at all times- not just in times of crisis. It’s easy to talk, but the real change happens when you listen to your staff. Even to the things you don’t want to hear. If your staff feel like they a) cannot access proper channels of communication in the first place, and b) that their line managers won’t listen, they eventually won’t bother and your relationship will break down quickly. You want to nip the issues in the bud, so take them seriously when they are first brought to you.
While as nursery managers and owners you undoubtedly have a million things on your plate, It’s important not to make your staff feel like you don’t have time for them. And when you do give them time, don’t rush it. That’s just as bad as not giving them any opportunity to talk to you in the first place. And it sends the message that ‘you are not important enough for me.’ This won’t do your staff retention any favours.
Additionally, try avoiding only one annual review session to check in with your staff. The Early Years sector is ever changing and your nursery staff need regular review meetings to stay on top of any issues they may be experiencing. How often you want to make these sessions is up to you. It could be every month, week or even every day if necessary.
You may immediately think ‘well of course my setting advocates for equality’ but what policies and processes do you have in place that actually ensure this? Early Years settings have a common hierarchy that generally looks something like: Apprentice, Deputy Room Leader, Room Leader, Operations Lead, Deputy Manager, Manager and Operations Manager. Just because your business is structured this way does not mean that equality at all levels cannot be ensured. The apprentices must have access to the same career development opportunities, vacation time, and support as the nursery manager would.
Additionally, it is essential that you as a leader do not display any signs of favouritism. This is a one-way street to breaking down relationships with staff members who are left to feel on the outside. Take a moment to reflect on your relationships with your staff. As innocently as it may happen, favouritism can sneak its way in, but show it to the door!
Put measures in place to help staff to do their job easily, quickly and properly. If your nursery staff are set up to do their job well and without major hassle, this makes every day enjoyable. Not only this, but it helps to make the daily running of your business operate smoothly which makes parents, children – and your business’s pockets- happy.
Remember that piles and piles of paperwork are de-motivating for everyone. By automating and digitising processes, nursery management systems are an excellent way of reducing time spent on this dramatically. Help your staff get back to what they really want to do – spend time with the children.
It is quite possible that you are experiencing recruiting and retention issues due to low attendance and/or occupancy. Why should staff feel motivated if there is no one there to benefit from their skills and hard work?