There are no two ways about it. The Early Years sector is in crisis.
Staff retention in our sector continues to face extreme pressure, with practices experiencing a vicious circle of recruitment and stress with little relief.
So what can be done? When staff report feeling undervalued, undersupported and underpaid but there’s no money in the budget for raises or incentives, how can you improve the wellbeing of your people and get new recruits to stick around?
Check out these 5 lifelines of staff retention that should tip the balance in your favour.
Nothing fuels staff disconnect better than mistrust of higher management. Keep lines of communication wide open to tackle this issue head-on.
Because not only do engaged employees stick around, but they are also 22% more productive!
An open workplace, where communication is clear and inclusive, is one surefire way to improve employee happiness and up staff retention levels. By ensuring everyone feels heard and informed and understands the bigger picture, you’re telling them they matter. To you, and to the business. You’re showing them that their role has a purpose.
So how do you improve communication in your nurseries?
It starts with you. First and foremost, you must have clear visions and goals for the future, with policies and processes in place to support them.
Got all that sorted? Are the expectations you have of your staff clear and achievable? Initiate regular briefing meetings with all staff to begin bridging the disconnect and clearly communicate goals and expectations, making sure your people feel confident to ask questions or speak up if they’d like to.
Looking after your staff is not as simple as buying a ton of pizza every Friday.
Don’t get us wrong, we love a foodie incentive, but employee wellbeing is so much more than encouraging your team to feel great about the place they work because you buy them their favourite goodies.
When we talk about wellbeing in the workplace, we’re referring to your employees feeling comfortable, happy and healthy in their roles. And promoting wellness among your staff boosts productivity and performance, improves the quality of work and, guess what… reduces employee turnover.
That’s right. Make an effort to enhance employee wellness and staff retention naturally improves.
But what does this look like? In basic terms, your staff should at the very least have the training and tools to correctly and efficiently carry out their roles individually and as a team. It’s important to provide comfortable, inviting staff facilities where employees can take time out during breaks, and your people should be able to feel confident that they can come to you with any problems and be heard.
Mental health and work-life balance are factors that should be taken very seriously, too. Take the time to remain visible at points throughout the day, and go for a wander around provision; what do you see?
How are your team interacting with each other? Do any members of staff appear to be struggling? Creating opportunities for discussion and a culture that promotes emotional wellbeing can dramatically impact staff retention.
Empower Your People
Working in a role where you don’t feel valued is demotivating. It’s one of the strongest reasons people give for quitting a job.
With staff retention at an all-time low in the Early Years sector and a severe lack of government funding, it’s all too easy to see why practitioners might feel undervalued in this way. They’re at breaking point. Give them something great to hold on to; empower them!
By creating clear career pathways, routinely celebrating their strengths and providing them consistent opportunities to develop their skills, you are giving your staff reason to stay. Not only because you run a brilliant place of work, where employees are looked after and nurtured, but because the skills and training you’re giving them skills and knowledge for whatever comes next.
And do you know what, it doesn’t stop there. Empowerment isn’t all shiny. It also means gently recognising weaknesses that crop up and quietly providing tailored support and ongoing training for personal development.
Leadership And Culture
What is your leadership style like? Are you one of the team, or do you bark orders?
Do you trust your staff members?
Without trust, individuals and teams cannot meet their full potential. They’re too scared to speak out, and too afraid to make mistakes. A lack of trust means your team is just a collection of people trying to get through the day.
In contrast, a trusting culture directly links to enhanced staff retention because management that values the perspectives of their employees makes room for connection and respect.
How much do you know about your employees? Do you sit down and catch up with them weekly to see how they’re getting on? Are there plenty of opportunities for growth and discussion through appraisals and supervision meetings?
When are their birthdays?
Are they good at their job? Are you supporting them?
If you truly value your staff, you should be able to answer all of those questions and more. Working with Early Years teams is like working with family; it’s a close-quarters situation, and it’s busy! You’ve got to take the time to show your employees that you care about who they are and what they bring to the business.
Wanting a fair wage is to be expected from all staff, in any sector.
Whilst pay is generally determined by how long an employee has worked at the company, their experience and their overall skillset, are there opportunities for your staff to increase their income?
Offering ways for your staff to progress in their careers as well as earn more money provides them with huge reasons to stick around. Consider looking at schemes which involve employees earning money through meeting targets and improved performance. And if an employee is asking to progress, recognise their wishes by actively listening to what they have to say and committing to help them get where they want to be.
The cost of living is at an all-time high. Your employees and their families may well be struggling, and looking after your staff is top of your list if you want them to feel safe and respected in their jobs.
How Does Your Nursery Measure Up?
Is your company culture set up for staff retention?
Do your employees understand their role and appreciate their value in the wider operation of the business?
Have they got what they need to do their job well?
Can they speak up and raise issues without being talked down?
Are they happy with their rate of pay, or could you do more to aid in their career progression?
And perhaps most importantly of all… How are they doing?
Check in with your employees frequently. These are tough times, and the work/life balance is harder and harder to keep in check.
If you need help reviewing your staff dynamics or want to look at ways to improve morale and motivation, then get in touch with MBK about our bespoke Team Alignment days, well-being training and consultancy work.