Five simple strategies to improve employee retention

5 Simple Strategies to Improve Employee Retention

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As child care owners, we know that our staff – our PEOPLE – are the most important aspect of our business. They are the ones who interact with our clients and deliver learning experiences to the children.  Without them, we could not operate.

In honor of our amazing teachers and caregivers, we wanted to share with you just a few ideas that will help you attract more staff, lift up your workplace culture, and improve your employee retention rates.

Keeping staff with you longer benefits your business in terms of efficiency, consistency, and reputation.  It also benefits the children you serve in terms of the relationships and connections they build with their caregivers. The more secure the children feel in their attachments, the greater their capacity for learning.

Unfortunately, the industry as a whole is in a season of having difficulty finding and keeping quality staff on our teams. In some cases, schools have opted to leave classrooms empty because they cannot find teachers to staff them. In others, the staffing shortage has caused centers to reduce their hours of operation or services provided.

There are many factors that are contributing to the staffing shortage, termed the “Great Resignation.” This article is not meant to solve them all. But we do know that the way people FEEL about their jobs and their employers is one of the biggest contributing factors to staff retention or turnover.

If you want your child care employees to stay with you longer, here are a few strategies to improve employee retention:

1. Take a Personal Interest

Find ways to build relationships with your employees! Nobody likes to feel like they are just a number. People naturally seek connections and commonalities with other people. They want to feel like they belong.

It’s been said that people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.  Alternatively, if you are working to create positive relationships with your employees they are likely to stay with you longer.

Be sure you are doing what you can to genuinely show interest in each individual on your team. Get to know them. Ask about their interests, goals, and accomplishments. What’s happening this weekend? How did their son’s football game go? What did they think of the new movie? How are college classes going? Bond over funny lines in TV shows or mutually enjoyed activities (sewing, dancing, sports, etc).  When leaders look for ways to make employee relationships about more than work and purposefully look for ways to connect, it will impact staff retention rates, workplace happiness, and foster a sense of belonging and team.

2. Cultivate a Happy Workplace

Make a plan for FUN! We are serious! As much as we’d like to think FUN might happen spontaneously in our workplaces, chances are you have to plan for the silly once in a while. Add in little surprises such as chocolate deliveries, silly dress-up days, door decorating contests, after-work gatherings, catered lunches or potlucks, special team T-shirts, spontaneous dance parties, and more. When your team is having fun at work, they’ll want to keep coming back.

Also, be sure to put some time and thought into your onboarding process. Get started on the right foot by adding some special touches to each new employee’s first days on the job. When you go above and beyond to welcome them in a special way, they feel like you are excited about adding them to the team and they are more apt to dive into their new jobs with a positive attitude. Pair that sentiment with the fun and positive work environment that you are cultivating for a happier team.

3. Provide Training and Support

It’s important that you do a bit more to prepare your new hires for success than have them fill out the required paperwork and throw them into a classroom to sink or swim. Set your teachers and caregivers up for success by providing proper training so they have the tools they need to be successful in their roles. This starts from the moment they are hired.

Think about everything they need to know to deliver the high-quality service you expect and create a training program that will truly give them the answers and tools they need. Ideally, this should be done over several days at the beginning of employee training, so as to not overwhelm them. We also suggest breaking up the types of activities involved in the training. For example, create a plan that involves some verbal training, videos, books, workbooks, projects, classroom activities, observations, etc. This makes the initial training process more memorable and less mundane.

After your new hire has been through their initial training, it’s important to continue to support them by making sure you provide all the necessary supplies, tools, and equipment required for day-to-day activities. Teachers should not have to be spending their own money to purchase supplies for the classroom, crafts, or activities.

You should also work into your overall employee retention plan a budget for ongoing training and professional development. Most states require a minimum of continuing education, but we’d suggest that you exceed the minimum expectations. Most employees are appreciative when their employer invests in their personal growth and development. You can provide additional training in the form of online classes, local or state conferences, bringing guest speakers into your school, tuition assistance, or enrolling them in a CDA program.  A person who is continually learning is continually growing.

4. Recognize and Reward Desired Behaviors

Being sure to recognize your employees for a job well done is one of the most simple, yet most effective ways to improve employee retention. A person who feels appreciated will likely be more willing to be flexible and adapt when there are occasional bumps in the road. They feel like a valued part of your organization and see themselves as part of the solution. They will also always do more than a staff member who doesn’t feel valued or appreciated.

Be on the lookout for the “caught being good” moments among your employees, and then find ways to publicly recognize and reward them for their great work. There are many ways to do this, but try to get creative. It can be just a quick word of praise said in front of the other teachers in the classroom, a shout out on social media, a handwritten thank you note, a mention at a staff meeting, a certificate of appreciation, a small gift of thanks, extra “points” or “org bucks” awarded, and more. The most important thing is that the employee knows that you noticed their hard work and that you appreciate their efforts. When you are able to recognize positive behaviors and contributions in a meaningful way, it builds relationships and contributes to higher job satisfaction.

5. Prioritize Healthy Communication

As the leader, it is so important that your employees feel that open and honest communication is a priority to your organization. There are so many different communication styles, but YOU set the tone for how your team will communicate with each other on the job. If they experience respect, gentleness, positivity, understanding, and consideration, they will be more likely to exhibit similar communication styles. On the contrary, if they are met with avoidant, hostile, or negative communication patterns when it comes to communication with their leaders, workplace negativity and gossip will spread.  Nothing shuts down a willing employee faster than feeling like they will not be heard, or feeling like toxic communication are the norm.

Make it a priority to model direct, open, honest, and respectful communication with your team. One tip is to put systems in place that help to close communication gaps, such as a team messaging app, a private Facebook group for staff messages and announcements, or a simple bulletin board. You should also be sure that you and your leaders are having regular one-on-one meetings with staff so they feel like you prioritize their thoughts and concerns. But above all, your attitude, tone, and receptiveness will send a message to your team about how you truly feel about them. Be sure you are modeling the communication styles you want to see your team exhibiting.

Feeling that your boss is approachable, that your thoughts and opinions matter, and that if you have a concern you will at least be heard will make a difference in the way your employees view their job. The more connected to you (and each other) that they are, the less likely they are to leave for greener pastures. Healthy communication on the job is a key factor in workplace happiness and will help improve employee retention.

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