Recruitment & Retention: How can we Rebuild our Early Education Workforce?
In September, we exhibited at the Childcare and Education Expo in Coventry. We had so much fun meeting new people, talking to our customers, discovering fellow early years suppliers and catching up with some leading sector experts in the early year’s sector. This also created the perfect opportunity for us to build on our knowledge of what is happening in the sector by attending some of the fantastic workshops and seminars.
The expo programme was jam-packed with childcare experts speaking on a range of topics from play, development, updates from Ofsted, outdoor learning and more!
The expo kicked off with a panel discussion focused on recruitment and retention in the early year’s sector. The panel was formed of some fantastic professionals working in the sector such as Michael Freeston, Director of Quality Improvement, Early Years Alliance, Onika Edwards, Head of Childcare and Education, All About Children, Ruth Pimentel, CEO, Kindred Education Limited, Zoe Raven, CEO, Acorn Early Years, Nitin Jain, Montessori Managing Director, Montessori by Busy Bees and Dan Weir, Research Analyst, Morton Michel Ltd.
Here we’ve taken the opportunity to share with you what we learned by attending this panel discussion.
Building a strong and happy team
As we all know from personal experience, employees want to feel that they belong in the workplace. Creating a sense of belonging results in greater work effort, high employee performance and employee loyalty, which in turn, creates a happy and positive learning environment for children.
You can strengthen your team by:
- Good-quality communication.
- Outlining clear goals and values and motivating employees to work towards them.
- Striving for a workplace culture in which individuality is both noticed and valued.
- Acknowledging and appreciating employees’ contributions in meetings to make them feel valued.
When the workplace has a positive atmosphere, colleagues feel secure in their positions and know that others appreciate their work. When staff are happy and feel appreciated in their work, this encourages children in your care to feel happy, settled and secure. It is important to create an emotionally positive environment for everyone and promote a sense of emotional well-being within your setting.
Providing Workplace Opportunities
Career advancement opportunities seem to have become increasingly important to many employees. Showing your staff that you provide workplace opportunities can give them hope for the future by demonstrating there is room for progression. It is great for morale when employees can see an opportunity to grow within their workplace.
Career progression is something that can be beneficial to both the employer and its employees. Progression encourages career satisfaction and staff retention whilst also creating an attractive workplace for prospective early years practitioners.
Many people are leaving the early years sector as they feel that there is no room for progression. Career options are often not discussed as settings are afraid of losing staff. Although this topic may be something you would rather avoid, it is important to look at the bigger picture of keeping practitioners within the early years sector. Discussing options such as community nursery nursing, family intervention work, and teaching may keep people engaged for longer whilst they study.
Did you know that apprenticeship funding can be used for both new employees and to upskill existing staff including; team leading, management, higher level early years qualifications, and early years Teaching? Utilising the apprenticeship funding shows your commitment to the development of staff. This will be extremely beneficial to your employee’s long-term career prospects. Upskilling your staff can result in a highly trained motivated team, which will, in turn, create the best outcomes for children in all areas.
At the Childcare and Education Expo we bumped into the Best Practice Network. The team at Best Practice Network are passionate about delivering high-quality CPD and qualifications that help school leaders, teachers, early years practitioners, business managers, support staff and SENCOs to be the best they can be and transform the lives of children and young people.
Training: Upskill Your Staff
Many practitioners work in childcare because they want to make a difference in children’s lives. It is a practitioner’s role to observe children and help them to learn and develop. Helping children to learn can be a great feeling to have as a practitioner, with the knowledge that they contributed to a child’s learning and the skills they will have for the rest of their lives.
Many childcare practitioners find it difficult to keep up with the constant changes in the early years sector, for example, changes in legislation, policies and procedures. It is important to educate your staff and upskill them in any way possible, to make them more confident and happy in their job role. Training and upskilling are incredibly important in ensuring outstanding practice within childcare settings. It aids all staff to work in the same way to achieve shared goals and objectives. Early years settings are often seen to be penalised by Ofsted for not placing enough emphasis on continuous professional training in the early years.
We understand that additional training courses can be costly, especially when budgets are stretched but investing in your staff team can raise staff morale by demonstrating that you want to invest in their futures. According to the Work Institute’s 2021 Retention Report, the most common reason for turnover was career issues, a category that includes opportunities for growth, achievement and security. This indicates that if staff feel a lack of growth or achievement they are likely to look for new career opportunities and although training can be considered expensive, a high employee turnover can be even more costly in some cases. Investing in your staff team is more worthwhile than having to pay the expense of paying agency staff.
Running regular internal training sessions, mentoring schemes and bringing in external trainers to deliver inspirational courses can have a huge impact on staff morale and give a rewarding sense of job satisfaction.
Employee Benefits and Rewards
There are many factors that are encouraging practitioners to give up on working in childcare such as salary, long working hours, having families of their own and as mentioned previously, feeling undervalued.
Salary is mentioned time and time again by early years practitioners and in most situations, this is a challenge that can not be resolved but the panel discussed that there may be other benefits and rewards that may outweigh the salary.
Zoe Raven the CEO of Kindred Education Limited, shared some of the employee benefits that they give to help attract and retain members of staff. These include:
- 50% childcare discount at a Kindred Nursery.
- Your birthday off!
- Company sick pay.
- Healthcare cashback plan.
- Employee assistance program.
Benefits provide support to an employee’s family, health, and financial future which can help attract and retain top talent.
Another huge barrier to recruitment is the lack of flexibility from the sector to accommodate shorter working hours or job shares. During the seminar, it was highlighted that implementing part-time working or set shift patterns can be challenging, but once in place, the benefit of being able to hire and retain quality staff with a work-life balance will redress this challenge.
If you would like to read more about what we learnt at the Coventry childcare and education expo, visit the following articles The Power Of Play – Ben Kingston-Hughes and Building Confidence in our Educators when faced with Inspection.