The Early Years sector has long been facing a recruitment crisis, with a chronic shortage of qualified and experienced staff. This means that there are fewer people available to care for children from 9 months through to five years old. It also makes retaining and developing current staff even more important to the success of a setting. In this blog post, we explore how focusing on staff retention can help address the Early Years recruitment crisis.
Understanding the Early Years Recruitment Crisis
Before looking at the benefits of staff retention, it is important that we ensure we understand the factors contributing to the Early Years recruitment crisis
The crisis can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, the sector has traditionally been undervalued, leading to lower salaries and fewer benefits than other professions. Additionally, the high cost of training and the lack of funding for professional development has deterred many from pursuing a career in Early Years. Finally, the demanding nature of the job, combined with the lack of support and recognition, has led to burnout and a high turnover rate. You can learn more about easing the pressure of the crisis in our blog ‘How to ease the pressure of the crisis on nursery staff.’
How Staff Retention Can Help the Early Years Recruitment Crisis
Staff retention is crucial in addressing the Early Years recruitment crisis. When staff feel valued, supported, and recognised they are more likely to stay in their roles for longer. This means that settings can benefit from a stable and experienced workforce, reducing the need for constant recruitment and training.
Not only this but staff retention can improve the quality of care provided to children. When staff are familiar with the children in their care, they can better meet their individual needs and provide consistent care. On the other side, when children are familiar with the people providing their care, they are more likely to settle into their new environment and therefore will feel comfortable exploring new experiences and learning pathways. This, in turn, can have a positive impact on their development, learning, and well-being.
Strategies for Staff Retention
So how can Early Years settings improve staff retention? Here are some strategies to consider.
Offer competitive salaries and benefits
To attract and retain staff, settings should offer competitive salaries and benefits packages. This may include paid training opportunities, flexible working hours, and wellbeing programs, as well as childcare discounts for staff who have children of their own.
Provide opportunities for career development
Early Years staff should have opportunities for career development. This can include mentoring programs, workshops, conferences, and online training, as well as providing staff with progression pathways. By investing in staff development, you can show that you value their contributions and are committed to their growth, which can in turn help staff feel motivated and invested in their roles.
Create a positive workplace culture
Settings should prioritise creating a positive and supportive workplace culture, where staff feel valued, respected, and supported. There are lots of ways a setting can create a positive workplace culture including some of the following.
- Recognize and appreciate the hard work and dedication of staff. This can be through verbal recognition, written appreciation, or other forms of recognition such as bonuses or time off. Celebrating staff achievements and milestones can help create a positive work environment.
- Recognize that staff have lives outside of work and offer flexibility in scheduling and time off. By supporting work-life balance, staff are more likely to feel valued and committed to their work.
- Encourage staff to socialize and build relationships outside of work. This can foster a sense of community and help staff feel supported and connected to each other. You can do this through team-building activities, staff retreats, or simply social gatherings outside of working hours.
Foster effective communication
Effective communication is essential for staff retention. Staff should be regularly informed about changes or developments in the setting and should have a platform to voice their concerns and ideas. Setting up regular staff meetings, daily briefings, and check-ins can help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that any concerns are addressed in a timely manner.
To ensure that this is effective, it is important to create open lines of communication. This means that staff members should feel comfortable approaching their supervisors or colleagues to ask questions, provide feedback, or seek advice. Encouraging an open-door policy and promoting active listening can help to foster a culture of openness and trust.
Prioritize staff wellbeing
The demanding nature of Early Years education can take a toll on staff. They need to take care of themselves to ensure that they are emotionally and physically fit to handle the demands of the job. Settings should prioritise staff well-being by encouraging staff to take breaks and fostering an open-door policy that allows staff to come forward with any troubles they’ve been having, as well as offering resources and support for managing stress and burnout.
The Early Years recruitment crisis is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach. Whilst recruitment strategies are an important factor in tackling the crisis, focusing on staff retention can also have a significant impact on its effects too. Focusing as much on the retention of current staff as the recruitment of new ones can have significant benefits for both staff and children in a setting.