How can you keep your employees happy?
Create a Positive Work Environment
Making employees and teachers feel valued, respected, acknowledged and appreciated fosters loyalty to your center and has a ‘trickle down’ effect on the care your children receive.
Showing appreciation and acknowledging the efforts of your staff doesn’t always have to be expensive or elaborate. It does, however, need to be consistent and sincere to be effective in boosting morale.
What goes a long way? A sincere thank you from you.
Saying thank you often comes out without a thought as to why. Next time one of your child care staff members goes that extra mile, make the thank you intentional by:
- Stop what you’re doing.
- Giving them your complete attention.
- Smile and make eye contact.
- Place your hand on their arm or make some other type of physical contact. (Only if this is something that is within the comfort level of both people involved and is a part of your style)
- Be specific about what they did. “Thank you so much for cleaning the supply cabinet this week. No one wanted to do it, and I’m sure you didn’t either, so I wanted you to know I really appreciate the fact that you stepped up to do it.”
A handwritten note is also a nice way to acknowledge and show appreciation to staff. This type of recognition could be for someone who is dependable and consistent and not just when someone goes above and beyond what is required of them.
Establish a “Staff Appreciation Day”
This can be anytime, or coincide with “National Provider Day” on June 1 or The Week of the Young Child during the first week of April. You can have a potluck for staff with parents each bringing in a dish; Give employees small gifts or teacher pins; have breakfast prepared by the parents and children. You can even create a group project for the teachers by copying a “Teacher” poem on nice paper and having the children make their handprints around it. You can often recruit a parent to organize these projects and that adds an entirely new meaning to it!
A more involved project that is a terrific morale booster is to create a meaningful keepsake in a “memory book” for each teacher. Ask parents to write notes to their children’s teachers and include pictures drawn by the children. Then add pictures taken in each teacher’s classroom and put a “Teacher” poem on each first page along with a personal note from you acknowledging each teacher’s individual strengths. You will be amazed heartfelt nature of the parents’ notes. Sometimes it isn’t obvious how appreciative parents are for the care that is provided to their children. And teachers just don’t hear this directly from parents often enough.
Choose a “Staff Member of the Month”
The criteria for this award should be defined by the staff itself. And each month’s winner determined by his/her peers. This definitely rules out the possibility or the suspicion of favoritism in this process. Recognize the winners with small door prizes or gifts certificates that are chosen spontaneously by those at the meeting by having each person write their votes for Teacher of the Month and Staff Member of the Month on two different color cards. Recognition from peers can be extremely powerful and meaningful for your teachers and staff. This can also be done more formally and can even involve parents. You may want to establish a rule for an employee that wins more than a certain number of times. Give that person special recognition and then remind voters the next month that someone else must win. The previous multiple-month winner is not eligible!
These “Employees of the Month” can also be acknowledged with his/her picture on an entryway bulletin board or with the honor of parking in a designated “Employee of the Month” parking space. An “Employee of the Year” can even be selected from the monthly recipients and given an engraved plaque.
Recognize and Reward Accomplishments
Use your newsletter and/or your bulletin board to acknowledge when staff members have done something noteworthy such as completing another year of college, completed a certification or have presented at a local conference. Frame and hang their certificates and awards in their classrooms. You can also do a press release when an employee earns a CDA.
Here are some ideas of things you can do:
- Pass a card around that everyone can sign to recognize their co-workers’ achievements.
- Put up banners of congratulations
- Nominate your outstanding teachers for awards within your community and encourage parents to do the same.
- Have the teacher that is great at Science or Circle Time present at staff training.
- Have teachers-in-training from other centers in your area visit her classroom to observe.
Assist Your Staff in Developing Professionally
Encourage your teachers and office staff to learn and grow and let them know it is something you value. It also lets them know that you belief in their potential. Knowing that they can grow within a company is also an important staff retention factor.
Create a “TLC” or “Care” Committee or Person
Build a sense of family within the office. Most of us spend more hours with our co-workers than with anyone else so making your center a place where birthdays, babies and employment anniversaries are acknowledged and celebrated. Things like “Secret Pals” can be really fun. This is a great role to delegate to someone who wants additional responsibility. And it will illustrate that person’s capacity for organization and follow-through.
Reward Attendance and Punctuality
Allow a teacher to go home an hour early for outstanding punctuality or attendance. Since child care is unpredictable work, you may not be able to plan for this but you can offer it spontaneously when you see the opportunity. It can truly be a treat for a staff member.
It is also good for the staff to see that you are not above sweeping the floor, changing the bad diapers or wiping noses. I think it’s helpful to be able to honestly say, “I’m not asking you to do anything I am not willing to do myself.” And “we’re a team.”
Praise and Acknowledge Effort and Good Work
Take the time and make the commitment to really see where your staff members are growing. Everyone wants to know that their efforts are appreciated, and that you recognize when they have worked hard on something.
Empathize with Staff
Remember that you were once a teacher and had your share of challenging children. Sometimes employees want insight, resources, and assistance. Sometimes they just want to know that you’ve been there and understand. Sometimes is it as simple as putting your arm around them and saying “Miss Tressa, I feel your pain.” At other times the best thing that you can do for a teacher is to offer to give her a little break. Let her be the one that runs to the post office or to pick up supplies so she can get out of the center and clear her head. She will most likely appreciate a small diversion on a bad day and so might that challenging child.
Seek Input from Staff
Everyone likes to feel that their opinion counts and is of value. Next time you need to order equipment or plan the end of the year picnic, solicit opinions and assistance of staff. If they feel that it is “their” center – not just yours – your programs will reflect their positive attitudes. They take ownership of everything they do and it teaches skills and conveys trust.
Be sure that any pieces that you post around your office or magazines that you share with your staff are motivational and positive and reflect the attitude that you want around your center.
No one wants to work where people do not have fun. The ability to laugh at oneself sets the tone for the entire group. Have the kind of rapport with staff where they can kid around with you and you with them when it is appropriate – especially about the little stuff! After all, laughing at something like a little spit-up makes the job easier.
Enjoy the children. Appreciate them. How often do we get so absorbed in our other responsibilities that we do not fully acknowledge a child’s “boo-boo” or story about his new Spiderman bedspread? We are constantly setting the example for staff. After all, it IS important for them to see that the children come first and foremost.
One thing to remember: The little things that you do sometimes mean a lot. The cookies, pizza, candy, donuts, small gifts that you add to a nice note can be very sweet. But they can never replace respect, trust, and fair treatment. You need to have those foundational traits before building upon them by showing appreciation.