How To Increase Staff Retention And Limit Turnover Rates At Your Child Care Center

Staff Retention Strategies For Childcare Centers
Mukta Balsara

Mukta Balsara

Published 21st Dec 2022

Low staff retention rates in childcare have always been a pain point. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 made things worse. Even though the pandemic feels like a bad dream three years later, the early childhood care and education (ECCE) sector is struggling to recover. 

The staff turnover rate in the childcare sector is soaring. In the United States of America, the year 2021 has seen a turnover rate ranging between 26-40 percent to as high as 70 percent.   

To formulate an effective staff retention strategy, it is imperative to first understand the factors contributing to this attrition, and the ripple effect it has on children, parents, and the wider economy. 

With this knowledge, you can take specific measures to ensure that your childcare business fosters a culture of ownership, belonging, and mutual growth. 

Table of Contents

Factors Affecting Low Staff Retention Rates in Child Care

1. Low salaries and social status

All hands down, childcare workers are one of the least paid. Their job is physically as well as mentally laborious. It’s laden with the responsibility of extremely dependent and vulnerable beings at their most pivotal age. This is in stark contrast to what remunerations, benefits, and social recognition they receive. 

The sensitive nature of childcare, if done skillfully, requires educators to hold specific diplomas, degrees, and certifications. Yet, their job is often labeled as “unskilled”, a “temp job”, and many times as “babysitting”.

2. Workload stress and inadequate support system

Staff-to-child ratio is also a key factor that is resulting in teacher burnout and driving them out of the childcare sector. When this ratio stays at the minimum level or even lesser, it results in higher contact time for teachers with children. This leaves them less time to work on other duties like documentation and reporting, engaging with other colleagues, and working on goals and visions. The work then overflows into their unpaid personal time.

3. Fewer opportunities and aid for professional development

Childcare providers need to nourish their desire to make a positive impact on children’s development. Without frequent upskilling opportunities and burdened with role stagnation, they run the risk of feeling irrelevant and non-contributing; Thus opting out to explore other sectors.

The Cost of High Child Care Staff Turnover

A childcare business stands strong on the foundation of its workforce. Conversely, it can incur a huge cost if there is a great deal of churn in the workforce. This workforce, as we see, is not easily replaceable. And even if it was, it’s not preferred. The child-teacher bond, even the parent-teacher bond needs consistency and routine to build over time.   

  • A volatile workforce results in fewer children signing up for consecutive years. A high turnover rate impacts the teacher-child relationship delaying the planned learning and development goals which reflects on the reputation of the business.
  • It costs the business valuable time and money spent on training, induction, and recruitment advertisement which could rather be spent on in-house employee career progression.
  • Low staff retention indirectly impacts the overall economy. It pushes childcare businesses to take fewer admissions. This deficit leads parents, more often mothers, to quit jobs or reduce work hours to care for their children. Not only does this impact individual family economics, but the world market in general also loses female representation in their workforce.

4 Strategies to Create a Culture of Loyalty and Proximity

We have arrived at a point where we understand that when it comes to your childcare business, it’s not just about hiring good staff. You have to devise a result-oriented staff retention strategy. Here’s what you can do to imbue loyalty culture.

1. Hire for intention and ambition, not just ‘experience’

Your hiring process is crucial and challenging. It reflects a lot on your company. Unlike some of the other sectors, the childcare sector demands emotional investment from its staff. Your job description should attract such applicants.

  • Include your core values, your journey, and your vision and mission statements in your job description. 
  • Instead of focusing too much on a checklist of must-haves and years of experience, convey that you are also looking for character, passion, and ambition to grow in the industry.
  • Look for a variety of platforms to publish your job or proactively outreach—LinkedIn, Indeed, and Facebook communities are far more active and expressive when it comes to people showcasing their skills and eagerness for quality work.

Apart from the routine interview questions, your assessment of the candidate should involve

  • Assessing their people skills, which could be very different when it comes to children and protective parents
  • Asking if they have come across any new ideas they would like to explore at the childcare center
  • Understanding their way of advancing their knowledge of the industry
  • Knowing how they would react and respond to a hypothetical scenario in the childcare center
  • How much do they know about various child development and learning philosophies and if they have a preference

Understand that there are no right or wrong answers here. But it definitely gives you an idea about how invested the professional is and what level of ownership can they bring.

2. When you hire quality, pay them their worth

Most of the time childcare providers choose this profession out of care and a desire to nurture and shape young minds. No matter how noble the intentions are, survival and sustenance—both physical and psychological—gain dominance over all the other needs of a human being. A competitive salary with benefits tells the professional that their skills are valued and that they are recognized as qualified and learned individuals. 

As much as possible, be ready to pay them over and above the industry standards. This is an investment. A fully qualified and motivated employee attracts more talent. They are instrumental in training other in-house staff who may come as juniors but quickly level up under strong guidance.

3. Technology-enabled childcare facility and operations

You cannot afford to postpone technology-driven automation and augmentation to strengthen the operational aspects of your childcare facility. Investing in childcare management software is the biggest gift you can offer your staff which saves them a lot of time in documentation, reporting, and parent communication. 

Illumine’s Parent Communication feature, for example, helps the staff share precious moments of the day with the parents in real-time. It helps parents to record and convey concerns or other informational inputs thereby establishing proximity and trust.

The staff spends less time on tedious documentation and rework caused by manual errors. It saves them stress, reduces work spillage into unpaid hours, and frees their time for other important and creative pursuits surrounding their childcare duties.

4. Keep a budget for staff well-being and professional development

A key element of staff retention is to promote inclusion, representation, and easy accessibility to decision-makers. Let them know that they have a voice in their organization. This has a weightage beyond any kind of pay or benefits. 

  • Offer them enough contact time with colleagues, directors, and founders to share notes, discuss activities, and conduct knowledge-sharing sessions to share the latest updates of the industry. It is an effective way for teachers and staff to associate themselves with the adult world at an intellectual level after hours of interaction with children.
  • Childcare is physically strenuous, with educators being on their toes and speaking non-stop. Sponsoring a daily refreshment does not cost you much but greatly uplifts a tired worker.
  • Include downtimes, yes, educators need it too. Set some time daily, weekly, or quarterly where the staff can just wind down and socialize over coffee, or lunch/dinner. 
  • You cannot underestimate a quick 15-minute team-building activity that brings out laughter and triggers all the feel-good hormones which are vital in an emotion-driven business that is Childcare.

One of the most important strategies to keep the staff motivated is investing in their professional development. While you do that, make your staff realize that they too are responsible to think and communicate about their growth plans.

  • Chart out growth trajectory together with your staff on a one-to-one basis. Make this an occasion to share feedback.
  • Offer in-house advanced training, sponsor external leadership training, and higher education in Early Child Care and Education. Invest in your staff’s certification examinations. This is a sure way to ensure your center’s credibility.
  • Organize a book club and exchange notes. This is a very effective way to nudge your team to expand their knowledge about the industry.

How Illumine Powers Your Staff Retention Strategy

Illumine is more than a childcare management software. With our in-depth experience in the industry, an enormous knowledge base, and a repertoire of tools, we enable childcare centers to create an atmosphere of engagement between children, staff, parents, and management. Our razor-sharp focus on engagement and productivity not only empowers organizations to increase staff retention, but also helps them do better things, and do things better.

Talk to an Illumine expert today , to learn how Illumine can help your childcare business enhance its operational rigor and transform itself into a successful organization that teachers and parents love.

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