The Secret to Hiring and Retaining a Great Childcare Staff

One of the greatest attractions your childcare business has to offer is your teachers! So where can you dig up these hidden gems, and how can you hang onto your best childcare staff once you’ve brought them in and invested in their training?

Face it – if you’re trying to get rich, a career path in childcare is definitely the road less traveled by. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a childcare worker as of May 2018 was $11.17 per hour. That’s $23,240 per year. No wonder staff turnover is an ongoing problem for childcare services.

You spend time training new childcare staff – lots of time – because running your organization is a labor of love and you want your program to be the best it can be. And the time you invest in each new teacher is precious. This makes it even more important to attract the right people, people with staying power.


The defining characteristics of great childcare staff

People who are brave enough to enter the world of early childhood education tend to be passionate, social, and artistic. Nurturing is ingrained in their DNA, it seems, and their patience is unparalleled. Consider bringing in your candidates to do a “guest spot,” and see what they come up with in a classroom setting instead of relying on a resume to tell you their story.

Staff with an understanding of child development and some training in early childhood education is a must for any childcare business. Those folks are best equipped to be sensitive to the children and their needs, and reinforcing positive behavior comes second nature to them. They also possess the ability to correct negative behavior and discipline the child without causing unnecessary emotional distress.

Look for teachers who find creative ways to implement play into engaging instructional activities for groups of small children, and those who bring lots of energy. You also want them to be firm and fair when it comes to laying down the law and keeping the children on task.

Of course, your state laws and regulations usually govern the minimum educational requirements and outline any certifications or licensing needs for childcare workers as well. You’re free to be even more selective if you’d like to be, and really reinforce your reputation as an organization that only accepts the very best.


The best places to find the right candidates

Finding the right childcare staff presents a constant challenge, but your best resources may already be right under your nose.

Local colleges and universities offer a deep pool of potential candidates, particularly those who offer Early Childhood Education or Elementary Education as majors. Those students have a passion for educating the very young, bring a fresh perspective and creative new ideas, and have great energy. They also need some work experience to put on their resumes, so it’s a win-win. Get in touch with the right people at these local institutions and build relationships that inspire advisers and counselors to drive the top talent your way.

These undergrads can also be the gifts that keep on giving. When college graduation prompts your childcare staff to move out into the big, wide world, their ability to refer their classmates to you is priceless. Consider offering a bonus for this.

Current childcare staff isn’t the only place to find referrals; the parents of your existing students can chip in as well. Offer referral incentives for new teachers or aides that stay with your organization for an extended period of time – perhaps six months or a year.

Best Practice – You should always be recruiting, even if you aren’t currently hiring to fill an opening. Build and maintain a list of candidates so you can act quickly to replace an outgoing staff member or bring on new talent when your business expands. Don’t put yourself in a position to regret the ones that got away!


The work environment your childcare staff won’t want to leave

Organizations with solid, consistent policies, fair pay, and a welcoming environment will always draw great candidates. Your reputation for offering creative benefits, perks, and a work-life balance will be the thing that keeps great childcare staff coming back day after day, and year after year.


Make Work-Life Balance a Stress-free Priority

Many childcare workers choose this career path for reasons other than the typically meager salary that comes with the job. Your childcare staff might need to work, but they often have young children of their own and want to work where their children are. Some teachers may need more flexible hours that enable them to be home when the elementary school bus drops off in the afternoon.

Help your team balance their work and home life with flexible scheduling options. Those college students I mentioned in the beginning of this post? What great after-care coverage they can provide while your working moms head home at the end of the school day!

Consider allowing teachers to work four 10-hour days – or four 9-hour days and a half day of their choosing – so they have a little free time to manage their home lives and errands. You can also try offering job-sharing opportunities, and make it easy for your childcare staff to trade shifts when they need to.


Creative Perks to Simplify Daily Logistics

Simple things like providing free coffee can boost employee morale and take the pressure off a busy teacher’s packed morning routine. An easy, homemade crockpot lunch in the breakroom every other week makes for one less thing for your childcare staff to worry about as they get ready to report to work. Who wouldn’t love a break from packing lunch?

Offer working moms reduced-fee tuition or some free childcare hours for their own children in your program. Get creative when it comes to offering perks, and show that you genuinely care about them. Ask your staff for suggestions and get their feedback for the ideas you try. Whatever you offer, just make sure that it is something your teachers can use and want that makes them feel understood and appreciated.


Invest in Childcare Staff Development and Growth

We all have goals, and one of yours is to manage and grow a thriving childcare business. Your staff has goals, too, so help them work towards achieving them and offer opportunities for them to learn and advance. They are, after all, the people who will be helping you attain your goals as well.

Challenge your team to develop individual goals, and take an active interest in helping them reach them. If a classroom aide is working to complete a degree in Education, be flexible by working around class schedules whenever possible, and offer tuition assistance if you can afford it – even if it’s only a small amount that covers books.

Organize insightful or fun on-site workshops that are relevant to your profession, like a Child and Infant CPR Certification or a literacy center brainstorming session, and periodically hold teacher in-service days where staff are paid to learn, not just work.

Your childcare staff are your organization’s MVPs, so do what you can to bring in top teachers and make them want to stay. When you look in the right places and get creative with your perks and benefits, you’ll find yourself recruiting and retaining the best and brightest childcare staff for years to come.

by Wendy Young

May 29 19
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