The effective management of team members – Recruiting, rewarding and retaining
This article has been submitted by our content partner, Early Childhood Specialist and Co-Founder of Paisley Park ELC Katarzyna Wieczorek-Ghisso B. Teach, B.Ed., M.Ed. (Early Childhood). Ms Wieczorek-Ghisso has been involved in the early childhood education and care sector for over 20 years and is passionate about sharing her experience through the written word on topics that directly impact ECEC professionals.
Successful centres are those who recognise the effective management of human resources as fundamental to their longevity, and thus focus their energy on ensuring staff are suitably qualified, have relevant experience and are able to maintain high levels of performance. The adoption of three fundamental principles, or what I refer to as, the ‘3 R’s’; Recruiting, Rewarding and Retaining significantly contribute to achieving this result.
The effective management of staff is feasible when you have the right staff to start to with; therefore strategic Recruiting is at the heart of any successful business. Whether it is a new or an established centre, making rash decisions to fill vacant positions can be detrimental, thus forward planning is highly recommended.
Developing a ‘Skills Register’ outlining the characteristics required for staff in particular roles is a good way to start this process. That way when a vacancy occurs, the ‘Skills Register’ can be used as a reference point to ensure you don’t lose sight of what you are looking for in a replacement.
Given that approximately 1,500 positions are currently advertised on ‘Seek’ under the category of ‘Early Childhood’, attracting the right candidate is critical. It is therefore advisable that research on what is being advertised, be undertaken to determine the current level of competition. Once this information is obtained, you are better placed to advertise in a way that appeals to high quality candidates and ultimately secures their position.
Once the received applications are culled, an effective way to assess a candidate’s potential is through conducting interviews using questions derived from outcomes which should be listed in the relevant Position Description.
Aside from determining if they are adequately qualified, it is especially important to assess each candidate’s professional attitude as well as their ability to; work in a team environment, take or give direction, be flexible and spontaneous and manage their time effectively, as all such attributes are essential in any workplace.
Once reference checks are conducted and original documentation sighted, the successful candidate is ready for “orientation”. The key to starting the relationship on the right foot is ensuring the new recruit is well orientated as this provides an opportunity for the centre’s practices, policies and standards to be clearly communicated and further information about the role distributed.
Most managers breathe a sigh of relief when the recruitment process is finalised, as they may perceive that now, their ‘work is done’. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the first tasks following the orientation process is determining the impact of the new candidate on the current staffing team.
Whilst their employment provides the opportunity to reposition staff according to their strengths and interests, it also opens the door for potential conflict which can arise if the new recruit isn’t effectively transitioned.
In their studies of behavioural sciences, Blanchard and Johnson, (1981) observed how people relate to others in a workplace environment and analysed their levels of productivity.
Published in the ‘One Minute Manager’ the concept of ‘Different Strokes for Different folks’ offers interesting insight into effective ways to maximise staff performance. Put simply, staff in any workplace vary significantly in their personality, characteristics, knowledge and strengths, therefore in order to be effective, they need to be positioned in roles that complement their skill levels and be supported by managers that tailor their approach to staff ability.
According to Blanchard and Johnson, staff are more likely to be effective in any workplace when:
- They feel good about themselves and their work output
- They receive support and are well resourced in their role
- They are recognised and rewarded for their efforts
- Their work is assessed based on quality rather than quantity
The work of Blanchard and Johnson reinforces the principle of Rewarding staff which is fundamental to effective workplace management. Everyone likes a pat on the back for a job well done and the provision of feedback is an important component to maintaining standards and encouraging professional development, especially that of new candidates.
Thoughtful, personal and sincere appreciation can inspire staff to achieve high levels of performance which often exceed expectations. Suggested strategies to encourage this are outlined below:
- Recognising an individual’s accomplishments in front of peers, in committee/management meetings, in newsletters and centre mail outs
- Supporting individuals to devise professional development plans that are focused on their interests or areas where they would like to improve their skills or knowledge
- Encouraging and enabling individuals to seek support and guidance from other colleagues
- Providing opportunities for team members to develop leadership skills and to take initiative when such opportunities arise
- Providing tangible rewards for individuals and teams when they have made significant progressed on a specific task or project
- Providing ongoing, consistent and constructive feedback
The provision of feedback is a particularly important strategy which can be implemented through that of an annual “appraisal”. When conducted in a respectful and positive manner, Performance appraisals can instill pride, self-esteem and encourage staff to take ownership of their professional progress.
This acknowledgement contributes to a sense of worth and places value on the important work they perform every day, which can significantly help retain valuable staff. The key is ensuring that once appraisals are completed, the process of ongoing improvement is carefully monitored through the strategic setting of achievable short and long term professional goals.
Despite all our best efforts to support valuable staff, some can still succumb to the challenging demands of the day to day, which when ignored, can lead to significant frustration, and in worse cases, resignation.
Staff rarely decide to move on from a job they enjoy without a genuine reason, therefore it is crucial to be proactive and implement retention practices that ‘Predict, Prevent and Respond’ to disengaged staff. Such common senses practices when taken seriously can help minimise the angst that often leads to centre wide disharmony, felt when valuable staff leave.
Predicting change doesn’t happen without a deep understanding of staff as individuals which includes knowing about their family and the challenges they may face outside of the workplace.
Equipped with such knowledge, managers can quickly denote changes in demeanour and intervene to prevent further unrest. Unhappy and/or deflated staff can generally be identified by a decrease in their work performance and/or increase of unexplained illness which consequently impacts the entire staffing team.
Responding to issues in a proactive manner ensures staff feel valued, especially where grievances are heard and resolution actioned. Ignoring what may be perceived as minor will lead to an increase of stress, anxiety and consequently compromised work performance. Staff who have their needs met are effectively supported and challenged are more likely to maintain a consistent approach to their workplace practices. The establishment of a strong relationships where lines of communication are open and respectful, where staff have regular forums in the way of weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual meetings conducted as a strategy to reflect on success and monitor issues will go a long way to prevent staff turnover.
In summary, this article explored three principles (Recruiting, Rewarding and Retaining) as a way to offer strategies to effectively manage staff which, when adopted holistically, can significantly contribute to positive outcomes in any workplace. The key is embarking on this journey long term and regularly reviewing approaches against the successful achievement of staff and centre wide goals.