Recruitment: How to woo staff

Staff recruitment and retention is at an all-time low and settings are finding it hard to retain staff who may leave to pursue higher paid jobs for fewer hours. Nursery manager Karen Fish, Toddletown explains how her team motivate each other

With the cost of living rising and nurseries dropping like flies, we must more than ever think outside the box to keep the passion alive and stop staff from leaving in droves.

At Toddletown, we pride ourselves on staff happiness and mental wellbeing. Happy staff means happy children and thus happy parents and community. Our staffing team, from management to early years practitioner to term-time staff are valued right from onset.

We have to approach recruitment from the position of not only what a person can bring to the nursery in terms of their work ethic, but for who they are as individuals. When we opened Toddletown Farncombe three years ago with a team of five, we worked hard to develop a staff culture of understanding, care, support and, above all else, appreciation for every moment of time dedicated to developing the young mind. Now a team of 23, that is extremely important in managing the dynamics of a working team.

Top tips for wellbeing

This year we sat down to develop a yearly calendar of wellbeing activities that we felt would create a more open and caring environment.
This included:
• Taking part in national awareness days such as ‘No smoking day’ or ‘World sleep day’
• Developing our continuing professional development training on how to build resilience in adults
• Sharing dates that, as a whole staffing team, we felt were important to celebrate, that were personal to us, as well as a few out of the box ideas
• Woo week developed from a previous job within the childcare leisure industry, where staff pick a name from a hat then ‘woo’ that person for an entire week to make them feel better.

Woo week is eagerly anticipated each year and is probably my most favourite week of the year. Staff are encouraged to create, write, make and design presents, leaving little gifts each day to their selected member of staff. We have had affirmations such as “you’ve got this” written on the bathroom mirror – it’s all about lifting staff morale.

As the years have gone by and the team has grown, so has the humour. I think the desk full of bird pictures surrounded by rose petals for a non-bird lover has to be the best one so far. In all seriousness though, a small token can mean a lot to someone who at that moment might be having a bad morning or be near a mental health crisis.

The run up to Easter this year was full of hilarity. The team walked in on Monday to be presented with Easter riddles to win an easter egg of their choice.

Every month we await the next delivery of director gifts that are sourced locally to the nursery supporting our high street and small business owners. National hydration week recently saw us presented with our own named water bottles; national sandwich day is just around the corner and we will be awaiting a delicious delivery of sandwiches for the team on their lunch break.

Recruitment & Wraparound support

It’s not just the directors who support the staff – we encourage the staff to support each other and themselves as much as we do as a management team. We need them to build upon the supportive staff cultural positivity and be proud to be part of Toddletown.

Our open culture of understanding means that staff feel open to exploring their problems with support from an open-door policy night or day. We are all in a privileged place to educate young minds, but we must not forget that our teams need support first and foremost.

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