Combating Staff Turnover in Early Childhood Education

One of the most frustrating parts of being a center director is the daunting task of keeping qualified staff. Staff will come and go for many reasons, but keeping staff must be a high priority for any center director!

Staff turnover can create inconsistency in the quality of care and can be hurtful to children who develop emotional attachments to teachers who leave. Directors who have to spend more time recruiting, interviewing and training have less time for program development.

Here are a few suggestions to help you maximize your chances of keeping – and growing with – your staff:

  1. Hire smart. If you have an opening to fill, take time to think about the qualities and characteristics you need to round out your staff and fill the job requirements. Keep a substitute in the position until you find a person you really believe is right for the job. Ask for input and consider forming a staff screening committee.
  2. Pay as well as you can. Consider possible ways to boost compensation, such as free or substantially reduced childcare fees for children of employees, bonus programs, reimbursement for unused sick days and other benefits that add to your compensation package.
  3. Support and supervise with care. The quality and care you put into the training and supervision of each new employee greatly impacts that person’s feelings of success. Remember to give extra support to those employees in charge of difficult children and do whatever you can to help new employees learn appropriate classroom-management techniques. An organized and well planned orientation is a must!
  4. Be available. Let staff members know through your actions and attitudes that you value their opinions and want to hear their concerns. Let them see that you are willing to make changes and that you are always on the lookout for good ideas. Set up regular times to talk just to make sure you’re staying in touch.
  5. Maintain pleasant working conditions. It’s got to be fun! It’s very important for staff to laugh together, to enjoy the children and one another. Look for ways to create positive interaction. At the same time, provide opportunities for growth. Work with each person to explore individual avenues of professional development, such as continuing-education and professional-involvement programs.
  6. Express appreciation for each person’s efforts. Your sincere recognition goes a long way. You’ll find many examples to help you analyze your center and make specific improvements in A Great Place to Work:  Improving Conditions for Staff in Young Children’s Programs by Paula Jorde-Bloom (NAEYC).

Last but not least, always conduct exit interviews when someone does leave your staff. These interviews give you insight into why an individual might choose to leave, and a promise of confidentiality will make a departing teacher feel more inclined to be honest. While it might be difficult hearing criticisms of your program without feeling defensive, remember that part of your job is to listen. If several people tell you the same thing, you may gain valuable insights on how to improve your working style and your program.