The secret to staying motivated–and loving your job!

I went to the National Afterschool Association conference last year in Indianapolis. One session that I attended was led by Roberta Newman, about the effect that staff motivation can have on classroom quality. I didn’t think about the possibility of using it as a blog inspiration until a workshop participant asked me how to cope with low pay and high expectations in our work in early childhood education. I was glad I still had my packet from that session!

How can ECE staff stay motivated and excited to come to work?

One of the elements of Ms. Newman’s session that really spoke to me was how she covered The Herzberg Motivation-Hygiene Theory. The basic premise of the theory is that there are two sets of factors to staff motivation—those that actually motivate and those that, if absent, can cause dissatisfaction. The latter are called “hygiene factors” and include salary/benefits, status, job security, supervision and autonomy, to name a few. Then there are “motivators,” things like achievement, job interest and advancement, among others. It occurred to me after looking at the packet again that, when the question was posed to me, more than likely at least one of the participant’s “hygiene factors” were not being met, causing a level of dissatisfaction.

Here is my suggestion to teachers who are in a situation similar to the one that was presented to me during that workshop, having to cope with low pay and high expectations, or any other number of ways that your “hygiene factors” are not being met: what makes you feel good about coming back to work every day? Maybe it’s how the children’s eyes light up as they see you walk through the door. Maybe it’s the employee of the month display in the office that currently shows your picture and biography. Maybe it’s watching the new staff you’ve taken under your wing grow professionally. Whatever it is, look for ways to draw energy from a “motivator” to keep you going.

Here is my suggestion to supervisors who are looking to encourage staff: make sure you are meeting as many of the staff’s “hygiene factors” as you can. You may not be able to control the amount of money you pay, but could you offer a more flexible work schedule or adjust work hours to better meet their needs? Can you reevaluate the company’s policies to be more responsive? Are you able to give the veteran staff more independence and autonomy? The more “hygiene factors” being met, the less the staff will be dissatisfied. In addition, be aware of what individually motivates your staff and make the most of those things. Even if you aren’t able to take care of some of the “hygiene factors,” the “motivators” may help lessen the issue.

I learned a lot from Roberta Newman’s session that day. It allowed me to reflect on my own needs and “motivators.” I was recently asked “If you could have any job, what would it be?” and, truthfully, it would be what I’m doing now. I love helping teachers build a great program, providing insight or suggestions through training and seeing how it all impacts the children in their care. That is what motivates me. So, what are your motivators? Please share in the comments!