Tag Archives: staff motivation

How to keep staff motivated

I recently facilitated a workshop on how to keep early childhood education program staff motivated and inspired. We are experiencing some beautiful weather and that alone is enough to increase one’s apathy not to mention all the other factors that can contribute to a lack of motivation. I once was a director of a child care program where we could literally hear the roller coasters at a nearby amusement park. It’s super hard to retain the motivation of the seasonal support staff when they can hear their friends screaming in joy down the street.

How can you meet the needs of your staff and keep them motivated?

How can you meet the needs of your staff and keep them motivated?

We had some really solid discussions during the workshop that we framed using an article I found called 8 Deadly Ways to Kill Employee Motivation that can absolutely show up in a child care program if we let them. We talked about 7 of the 8 motivation killers. Hopefully some of these can help you figure out how to keep your staff motivated:

  1. Toxic People. We have all worked with them; the negative Nellie’s. The ones who find something negative to say about any and all things. They find faults in the lesson plan you are super excited about and are never on board with changes. And being excited about aiming for the next star in the quality rating system? Forget about it. Surround yourself with positive people. And if someone is that unhappy in a program, maybe it’s time for them to move on.
  2. No Professional Development. Since this is a state regulation, it may seem like a moot point, but it’s not. At 4C for Children, we hear time and time again that folks come to a workshop because they need the hours and their year is almost up or they don’t even know what the topic is because an administrator signed them up. Motivation will increase when training is meaningful. Encourage staff to give input on their own professional development based on their individual needs and interests. Search through the 4C online workshop calendar together, and call us any time for help with developing a plan.
  3. Lack of Vision. All programs should have a vision. It’s a plan for why we do what we do. Why does this business (for-profit or not-for-profit) open its doors everyday and where is it going? Once the vision is clearly communicated, it should be displayed everywhere (i.e. interview, orientation, reviews, newsletters, etc.); it gives focus to the work.
  4. Wasted Time. In our discussion during the training, what rang loudest and clear, are staff meetings. Staff meetings are necessary. It’s important to get everyone together and on the same page, but it’s also important that staff feel like their time is valued. Some tips we came up with are to allow staff to add to agenda items, have a set meeting time and place so staff can plan accordingly, and add food and fun. Ask a different room to “host” each meeting and what they do with it is up to them. Add team building activities. Sure, you may have some who think those activities are a waste of time (see point number 1) but most will appreciate the bonding, which inevitably will lead to motivation in the day-to-day.
  5. Inadequate Communication. There is no such thing as over-communication. Remember, whether you are in a classroom or running a program, people receive messages differently. If you have something important to say, say it a hundred times in a hundred ways (email, newsletter, posted near clock-in area, in-person, etc.).
  6. Vertical Management. Everyone wants to have a say. No one likes to just be told what to do all the time. Find ways to empower your staff to help make decisions and feel safe offering up ideas. And if you aren’t an administrator, let your voice be heard. Share ideas in an appropriate way and if you aren’t being valued, start looking for a new place to work.
  7. Lack of appreciation. This is the single, easiest way to keep staff motivated. SAY THANK YOU. Let folks know you appreciation them and what they do. Just saying it goes a long way but there also affordable, endless possibilities to show it. You can find lots of ideas on Pinterest for fun, affordable ways to show you are grateful for the work of your staff.

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!