The number one complaint I hear from clients these days is staffing. In this booming economy, attracting quality staff and keeping them is getting harder and harder as employers have been raising wages and incentives to attract staff at a higher rate than we can raise parent tuition.
It is time to get pro-active and start fighting back! I have developed these techniques over the past 20 years and now boast a very small no-show percentage and a very low turnover rate, in an area with less than 3% unemployment.
Tip #1: Make them come to you
In the electronic world it is possible to send out hundreds of resumes with one click. The result you might have a stack of applicants that did not have much invested in applying to work at your center. Make them come to you and prove how serious they are. Require (or highly encourage) all applications or resumes to be delivered in person. These will be your most serious applicants.
Having them come in person accomplishes several things.
They know where you are located and cannot use the “I got lost on my way to the interview” excuse.
You know they have reliable transportation.
A picture is worth a thousand words! How many times have you interviewed someone who looked good on paper and when they arrived you knew within 5 minutes they would not be a good fit for your program but felt obligated to finish the interview thus wasting your time.
They get to see your program in action
If you are not comfortable requiring all applicants to apply in person, another option is to do a Video conference with all prospective applicants prior to the formal interview. When you have a promising application, set up a 5-10-minute pre-qualification interview. This will see how good they are at showing up on time, you can size them up and ask qualifying questions, and determine if the person is worthy of an extended interview. This also works well for applicants who are not in your area, you can do the entire interview over a video conference.
Tip #2: Be willing to interview them on the spot when they arrive.
Have your director size them up by having a pre-interview questionnaire ready to ask each person that drops off an application. Use a numbering point system based on criteria that you decide, and say whomever is an 8 or above (or whatever benchmark you choose), gets interviewed on the spot. If your hiring person is not on site, set up an interview very quickly (within 24 hours).
You will want to look at appearance, demeanor, qualifications, attitude, hygiene, and how they answer your pre-interview questions to determine how you move forward. Using a point system allows you to prioritize your interviewees and allows you to not waste your time on anyone say who are 5s and below.
Tip #3: Do a working interview (audition)
Most states will allow you to audition a new staff member, providing they are supervised and not counted towards child-staff ratios. There are several things you are looking for. Are they a self-starter or do they need constant direction? Do they get on the floor and engage children at their level? Do they enjoy themselves? Are they a little goofy with the kids? Did they have fun?
Create a checklist to rate each candidate and be sure that the same teacher does all of your auditions to ensure that all candidates are judged equally.
Tip #4: Make good hiring decision quickly.
We always talk about being slow to hire and quick to fire, but this does not work in this super low unemployment economy. You are better off bringing them on board and if they don’t work out in the first 30 days let them go. In most states, that will not affect your unemployment rating. By waiting an extra few days, your competitor may make them an offer and you lose a potential superstar teacher. You can make them a conditional offer dependent on passing a background and reference check.
Tip #5: Offer a cash sign on bonus for completing your training program or a set time period (90 or 180 days)
Have a sign on bonus that they have to stay a certain amount of time to get. All new teachers will receive X amount of dollars as a sign on bonus after the first 90 days and maybe another bonus after 180 days. This will give them a financial incentive to stay with you and if they stay 180 days, more than likely they will stay with you for years.
Tip #6 Have an employee referral program for staff
The lowest rate of no shows will be from employee referrals. Your employees know a lot of friends. They talk about their job when they are around them. Offering a cash incentive for employees to refer a friend who comes to work is a great way to find good staff. Make sure the bonus is tied to a timeframe, say after the person works for 90 days, then the bonus is paid out.
Tip #7: Have an employee mentorship program
Having a mentorship program that allows for new employees to have a mentor responsible for their training and onboarding is very important to decreasing employee turnover. Bringing a new employee who does not “know the ropes” of how a childcare center works can create some problems with existing staff, who worked flawlessly before the new person showed up. By having a mentor there to be the middleman; introducing the new team member around, making them feel welcome, and addressing any staff concerns is paramount to long term new employee retention.
I have heard that it costs upwards to $4000 to onboard and train a new employee. If you would invest in ways to decrease turnover, it will greatly help the bottom line.