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Child care is one of the sectors with the highest employee turnover rates. This is harmful, as costs to recruit, hire and train new talent are higher than an hourly worker’s salary. But, more important, a high turnover deteriorates the quality of service. Scientific findings show that internal communications are the key to retain and train child care teachers.
The 'experience economy' is not a phenomenon that's only important for the retail and hospitality. Wherever we are, as consumers, we attach more significance to the experience. In many situations, the quality of service is decisive. This of course also applies to the experiences we want to provide to our children.
As parents of the digital age are better informed than ever, we're getting more aware of links between very early experiences, growth promoting interactions, and children’s brain development. For example, a report from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child highlighted that the structure of the brain is built interaction by interaction, within the physical and social environments in which very young children spend their days. This finding emphasizes the critical role of child care centers.
High-quality teacher-child interaction demands organizational quality
So although we do not experience child care directly ourselves, we tend to assess centers better and better, for the sake of our children. Especially as there's still a lot of room for improvement within the sector. Over decades, many researches indicated that teacher-child interactions at child care centers are of low to mediocre quality. There's also a lack of provisions and activities to stimulate learning and development of young children (For scientific sources, check the foot-notes at the bottom of this page).
Evidence revealed that centers with high quality teacher-child interactions have a higher quality organizational climate, child care management and leadership. So, the improvement of work routines and environments of directors and teachers appears to be important to provide high-quality child care.
The daily challenges of child care
But improving is easier said than done. The daily challenges of child care centers are quite similar to the ones they face in the retail and hospitality. Employees are continuously communicating in a face-to-face setting with 'the customer'. Other than the stereotype office worker, they constantly have to manage and regulate their own emotions and behaviors in order to fulfill their main task: providing the right experience to our children. They work in pairs and therefore have limited opportunities to speak and level with their manager and other colleagues.
In this setting it's not easy for teachers to create moments of reflection upon their practices and those of their colleagues. Never mind the opportunities for managers to organize group meetings, provide food for thought, learn what their employees need and want in their work, or facilitate moments to learn from colleagues at other locations.
It also explains the high employee turnover: researchers conclude that stress, lack of interaction, job dissatisfaction and emotional exhaustion are often experienced by child care teachers leaving their job. High employee turnover harms a child care center in many different ways. First of all, the departure of an experienced employee also is a loss of child care knowledge. Moreover, children build up emotional connections with caregivers, which is critical for their personal development. Finally, the cost to recruit, hire, and train new talent is more than an hourly worker’s salary.
The importance of high-quality internal communications
A scientific researcher recently explored the retention strategies of five child care center directors successfully retaining their employees. Three main themes emerged: the importance of employee compensation, communication and culture, and education and training. Other than employee compensation, these findings give a lot of weight to internal communications, as these are a prerequisite for creating both the right culture and education and training environment. The report says:
"Director 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 all indicated that communication across the center and ensuring that everyone is involved are essential in helping employees maintain high levels of satisfaction, and ultimately, in retaining them."
This does not imply internal communications can't contribute to employee compensation. On the contrary, an internal communication platform is the perfect stage where child care centers can praise great performances of employees and be attentive to personal events such as one's birthday, or celebrate group accomplishments and openings of locations. Compensation is not only about money.