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Crisis or Opportunity? How the staff shortage can change the way you build your team for good.

In the beginning of 2021, enrollment and recovering from the pandemic’s effects were the biggest issues in childcare. As the year progressed, the staffing shortage became the overwhelming issue in 2021. The biggest surprise was how the staffing shortage would affect hiring and enrollment. Without teachers, many schools had to either turn children away or have directors and managers work in the classrooms.

The “Catch-2022” regarding staffing today is finding the time to hire quality staff when you are struggling to keep classrooms open and, perhaps even, are in the classrooms yourselves?

The answer lies in finding ways to do things easier and faster while creating a better experience for the people involved. How can you simplify your applicant process? Are there any steps that you can eliminate in the process? What would make it easier for the applicant? What would make it easier for you? Evaluate your current process to find ways to simplify and make the process more efficient.

Embrace Technologies. We, of course, have been talking about embracing technologies in childcare for some time now. How can you make it easier for an applicant to find you? What technologies do you need? What technologies are you currently using? How can you do things easier and faster while creating a better experience for the candidate and yourself? If you’ve been putting off doing virtual interviews, would doing them make it an easier, more efficient process for you or the candidate? Make sure you have a Careers page on your website. Use social media and embrace technologies.

Use automation to save time. Do you have automatic replies set up to go out immediately after an applicant contacts you? What automation is sent out to continue engaging the applicant? And how are you notified when an applicant contacts you? Getting back to someone at least within 24 hours increases your likelihood of hiring the applicant. And in this case, the sooner the better. You want to be one of the first to respond back to applicants.

What are applicants looking for in employment? Flexibility in days and hours worked. What can you do to provide more flexibility for the applicant? Is there any part of the job that can be done remotely? Would that make things easier and more efficient? Would that appeal to more applicants in your area if you advertised a flexible working environment?

Diversity is also important. Diversity, inclusion and belonging should be core values of your organization and can impact your ability to attract and retain an entire generation of talent. What can you do to improve diversity within your staff?

Communication through SMS is the preferred method for most applicants. The ability to communicate quickly and effectively increases your ability to hire an applicant.

Once an applicant is hired, you must have a clear onboarding process. It all starts with onboarding. So think about technology here again. How can I make it easier and more efficient for the newly hired employee and myself? Can you do virtual onboarding? If not, how can you have employment documentation filled out electronically?

Your Mentor program is an important part of your onboarding process. Make sure your team reaches out to new employees to make them feel welcome. Starting on a positive note will keep your new employee’s expectations and work habits at their highest. In-person communication from the mentor to the newly hired employee is about: “How can I help you? Just checking in on you. Are you ok? Is there anything I can do for you right now?”

And most importantly: Don't rush the onboarding process. Make sure the new employee feels they are ready to go into a classroom or take on the responsibilities before you throw them into the job too soon.

Continuous Training is so important to retaining your employees. Provide continuous feedback, mentorship, and training. Employees want to know where they stand. What are they doing well in? What can they improve upon? Help them polish their skills with continuous training. Be sure to communicate clear expectations with consistent communication and constructive feedback and praise.

Organizational culture is one of the most talked-about topics among new employees. And constantly improving upon organizational culture can do wonders for maintaining work satisfaction. Find out what values your team members share. How do these values match with your organization’s short-term and long-term goals? Organizational culture should be visible and practiced in your everyday life, on your social media, and even in stressful situations. Communicate roles in the context of a team while establishing workplace values.

Evaluate your culture for improvements. A culture is formed by the people involved in it and how they interact with each other. Building respect for shared ideas and improvements helps employees know that they are valued and they can make a difference. Ask the employee: “How was your onboarding and training process? What would make it easier and more efficient? What would you change? What went well?” Feeling happy at work matters.

Celebrate successes. Everyone likes to be told they are doing something right. Celebrate the small success. Find creative ways to acknowledge and celebrate the things that have gone well and the things that you want to have repeated. Develop a formal time to reward, such as at a staff meeting, but don't forget about motivating everyday by being thankful for a job well done.

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