Early Years Diary: Positivity and Motivation
By Anna McCallum
In an uncertain and ever changing world I count myself extremely lucky to not only still be employed but to also be working in an industry that I actually enjoy and find incredibly rewarding. I am certain many other people in the Early Years sector feel the same way, but just because we find pleasure in our jobs it does not mean there aren’t times where we struggle to find motivation. Yes, it can be one of the greatest jobs in the world but it also requires you to be on your game 100% of the time, which can be hard to keep up week after week and year after year.
As someone who has worked in multiple settings over the last several years, I see the same issues from place to place and one of the most prominent issues I have seen is staff motivation, or lack thereof.
I have seen many staff members come and go in each setting and it begs the question: why? What is it in the childcare industry which results in such a high turnover of staff?
I think there are a range of answers to this question, from poor wages and long hours, to conflict with team members. However I think that the biggest issue is often a lack of positivity and enthusiasm, which can ultimately result in little to no motivation.
As a member of the management team I consider one of my biggest roles to be monitoring staff wellness and mental health, so I am always trying to boost morale and find new ways to do so; now more than ever.
The biggest and best way I would like to boost the mood of a work place would be to get everyone out for some sort of fun social event, but of course it would either be very difficult or just plain foolish to go for team building activity in the current climate. Instead I recommend trying some day to day, ‘in house’ techniques that I have found helpful in my own setting this past year.
It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many settings can fall short on the simplest of skills: simply listening to staff members. Giving people a chance to speak up, share ideas and offload any issues can be an effective way to create a positive atmosphere, on in which people actually want to remain.
I direct this mostly to managers but not exclusively: talk to your fellow teammates, share your ideas, and be kind. We continuously tell children to “use their words” if something is bothering them; we should practice what we preach. So monitor times like lunch breaks and make sure no one is being pushed to the side or ignored.
Being with the same people day in and day out can never be plain sailing 100% of the time, but be sure not to underestimate the little things. Speaking from experience a simple “thank you” can go along way and make you feel valued and appreciated. If someone is asked to complete numerous tasks on a daily basis and never gets a thank you, they will soon find little joy in carrying out these duties or just stop doing them all together. That is not to say staff should be thanked every 5 minutes for doing remedial tasks, but a “great job” at the end of the day can really encourage people.
Having management present in the rooms can also be great for team spirit as it shows that managers care about the staff, the children and what is happening in the rooms. Too often managers are hidden away in their offices and they never get to interact with their team, leading to resentment, miscommunication, and conflict. By showing a genuine interest in what is happening throughout the whole settling, managers can lead by example and also notice any issues or tensions arising in classrooms.
One of my favourite techniques was to create a ‘motivation station’ in my staff room which simply consisted of a board covered in motivational quotes that I sourced from the internet. I explained to my staff that it was not just to read during lunch breaks, but if they were having a tough day, they could ask for 5 minutes to catch their breath and go reboot. It was so simple and my staff really appreciated it.
Everyone will get complacent in their jobs from time to time and can even forget why they wanted to do the job in the first place. It happens to the best of us.
To remember that we can all feel this way and help others out of a funk can lead to a positive, warm and genuine work environment. We should not only notice how others feel, but also take note of our own moods. If that niggling feeling sets in that we no longer want to be in our place of work, the chances are that we are not the only ones feeling it. So be positive, motivate those around you, reach out and hopefully in the not too distant future we can all start planning those traditional team-building outings once more!
How do you keep your staff motivated? Please share your experiences on social media using the hashtag #thatnurserylife