One of the biggest problems we are facing nationwide in the child care industry is (and has been) the high percentage of turnover. We are, unfortunately, a high turnover industry. Personally, I speak often to the high cost of turnover not only in money, but in culture.  Today I wanted to take a different angle and tell you when turnover can be OK.

It may feel like you are getting mixed messages at times – “Slow to hire, quick to fire” and “turnover is bad, keep your turnover percentage low.” Let me explain. “Slow to Hire, Quick to Fire” should be a motto that you have at your center. That doesn’t mean that you go into your center and start firing everyone quickly. It means that when people show you their true colors, listen the first time.  Don’t keep people around for years who are not adding value to your centers. Be actively looking for a replacement and give that person specific goals for improvement by a certain date.

Here are times that turnover is a good thing for your center:

  1. A little turnover that can prevent a lot of turnover – If you are not actively replacing your poor performers, your high performers will be actively looking for new careers.
  2. Teachers are not bought in to your mission or core values – if you’re teachers do not understand how they are making an impact in your big picture, or worse, if they don’t care, it’s better for them to move on before they ‘poison the well’ with other staff or parents.
  3. Employees are not representing your brand – if you have teachers who are not behaving professionally at work or in public, you should encourage them to find a better fit before you have no brand at all.
  4. Employees are not team players – even if  he/she is an amazing teacher and does great with parents, or does not gel with the other staff, it might be time for them to move on. You’ve heard the saying “there is no I in team” it’s true. If you have a great teacher who rubs other high performers the wrong way, you’re asking for a cultural break down. There is likely something you are missing as an employer.
  5. Teachers who are disrespectful or undermining – You work really hard. You deserve for your people to treat you, each other, children, and parents respectfully. You have to model that and hold people accountable. Teach your people how to respond to situations appropriately. If they are blatantly disrespectful, listen to what they are saying and see if there is passion and/or truth. If not, you need to be looking for a replacement.

One of the most important parts of reducing the negativity around turnover is making sure you are upfront and transparent with your parents. Let them know what happens during the transition of a turnover, how is their child impacted, and what your plan is for replacement. Give your parents a say in who you hire next by asking for referrals and what qualities they appreciate in your employees.  Inform you parents why a little turnover can keep a school progressive, growing, and happy.

Just to be very clear. I am saying a little turnover can be healthy, not a lot. Here are some things you can do to help prevent turnover with your high performers.

  • Hire better employees from the beginning. Refine your hiring process to that you have selection criteria to get high performers “A players” in from the start.
  • Take care of your employees. Sometimes the expense of providing snacks, lunches, professional development, higher wages is the best money you can spend. It is much cheaper than having to hire and train new employees consistently.
  • Support your teachers. Come from a place of empathy. Instead of catching them doing things wrong to hold them accountable, catch them doing things right.
  • Help them reach their goals. Human beings get serotonin from meeting goals. It’s scientifically ingrained in us. Have your teachers set meaningful goals and tracked their progress?
  • Get dirty. No one wants to work for someone who isn’t willing to put boots on the ground when necessary. Show your staff you’re not above doing dishes, making a coffee run, or teaching a class. This shouldn’t be all the time or even 20% of the time, but it should occasionally happen.

At the end of the day you should take responsibility for your leadership and make sure that YOU are defining your brand and culture, then make sure that you are supporting your teachers to do so as well.

Did I miss something? I’d love for you to tell me in the comments. What are other reasons turnover might be necessary?  Do you have great ways of telling parents about turnover? Or other strategies to prevent turnover? I want to hear from YOU!