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Staff Retention Guidance for Employers

Recruiting staff is just a start to creating a strong work force. Next, you have to keep them. High employee turnover costs in time and productivity.

Turnover in the first year of employment

In high-turnover businesses in particular, a great deal of employee turnover consists of people resigning or being dismissed in the first few months of employment. Poor recruitment and selection decisions, both on the part of the employee and employer, are usually to blame, along with poorly designed induction programmes. Give prospective employees a realistic job preview at the recruitment stage - don’t oversell the job or minimise aspects of the role. Even when people stay past the first few months, the first impressions of a setting can influence an employee’s decision to leave sooner rather than later.

Retention strategies

Salary – Provide meaningful incremental pay structures. As well as annual salary reviews, if possible, these increments could be linked to such events as gaining qualifications that will result in taking on more duties. Offer long-service incentives such as accruing an extra day of holiday after a certain time period.

Unfortunately, the reality in the nursery sector is that you just don’t have the budget to offer expensive incentives and impressive salaries. Consider the following elements that are likely to have a positive impact in the working environment.

Line Managers– Require your managers to motivate staff, helping good performers move to new positions when possible and mentoring / coaching to minimise poor performance.

Communicate your business’s mission - Feeling connected to the setting’s goals is one way to keep employees mentally and emotionally engaged.

Career development- Maximise opportunities for employees to develop skills and knowledge. Support your staff in their training, if necessary set up a training fund.

Career progression- Have a structured career path and promote from within whenever possible. Where promotions are not feasible, look for sideways moves that vary experience or ways to expand responsibilities to make the work more interesting. 

Consult employees- Ensure that staff have a 'voice'. Where there is no opportunity to voice dissatisfaction and influence outcomes, resigning may be the only option.  

Be flexible- Wherever possible, accommodate individual preferences on working hours and times. Having bank staff could increase your flexibility and you could offer TOIL (time off in lieu if staff cover additional shifts).

As part of this, it's also important to monitor workload and ensure it is manageable within working hours. Encouraging parent helpers to volunteer to come into sessions could be helpful in engaging children, taking some of the pressure off of staff (this may even lead to parents considering childcare as a career).

Provide employee benefits– such as free uniform, discounted childcare or childcare vouchers. Help to arrange Trade Union membership. Sign up with local gyms, shops etc. to gain staff discounts or with companies for reduced cost health insurance. Run an ‘Employee of the month’ scheme.

Team building -One of the highest reported influences on staff retention is team relationships. Employees who have positive work companionships will stay with a company longer, report lower levels of stress and take less time off work – most likely because they feel connected and supported. Use mentors in an induction, allow staff to take breaks with friends and arrange staff social events. Organise team bonding events such as taking turns to cook a dish to bring and share at a get-together lunch.

Conduct “stay” interviews- In addition to performing exit interviews to learn why employees are leaving, consider asking long-service staff why they stay. This could include factors such as personal motivators, non-negotiable issues and an evaluation of the work environment with suggestions for improvements. The information could then be used to strengthen your employee-retention strategies. 

Network with other settings – to find out what strategies are successful for them.

Identifying low engagement

Looking out for low engagement should always be on the management agenda. These include:

• Reduced effort and performance

• Influencing colleagues and morale negatively

• Unfocussed and easily distracted staff

• High absence and lateness

• General low energy and enthusiasm

If you spot these signs, manage it with sensitivity and care, find out what is causing the disengagement and address it quickly.


Reources and further reading                                                   

Wall Street Journal - Employee Retention

CIPD - Employee Turnover & Retention

The Balance - 25 Low-Cost Benefits and Freebies for Employees 

Citation Recruiting & Retaining Talent in your Nursery    

ACAS - How to settle a new employee in

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Example Induction Checklist

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