Perfectly- Positive Performance Management. Kate Moxley, Early Years Specialists.

If you were to ask an Early Years Manager the most stressful part of their job role I am certain 99% of their responses would be STAFF! We have all heard the phrase ‘team work makes the dream work’ but how exactly do you make the dream work for you?

Now, let me ask you a question, does the level of care and professionalism that you provide to the children and families also extend to your staff team? Do you value your team; interact and communicate with the same level of care and patience as you do to the parents and children that walk through the door each morning? You instantly say yes, but think about it again. Perhaps think of it in the same way you think of your own self-care and the way you think and speak about yourself, in a self-deprecating-kind of run out of patience and time-way! And perhaps, now you come to think of it, maybe you could invest more time, care and patience towards your team.

For those that can identify with this, maybe you have been letting the stresses and strains of managing a busy day nursery and leading a staff team take over, or maybe you are new to the role and looking to establish a team. If so, know this; you are not alone in feeling this way and rest assured that this only needs to be temporary and there is lots you can do to improve it.

So, let’s take your current mindset and turn it on its head and together-let’s pull up our perfectly-positive pants! With rising figures of issues with Mental Health in the workplace, we are hearing ever more increasingly, how Teachers and Early Years professionals are on long term sick leave with some even leaving the profession. The discussion on mental health in the work place, mindfulness and work life balance is probably top of your to do list and of course, you will get to it just as soon as you have a spare few minutes!

The settings that I work with who have the most issues with staff sickness, absence and poor performance are the settings who do not have clear procedures and policies in place to performance manage their staff. Staff are demotivated, underperforming and unaccountable for their actions. If a parent was consistently not bringing their child in and they appeared unhappy and unengaged, would you allow them to continue this pattern or would you work with them to resolve it and find a solution? It’s the same with your staff team.

My top tips for effective performance management, proving ‘team work really does makes the dream work’ and what’s more it will enhance personal effectiveness whilst improving outcomes for children;

1) Planning & preparation. When time management is one of the biggest challenges in our working day, planning and preparation of our diary dates is key. A Yearly Overview with a clearly scheduled diary of events; organised into Terms with all staff training requirements, meetings, appraisals and performance management will give you a head start. I also recommend starting each year with a clear Improvement Plan with set actions and goals of accountability-how and who is going to make this happen.

2) Take time-to make time. We have all been in a role at one time, where we may have felt unappreciated, so find the time to show your support-supervision’s enable you to do this! Reflect on the skills and areas of strength your individual team members have, maybe they are ace at producing meaningful observations and presenting them in Learning Journeys or they amaze you with their sensitive and skilful interactions with children. Champion them to share this practice with their peers, by doing this you will allow their confidence to bloom and watch your whole staff team flourish! This enables you to clearly recognise areas of strength but also allows you to support areas of development in a positive way, whilst identifying accountability and a timeline for improvement. Nurturing this process of mutual support will improve the outcomes for children in your care and the quality of your provision.

3) Prioritise Health. Make it a priority that when staff are off sick that a return to work discussion is completed and ensure you monitor and record the total annual amount of occasions they were unfit for work and the rolling total of annual sick days. Do this, because of your responsibility to support their health and wellbeing, but also to identify reoccurring health conditions; any long-term medication, suitability for work and reasons behind absence. Then you can explore the ways in which you can support them and signpost them to any relevant services. Ultimately because you are monitoring this efficiently it will improve their attendance at work promote a positive culture of trust and reciprocity.

4) Reflective Practice. Your ability as a Manager to demonstrate reflective practice accurately and in a positive and professional manner is one the biggest skills you can share with your team and its free! Collaborate to maximise personal effectiveness and work together to identify what worked well, what didn’t, acknowledge improvements, areas of strength and development. The training you then plan and provide, will be relevant to your Improvement Plans and make a lasting impact on your team, their continuous professional development and that will impact on the children of who we are all doing this for.

5) Safeguarding. Through your commitment to performance management, consistency and improved communication your team will thrive and become highly motivated. Let’s not forget the reason we are all here in the first place; for the children- to nurture, care, improve outcomes and Safeguard. Your supervisions, once embedded will promote discussion and dialogue; giving staff plentiful opportunity to raise concerns and exchange details, niggles and information in way that may not have not been done before. Consequently, this promotes the highest standards of quality care and ensures children’s health, wellbeing and development is safeguarded.

This article is published in Issue 4 of Childcare Biz Chat Magazine. If you have found this to be of interest, then come and find me on Social Media: @katemoxleyeyc Search for Early Years Specialists and join the group on Facebook.

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