Child Care Teacher Wanted: Attract The Very Best

“Child care teacher needed!

We offer competitive benefits and wages.”

Every week I see this same help wanted ad in the newspaper. The ad then lists the program’s contact information. I see this ad so often I wonder why this child care program is always looking for help. I doubt if it’s because the ad doesn’t generate any response. I think it does otherwise I couldn’t imagine why they would run the ad so often in the same publication. As you know, it’s expensive to continuously run an ad. It’s a small local program so I doubt if it’s because they’re growing and expanding. My guesses are: there’s a lot of turnover going on, there’s a lack of interest in the position after the interview, or perhaps the candidates that the ad attracts are simply not right for the position.

Have you ever wondered why some programs have no difficultly attracting top-notch candidates to work in their child care programs while others struggle to fill positions for what seems like endless periods of time? Have you ever wondered what it takes to attract the very best candidates to work in your child care program? If you’ve answered yes, keep reading because I’m going to share with you one of the most powerful recruiting strategies for leaders in the child care industry.

What does it take to attract the very best child care professionals to work for my program? This question comes up often during my Motivate Teachers Retreats for leaders in the child care industry. When it comes up, so does one answer that is highly correlated with attracting and retaining great staff. Care to take a guess at what it is? Well, if you guessed money, you’re right. Many leaders share with me their feelings of: If only I could pay my staff more money, I would have less turnover and attract the very best candidates to work in my child care program.

It’s true that salary is one component of attracting the very best candidates, but it’s not the most important. By this I mean if all of the child care programs in your area offer pretty much the same salary and benefits (“competitive salary and benefits”) you will not necessarily attract the very best staff by offering more money to potential candidates.

One director recently shared her realization with me. She said that initially she thought that if she built the nicest facility with the best equipment and offered her staff wages higher than the average in her area she would have a winning formula. But after several years in business she still struggles with attracting and retaining good staff, let alone the very best. This is only one story out of thousands of stories directors have shared with me. Many are left confused as to why their efforts failed but yet with a greater understanding that something else is required to attract and retain the very best.

What’s the key? There are several vital keys to attracting the very best. To summarize the vital keys into one major key I’ll just write the words — word of mouth advertising. Word of mouth is a powerful force that I’ve seen propel programs and businesses to the next level of success when it’s positive and cause them to collapse when it’s negative.

There are 4 components of word of mouth advertising that are critical for a child care director to consider. They include the type of word of mouth advertising that is passed around by previous and current staff as well as previous and current clients.

The most powerful recruiting strategy is when your previous and current staff along with your previous and current parents spread the positive word around about you and your program. This is incredibly powerful so please don’t overlook it. One supervisor shared with me that through tapping into this power she now has a stack of current resumes on file that she can go through whenever she needs a new staff member. She receives many calls from potential candidates each day asking if she’s hiring and to please consider them for employment. She never has to place a help wanted ad because the positive word is out!

Now at some point in your life, I’m sure you’ve felt the power of word of mouth advertising. Perhaps you’ve even helped pass it around. Many can relate to going to a restaurant and receiving bad service. And many people who receive that bad service will tell everyone they know not to ever step foot in “that place.” That’s right, I’m talking about negative word of mouth advertising. And on the other hand, many can relate to going to a restaurant and having a good experience. When I survey my audiences most will admit that they still pass around the positive word but not nearly as often as they pass around the negative. The reality is — negative word of mouth spreads farther and faster than positive word of mouth.

Your previous staff members have the opportunity to share many details of their experience in working for you and with your program. If they felt they were treated fairly and the program provided quality care they will most likely dwell on those factors in their conversations with others. But on the other hand if they leave their position feeling negative they will most often exaggerate their negative experiences and tell many people in the process — yes, negative word of mouth advertising.

Many child care professionals have shared with me their feelings about the child care program they worked for. One stated that she would never advise anyone to trust their children in the care of the program she worked for. She stated that communication was destructive and the leader didn’t do anything when destructive gossip was out of control. Conflicts and issues were not resolved and team morale was low. She didn’t necessarily explain her reasoning every time she made the statement: I wouldn’t advise anyone to send their children there! This child care professional had an amazing enthusiasm for the child care profession before she started working for this program. Unfortunately, this one bad experience led her to the decision that the child care industry was not the place for her. She viewed it as unprofessional and wanted something more for her professional life. Needless to say this was a person who knew how much money the child care industry offered and it didn’t matter because she wanted to be a part of it and make a difference in the lives of the children. It was her passion. She quit her position and is now working in the public school system. Although I did not work with this center, I did learn that they were always looking for new teachers; turnover was very high. Within a couple years of my conversation with the teacher who had the bad experience, the center was forced to close down.

Another child care professional stated this about the program she was currently working for: I wouldn’t send my dog there! Why such as a harsh statement I asked? Mostly because of the destructive communication patterns that were rabid.

On the bright side, if you have a staff member who quits their position within your program and they leave with good feelings they have the power to positively impact potential candidates and clients. Let’s say this person moves on to another industry and shines in their position. Their manager may take notice and is thrilled with how professional this person is and how their communication skills are amazing. He also takes note of this person’s ability to stay calm under pressure. He then asks his employee how she developed these skills. She replies by saying that these skills were acquired through working for you in your child care program. He thinks to himself: If they train staff so well there imagine what they must do for the children. And that positive word of mouth is spread. There are so many examples I could share with you, but I’m hoping you get the idea.

Here’s one more example. You have an open position. You advertise for it and get some good candidates to respond to your ad. There’s one candidate you interview and really like. The next step is for that candidate to meet with other teachers. She comes in for the morning to spend time with your staff. Some staff members ignore her while they go about their routines. Others include her in on the gossip and the dos and the don’ts of your program. When her time visiting your program has concluded she leaves without a word. You try to call her later but she doesn’t return your call. For some reason she lost interest. Hmm…

Next week I’ll share with you some specific strategies on how you can create positive word of mouth advertising for your program.

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