As Child Care Professionals we often leave our institute of learning and think that's it, we are now "fully developed" in our field. This is far from the truth. Staff development in any child care service is vital to remaining a fresh vibrant service, offering the best for the children in our care. The child care profession is physically and emotionally draining, and it can often be difficult to keep our staff motivated to continue professional development. Here are four thoughts to consider when motivating your staff in child care centres to keep developing professionally:
Develop a Culture of Continuous Learning
Whenever there is a pre-existing culture in any workplace, new staff tend to take this culture onboard in their own work ethics. In child care centres, if our current staff culture promotes and values professional development, new staff will quickly be energized by others around them.
Alternatively, where there is a pre-existing culture of negativity about professional development, you can slowly begin to shift the culture by making this part of the induction program for new staff. Encourage new staff by sharing the positives of continued professional development and utilize their fresh new knowledge in developing the skills of current staff. Training does not always need to be formal participation in presentations. It can be through learning from each other.
Provide Innovative Training
When staff training and development becomes routine, then we quickly become bored and demotivated to learn. Teachers and educators develop skills in 'selling' learning, and as Directors and Authorised Supervisors we should be looking for training that excites and 'sells' to our staff.
Not only should the style of presentation be innovative, but the topics and professional learning areas should also be innovative. Offering training on the same topics each year usually brings forth comments from staff such as "yeah, done that one", or "heard it all before". Training should incorporate the latest research coupled with a variety of presenters from varied backgrounds.
Utilising outside training is good, but it should not be the only form of training offered. Why not have staff within your service present training for each other. Often when we research a topic to present to others we actually learn more than simply listening to information.
Respect Staff's Time
Often, particularly in private child care services, staff are giving of their own time to attend training. Even when training is offered within staff's allocated working hours, they are giving up programming time or time working with their children. If we respect their time and provide concise, impacting training, they are more likely to be motivated to participate with their full attention.
Training DVDs can be presented to your staff in your own early childhood setting. This removes travelling time to training venues, and allows staff to explore topics together. How often do we send one or two of our staff to training with the intention of them sharing the information with the whole staff, only to find other agenda items take our time and attention. On issues such as learning centres for example, each staff member hearing the training first hand allows the whole staff team to fully engage with the concepts and ideas, which facilitates better outcomes for the centre and children.
Provide Incentive Programs
After a hard day working with children, let's be realistic and recognize that often we need some external motivation to participate in training. Whether this be recognition in our newsletters or on bulletin boards for parents to see, small rewards such as buying staff a coffee, a certificate for the staff's portfolio, 'early marks' where child ratios allow, or long standing programs with end of year rewards (eg when staff attend 10 training sessions they receive a massage / spa and body treatment at the local beauty salon). Each centre needs to tailor this to their own staff interests and financial resources.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of Directors, Authorised Supervisors and Licensees to ensure staff maintain their professional development. Training motivates, refreshes, reminds, and challenges staff professionals, for the benefit of themselves, their colleagues, and the children and families in our child care services.