The past three years have demonstrated how critical employee engagement is to business success. Despite immense disruption, engaged employees continued to give 100% to their employer; they understood and appreciated that they played a critical role in their organisation surviving.
Today, as the pandemic recedes, a new challenge presents itself: employees are fatigued and the likelihood of disengagement has escalated – especially in sectors like childcare and early learning, which was amongst the hardest hit by COVID-19.
An engagement crisis
Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce 2022 report, found that engaged employees perform better, citing the key benefits of 17% higher productivity and 21% higher profitability. However, the same study found that just 20% of employees globally are engaged. The rest are either disengaged or – even more damaging – actively disengaged. That is, they have miserable work experiences and spread their unhappiness to their colleagues.
Disengaged employees cost the global economy $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, or 11% of world GDP.
Adding to these universal concerns is the fact that the childcare and early learning sector is in the firing line, with 30% job turnover every year for over a decade and an average tenure of only 3.5 years in a centre. Clearly, operators would benefit if they could improve their company culture and employee engagement to produce more satisfied employees.
This article will explore those benefits in more detail.
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is the emotional connection a worker feels about their job and their employing organisation.
When people are happy about their jobs they tend to work harder. When employee satisfaction is high, people want to come to work, learn more and contribute. They feel valued and in turn value their company’s mission and values.
You don’t need to motivate employees who are highly engaged employees: they are self-motivated, loyal and likely to stay in your organisation. Employee advocacy is a sure sign of engaged employees because they’re keen to extol the virtues of their workplace.
Why is it challenging to sustain engaged workers in shift-based workplaces?
It’s difficult enough for many organisations to build engaged teams, but it’s even harder for workplaces that are shift-based or deskless, like childcare and early learning. Your entire team is distributed across shifts, with both permanent and casual staff, possibly also working across multiple sites.
How can you communicate with them easily all at once? How can you value them when they’re always on the move, knee-deep in children? How can you protect them from burnout, boost retention rates and improve their work-life balance when their daily tasks are so exhausting?
Employee engagement is not a happy accident and it’s only when company leaders develop engagement strategies to build engaged teams that you’ll see progress being made.
Read Humanforce’s eBook packed with tips on how to assess the cost of disengagement, and how to improve the situation in your organisation.
5 benefits of highly engaged employees
1. Happy employees stimulate innovation and creativity
A happy employee is an engaged employee. You can see this when staff return from holidays refreshed and ready to tackle work with enthusiasm.
In this state, employees can come up with innovative and creative ideas. Smart leaders leverage these positive vibes to create a virtuous circle by encouraging staff to use their autonomy to be creative.
This is not merely a feel-good exercise: 78% of employees encouraged to be innovative and creative are more loyal to their workplace.
Smart managers think outside the box. Why not give your workers one hour of non-contact time per week for R&D? They can research online to find new creative ideas for childcare and early learning activities.
Or you could send your highly engaged employees on a site visit to an award-winning centre. Learn from the best and innovate to lift morale and your reputation as an industry leader.
When you invest time in encouraging employees it conveys a sense of belonging and accomplishment. You turn disengaged employees into engaged employees. This adds value to the business.
2. Highly engaged employees improve collaboration
Childcare and early learning workers who get employee recognition will go the extra mile, increase productivity and provide better customer service.
According to Forbes, employees who believe their ‘voice is heard’ are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. And in a childcare or early learning centre, that work is by definition collaborative.
So how can your staff ‘be heard’?
You can start by developing listening skills that are authentic, open and non-judgemental. Rather than top-down priorities dominating your agenda, why not reverse these sometimes and seek bottom-up insights from your staff?
Managing by walking around helps too. Get out of the office and into their world.
Because collaboration turns on good communication, find creative ways to encourage communication: on message boards, in staff rooms and on mobile apps that can bring together a disparate workforce on different shifts.
3. An engaged workforce has a lower risk of burnout
Burnout is a big issue in many workplaces, not just in childcare and early learning:
- 61% of employees claim to be burned out on the job
- 31% of respondents report extremely high levels of stress at work.
Stress undermines both wellness (physical health) and engagement (emotional health). These both have profound implications for your work environment. If your employee feels sick or stressed, how can they feel fully engaged?
Addressing both stress management and engagement will help you boost engagement levels and provide positive experiences to aid staff retention.
Knowing that 46% of employees would accept another job offer if it came up means that paying more attention to how your staff feel can boost loyalty. Employees are more likely to stay in their jobs when they’re engaged.
The Humanforce whitepaper The Great Resignation looks at the challenges of keeping your employees engaged.
4. A positive company culture will encourage employees to take personal responsibility
Disengaged employees are the ones who see their workplace as a way to pay their bills. Highly engaged employees, on the other hand, see themselves as being part of the company’s success and take pride in that.
It’s natural for childcare and early learning managers to focus on tangible targets and factors to maximise revenue and growth. But a focus on creating happy employees and an engaged workforce has proven benefits:
- 89% of workers will recommend their organisation as a good place to work if their employers support well-being initiatives
- 92% of employees believe their company can achieve its objectives.
High employee engagement will lead to a positive customer experience, increased productivity and business success.
Tips to improve your childcare or early learning centre’s culture:
- Check in with staff feelings by running ‘stay’ interviews every quarter
- Reach out if their participation drops or sick days increase
- Promote a great work-life balance and insist on time off
- Discuss, set and celebrate team cultural goals.
5. Lower workplace stress means lower absenteeism
Ask yourself, ‘Have I clearly articulated the values of my childcare and early learning business? Do my employees know what those values are?’
The reason this is vital is that employee recognition and alignment with their employer’s values is the top predictor of employee engagement.
And businesses with high engagement levels and engaged workforces have lower employee absenteeism rates by up to 41%.
The biggest benefits of improving employee engagement are shared — better employee experience where they feel engaged and less stressed, and much-reduced absenteeism to benefit your centre.
Imagine the improvements in your work stress and profitability if you could spend less time and effort filling shifts because each engaged employee is keen to come to work.
As a childcare or early learning centre manager, shifting gears from The Great Resignation means you need to provide a more meaningful workplace that aligns with your staff values. To reduce absenteeism, focus on ways to reduce their stress at work while seeking to increase engagement.
For more helpful tips, see the Humanforce ebook on Improving Child Care Worker Retention.
It’s easy to see the many benefits of engaged employees.
Happy and engaged employees will make more positive suggestions, and add innovation and creativity to their contributions at work.
When communication improves and your staff are being heard, their engagement rises and collaboration improves. Burnout and absenteeism declines.
Finally, a great company culture encourages employees to take responsibility rather than avoid it. They become proactive advocates for your business.
Get in touch
If you want to speak to us about how the Humanforce employee engagement software can improve your organisation’s workplace culture and support the benefits of engaged employees, schedule a demo or contact us here.
Humanforce is a leading provider of shift-based workforce management solutions that simplify onboarding, scheduling, time and attendance, employee engagement and communication.
Customers in more than 23 countries use Humanforce to build resilience, optimise costs, realise compliance confidence, retain staff, empower their team and drive growth.
Humanforce was founded in Sydney in 2002, and today has offices across Australia, New Zealand and the UK.