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Chapter 6: Managing Human Resources: addressing harmful turnover

To start with…

…refresh your knowledge of human resource management, primarily on Figure 6.1 on p. 152, summarising the HRM process, pages 155 - 161 on selecting competent employees and pages 162 - 166 on strategies for retaining them.  Then, read a recent article describing the damaging effect of childcare workers’ turnover on children, and the reasons for it.

So, to summarise…

Children are our future!  After all, everyone used to be one.  In our society, it is very common to have both parents working, and there is not always extended family support, so the childcare industry has been rising in terms of costs and revenue.  This massive industry involves billions of dollars, and millions of families. 

Typically, the mission of childcare organisations is to provide children with a safe, age-appropriate environment, which allows children to learn, interact, and explore as they grow.   Usually, childcare centres pride themselves on the positive contribution they make to the development of children in their care. 

However, recent research shows that turnover in this sector is quite high:  about 205, which is 1 in 5 childcare workers, plan to leave.  The separation from a beloved childcare worker, who is practically a surrogate parent for a young child, can be very difficult for little children, and can also have a negative affect their development.  This is in clear contradistinction to the mission and goals of childcare organisations.  Managers of childcare centres now face a problem in their human resources, and that problem directly affects the quality of the service they provide.

What can HRM do in this case?  Actually, they can do a lot.  Let’s break it down to six broad categories: identify reasons, deal with new staff, deal with existing staff, address the problem at the job and organisational level, use retention strategies, and prepare for the future.

First, HR can find the reasons for turnover.  Many workplaces use exit interviews as a standard procedure to identify what made the employee resign, and do not require external researchers to give the answer.  In this case, an external researcher found that the main three reasons for turnover among childcare workers was pay, paperwork, and working conditions.

Then, once the reasons for leaving are identified, HRM can start addressing them before new workers join in.  In the stages of recruitment, selection, induction, HRM professionals can look for employees who can not only perform the core activities of childcare, but also handle the hardships that were too much for the workers who left.  One technique is a providing a realistic job preview, where new recruits get an understanding of what work would be like.

Besides getting new staff on board, the existing staff needs to be addressed: they were deemed suitable for the organisation, so the organisation can now help them stay.  Paperwork is a problem in many organisations.  Maybe further training and development need to be provided, so that working conditions can improve, and so that paperwork can be managed better?  Maybe there are opportunities for professional development which will address some of the problems?

HRM professionals can also address the problems at the organisational levels.  If pay is an issue, HRM can recommend to top management to revise it.  If the organisation’s competitive advantage is to have low staff turnover, it could afford to charge higher rates, or, in most cases, it will lose less money: recruiting, selecting, and inducting employees costs money too.  HRM professionals also have the tools to address the problems through job design, organisational structure, appraisal system, and knowledge sharing.  Perhaps paperwork can be separated from direct childcare, or time can be allocated to it?  Maybe the appraisal system can take paperwork into account, and motivate employees that way?  Maybe some workers have found strategies to incorporate paperwork into their work day, and those strategies can be shared?  

HRM professionals also have various strategies to encourage retention.  Incentives, mainly if they are tenure-related, can encourage workers to stay.  Other strategies include promotion and status (“senior carer”, “floor manager” and formal titles like these), and security.  Some jobs do not offer the best conditions or pay, but the security they offer is attractive to workers.  These are all ways HRM can help with retention.

Finally, HRM can help face this challenge, but other challenges will come.  HRM professionals need to find ways to identify those challenges before they become a problem, and address them.  HRM professionals can find ways for employees to voice their views, and to identify where the decision making can be made, at the top or closer to the workers. 

So there are many ways in which HRM professionals can contribute not only to the organisation they work in, but also to the customers, communities, and society as a whole.  On that optimistic note, let’s move onto the questions.

Some issues to notice and pay particular attention to here are…

  • Recruitment strategies
  • Retention strategies

Consider the following questions for discussion…

  1. How does turnover affect childcare organisations? Who are the likely affected parties, and how does it impact on the organisations?
  2. One strategy for reducing employee turnover is providing security in terms of continuous employment.  What are the risks of offering people permanent employment?  How would you, as a business manager, address them?
  3. Suppose you were told, as a manager of a childcare centre, that you need to retain as many of the current carers as possible.  How would you, as a manager, decide on which retention strategies to use?
  4. In your view, how would career development assist with the retention of childcare staff?  What career development opportunities could you offer them?
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