How to stand out as an "Employer of choice" in a candidate short market?

We all know with the changes in the early childhood industry over the past 5 years, the legislative requirements to have “X” number of qualified staff per “X” of children, low industry salaries, a HUGE increase in the number of new centres being opened, an increase in Generation “Y” expectations and a lack of professionalism in the industry (sorry, yes….I said it), it has all contributed to a candidate short market. So as an employer, what can you do differently to attract the industry’s most highly sort after candidates?

Simple… something different!!! Dare to be different to your competitors. And the simple things are often the best.

In the early childhood and OOSH industries, I think there are a few basic things that would make you as a centre owner more appealing than the centre next door.

ELC & OOSH are predominately female employed workplaces (not always and we’d definitely love more males but as a general rule it’s female dominated), and guess what? Child Care Workers typically love children (they are not doing it for the money) and go off and start their own family. Yet, ironically, early childhood and OOSH are NOT family friendly workplaces. For example, if you are a child care worker who works a rotating shift between 7am – 6pm….how do you get to a centre in time to pick up your own children? Why won’t centres job share? The children will adapt, why won’t you? If you want to attract the best quality talent in the market (that will benefit you with quality education, longevity within the work place and true loyalty), then here’s a few tips on ways to do things just that bit different.

Identifying Intrinsic (financial) and Extrinsic (non financial) rewards

Whilst none of us work for free, it’s certainly not about salary in early childhood & OOSH. Therefore the salary negotiation process only holds so much weight. The notion of Intrinsic and Extrinsic rewards needs to be considered. By doing this, most people identify that often the Intrinsic rewards are far more valuable to them then the extrinsic and hence highlighting that these are the areas they should negotiate.

Intrinsic Rewards – These are non-monetary rewards derived from the work itself or from the organisation’s culture. Points to negotiate may include:

  • Programming time – Firstly ensure that employees actually are given the legally required programming each week, Even if it’s a busy week, this is the stuff that separates you from the rest, the stuff that makes you the high quality centre you profess to be and the high quality centre you’ll be assessed to be. Secondly particularly if they hold extra responsibilities, ensure you give them more programming time so your star employees can continue to impress you and your centres families and can accommodate their work load!
  • Annual leave – It’s really healthy for employees to take their 4 weeks annual leave over the course of the year. I personally think at least 1 week off every 6 months is important to rejuvenate but create a culture where you encourage holidays…..I know I do, I’m the queen of holidays and that provides me with the energy to keep working hard. The latest trend (actually not late in other industries but it is ours) is to provide option to buy 1-2 weeks extra per year! I’m a massive advocate. If you have children, this will definitely help you over the school holiday and Xmas period.
  • Every centre says that one of the benefits is rostered days off but, its actually part of the award?!?! Maybe think about increased rostered days off (paid or unpaid but to give parents flexibility).
  • Increased personal leave – again, it all comes down to flexibility and having a family. Think of what works for you and then offer those key things to your own team. As a parent, do you want to see your child in their sports carnival or school graduation? So do your staff, be flexible and they will be loyal to you.
  • Job Share! – Every other industry does it and does it well. Why not??? I can tell you now, ECE and OOSH are way behind on this front. Job sharing will provide you with the access to “tap” into a whole new pool of quality candidates. The children will adapt, you should too. How can you do this? You can give them set shifts or flexible shifts or just unpaid time off so they can witness their children’s own milestones.
  • Teachers pride themselves on continuous learning. Encourage your staff to keep learning. Whether it be sending them to industry conferences, tuition reimbursement, professional memberships, product discount etc. When you encourage your team to keep learning, they stay up to date with the industry and they stay loyal!!!
  • Temporary living allowances, travel expenses and spousal re-employment expenses
  • Salary sacrifices – look at what you can do to help your team, salary scarify (pre-tax) their computer, personal loans, ongoing personal career development.
  • Hire an extra floater to provide your staff with flexibility and the cost of the floater will far outweigh your cost in casuals and staff turnover!
  • Job-specific elements – Actually doing employee performance appraisals and potential raise, the job’s title and duties, the location of work, flexibility of work hours and start date. 
Give your staff goals, motivation positive feedback, make them feel important!!!!

Extrinsic Rewards – These are rewards that have a monetary value. Points to negotiate on may include:

  • Salary
  • Additional-salary compensation – performance bonuses, profit share,
  • Sign-on bonuses
  • Share Options
  • Salary Sacrifice
  • Increased Employer paid Superannuation contributions

There are many more employee/employer options. To make you stand out as an employee of choice, be sure to make yourself different. Explore the opportunities!

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