It has to be one of the busiest times of year in early education, new enrolments, portfolio completion, Christmas concerts, end of year reports etc. It is exactly the time of year when you need to have your team fully engaged, focused, productive and motivated to finish the year off on a high note.
However this is often not the case. Teams struggle to stay engaged in their work at this time of year, because they experience high levels of uncertainty. At best they have concerns that they don’t know which room they maybe working in the following year and at worst they may not even know whether they have a job.
This is at exactly the same time of year that many children and families are preparing for a major life transition into Primary School, when emotions run high and when there can be high level of stress. It’s also exactly the time of year when you want and need your team to be fully engaged, calm, focused and able to model confidence and safety to the children and families you work with.
So what does this mean for Early Education Leaders?
Well it means if they are not careful they get caught up in managing the symptoms of low team engagement, e.g. negativity, absenteeism, low moral, disagreements, low productivity and low levels of engagement and motivation. It can feel like an uphill struggle with the need to just focus on the finishing line, the end of the year!
So what can Early Education Leaders do, to proactively help teams to navigate this challenging time of year?
As Henry Ford once said, “If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.” Building your culture of team engagement is not something you leave to chance, you need to be strategic, keep your finger on the pulse and utilize engagement tools to assist you in this important area of your leadership.
You may not be able to provide your team with the certainty that they need, but you can be proactive in helping them to navigate the uncertainty, build self-awareness and empower them to take control over the aspects of their work that they do have control over.
Here are six ways to help you and your team proactively navigate uncertainty and strengthen employee engagement even at the end of the year:-
Clearly communicate with your team in advance, how decisions about room changes, jobs and contracts will be made within what timelines and milestones. Consider all the questions your team may have and put them in writing in a FAQ handout, this helps to build a sense of safety, as they will feel you are in touch with their concerns and questions.
Share the information more than once, people only hear what is important to them in the moment. Keep reassuring them that you understand their concerns and follow through on any commitments you have made. Being clear and consistent helps to create a sense of certainty.
When people know what to expect it helps to reduce anxiety and stress. If you have outlined a process for decision-making and communication, make sure you follow it, even if people say they are OK.
4. EMOTIONAL AWARENESS
Talk about the impact of uncertainty and about how we function as human beings when experiencing stress and the impact this has on our ability to be fully engage in their work. Language the emotions people maybe feeling and talk about how the team can access support during this time.
Hold people accountable for their behavior and help them to see that they have a choice about how they respond to uncertainty.