By CELA on 29 Jan, 2021

There’s no denying 2020 was an incredibly challenging year for everyone, and the challenges will continue well into 2021. With so much uncertainty still ahead of us, one way we can help our sector to thrive throughout the turmoil is by nurturing our workforce.

A well-nurtured workforce is likely to be more motivated and engaged and to remain committed to achieving shared goals. Nurtured employees will also be less likely to leave the workforce.

CELA research and policy manager Megan O’Connell shares six steps to help nurture our early education workforce by implementing a supportive workplace culture.

Step 1) Encourage employee voice

Make a habit of genuinely asking employees to speak up, to voice their opinion and to try new things and share what they learn. Employees who are empowered to identify changes they would like to make, and to take measured risks, are more likely to feel valued and invested in helping to make improvements to the workplace.

Think about where you can actively solicit employee opinion:

  • Are there issues where you as Director make a decision, where you could seek feedback and be open to change?
  • What are the areas where you can be more flexible?
  • How can you encourage feedback from staff less likely to speak in large groups – consider leaving a comments box or an anonymous survey in the staff room.

Step 2) Establish shared and clear organisational values

Employees need to see the connection between the daily work they do and the organisational values. Establish clear values that show what your organisation stands for, in consultation with employees and with your community.

  • Work with employees to show how their work contributes to the organisational values and strategy.
  • Show how values are used to drive and reinforce the organisational culture.

Step 3) Establish clear objectives and rewards

Work with staff to create challenges to motivate and guide continual growth and development.

  • Think about what intrinsically motivates staff.
  • What can staff master and where can they share their enhanced expertise with others?
  • Consider what type of support staff will need to undertake challenges – this could include coaching or professional development.
  • Show appreciation and recognise staff efforts.

Step 4) Show empathy and compassion

Leading isn’t just about achieving the bottom line. Care and compassion for staff is essential, and this comes from the top. Coping with the uncertainty of COVID-19 remains a challenge. Support staff to manage anxiety and deal with uncertainty.

Visit for information on coping resources.

Step 5) Nurture social connections

Employees who feel connected to each other are more likely to support each other and to feel satisfied in their work.

Find authentic ways to nurture social connections that do not add to employee burden – for example, trivia nights might not be helpful if employees have young families to care for after work.

Step 6) Make sacrifices for employees

Leaders who make sacrifices for employees are often rewarded with increased employee motivation and satisfaction. Staff feel valued when employers lighten their burden – this might include sending a staff member home early when they have a birthday to attend or sharing the cleaning roster between all staff in a centre, including the Director.

It’s important to keep everything in balance to the degree possible and to exercise self-care, as staff will be less likely to feel able to nurture themselves if they see leaders repeatedly working excessive hours.

Everyone plays a role in contributing to a nurturing workplace and in doing so building satisfaction, resilience and productivity.

Further reading:

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About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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