Staff evaluations – Why to and how to

Published on Tuesday, 20 April 2021
Last updated on Monday, 19 April 2021

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The day-to-day professional life of an early childhood director is undeniably rewarding, but also long and tiring.

Amidst the hurly burly of caring for children, the on-going paperwork and managing relationships with parents and caregivers there isn’t much time to stop and have a cup of tea, let alone pause for professional reflection.

Many of the directors we have interviewed over the years pride themselves on offering staff professional development opportunities intended to improve staff retention rates and ensure staff are constantly learning and improving their practice.

What is less clear to us is how many early childhood directors conduct regular staff evaluations and/or performance management meetings.

Two-way staff evaluations are a valuable tool for early childhood directors; they can help you identify any areas of concern as and when they come up, acknowledge good performance and ensure there is an open forum for communication between directors and staff members.

With regular, thoughtful and constructive feedback staff are likely to experience greater workplace satisfaction and are more likely to be engaged and stay with your service.

The problem is you are an early childhood director and not a HR director so conducting a performance management with your staff may not be part of your skill set or something you feel confident doing.

Don't worry, we've got your back, this week our tips and tricks for conducting a great performance evaluation with your staff members.

Be regular and consistent

It's important to conduct staff reviews regularly and to take a consistent approach to each meeting so staff know what to expect, how to prepare and what they can expect to take away from the meeting. It's hard to find time in the day for these kinds of meetings so be sure to schedule the meetings well in advance and identify a quiet room.

Remember, the meetings don’t need to be long 30-60 minutes should be sufficient and you only need to do it once a year per staff member.

Conducting meetings regularly will ensure you can identify and address any small issues before they blow up into bigger ones and these meetings are a good forum for checking in with your staff to see how they are feeling about their role, responsibilities and career plan.

In addition to the formal, annual, performance review, it's also helpful to check in with staff regularly and to provide positive feedback when and where it is appropriate. Gratitude goes a long way with staff members and taking the time to say thank you and acknowledge good work when you notice it will pay off in staff loyalty and engagement.

Be cool, calm and collected

Managing staff is hard and requires excellent communication skills and a high degree of professionalism at all times. When conducting staff evaluations, especially with staff who are sub-par, it's important to prepare well, have written notes and examples of any problem areas you wish to raise and examples of any areas where the person is doing a good job.

Don't engage in arguments with staff members who become defensive, just reiterate the standards you expect of staff and describe the improvements you'd like to see.

Be a good listener

Remember, staff evaluations are a forum for employees to speak up as well and it's important to remind your staff member that this is a safe forum for raising issues and outlining their future plans and aspirations. Try not to be defensive, if your staff member has concerns, take notes and be sure to reflect on the feedback and follow up with your employee at a later date.

Follow up

Retaining and developing good staff members is an important component of running a successful early childhood education and care service. With industry-wide staff shortages it's worthwhile to do whatever you can to hold on to your staff, with this in mind take notes during your staff evaluations and follow up.

If you agreed to send your staff member on a training course to develop their skills then do it, if you talked about giving a staff member the opportunity to work in the baby room then take steps to enable that to happen. Being a boss who does what you say you will do will help you build a loyal team.

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