It should be no surprise that a core factor in having a successful nursery is strongly linked to how your employees’ perform and meet the standards required within their roles. Some people find this comes natural and seamlessly perform their roles well, without fuss or hassle. Others have to work a little harder to meet the requirements, but demonstrate the right attitude and with support over time meet the grade. Sometimes, however we find ourselves with some employee’s who are failing to conduct themselves appropriately and / or perform their roles effectively. This is a normal situation that most business owners face at one time or another but it can be remedied with effective tools and procedures in place.


Be proactive

The number one issue that I have found when supporting nursery owners when faced with a difficult employee is not dealing with the problem in the first place. Most likely the supervisor of the employee has some concerns about the employee’s performance but has not sat them down early on in the process to raise these concerns and to make the necessary plan to resolve them.

Subsequently the concerns have escalated and the situation has got considerably worse. This makes things much more difficult. By not addressing concerns early on the employee either has no idea that they are not performing at the expected standard or are getting away with it so make no attempt to change. When the supervisor does take the step to finally speak with her they are naturally on the defensive and often ask ‘why didn’t you mention this sooner’? So make your life considerably easier by speaking to the employee as soon as possible.

Constructive feedback

You meet with the employee to discuss the concerns. Now what? You probably feel nervous or at least uncomfortable about having this conversation but you understand the importance of doing so. To ensure the meeting runs as smoothly as possible always avoid using antagonistic language and broad sweeping statements. For example if you have an employee who is repeatedly late for starting work opening the conversation with ‘I am concerned about your general attitude and how you apply yourself at work’ is a sweeping statement and guaranteed to upset the employee from the off.  It is also not specific and does not actually identify what the concern is you have.

But if you start with the following sentence ‘I have noticed you have arrived late for work on 5 separate occasions over the past 3 weeks. Is there a reason for this that you can share with me and how can we work together to ensure you are able to start work on time’, you are more likely to get a positive response and a remedy to the problem much sooner. Being specific about the feedback and sticking to facts is also preferable but how you deliver the message also has a significant impact on reaching a successful outcome.

Did you know we have created a complete HR Compliance Toolkit specifically for the EY Sector. To learn more about this outstanding product click here

Track and Measure

If you want to ensure your employees’ are working productively and conducting themselves in alignment with your nursery’s values then you must track and measure how they are performing. Simply asking people to follow a task without having it written down and explained to them properly will 9 times out of 10 end in the task not being completed correctly and lead to frustration for the supervisor.

Checklists are a useful tool to track tasks that are being completed on a daily basis that can be submitted to supervisors at the end of a working day. For more long term tasks or projects then having SMART (specific, measured, achievable, realistic, timely) objectives set up in writing for employees to review and implement are effective.

One mistake often made is leaving too much time between objectives being set and them being reviewed. In my experience the more often you can meet and review objectives with employees and check in with them the more likely they will be in achieving much better results. Another benefit is the more regularly you meet the less time you will need to review their progress. It will also motivate people more to keep on track and deliver the objectives on time and to an expected standard.


Regular communication with your employees’ is essential to having a thriving and successful business. Keeping them updated on what the business is doing, how it is performing and future plans will increase engagement amongst employees. They will have a better understanding of what the business is doing and clarity about their roles within the nursery. They will be able to see how they are contributing to the success of the nursery, which in turn breeds motivation and increases performance.

HR Policies and Procedures


Having clearly written HR policies and procedures is also important. Employees’ need to be able to refer to tangible guidance on how the nursery operates and the processes that will be implemented when required. As an employer you will need to follow compliant procedures in a legal, fair and consistent manner. HR policies and procedures support you when faced with a HR issue by providing a process to follow.

An employee handbook is another great way to effectively communicate to your workforce by setting out how the nursery manages employee processes and how employees’ should conduct themselves. They are also useful in clarifying what process an employee should follow in certain situations such as reporting sickness absence and what to do in the event of an emergency.

To support nurseries and preschools with their HR Policies and Procedures we offer a fully compliant HR Toolkit, which includes all the required HR Policies, employment contracts and employee handbook documents necessary to operate a successful business. Click here to learn more.

Be Fair and Consistent

Nobody is suggesting that managing people doesn’t come with challenges and complexities. But by following these steps you will dramatically improve the performance of your people and increase the success of your nursery. There is no quick fix. Developing a strong people management ethos takes time but once it becomes a cornerstone of your nursery you will reap the rewards.

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Have a great day!

Donna Fairbrother








The Nursery HR People