Part 2: Successfully communicate with parents and staff
Last week, ‘Nursery Manager of the Year’ Mikki Parkes, talked about the importance of creating the right balance as a nursery manager. Today she offers her expert opinion on how to successfully communicate with parents and maintain a positive workforce.
Working at Auden Place Nursery in Camden, Mikki and her team support families in the local area by providing a diverse and inclusive environment that stimulates, nurtures and supports the young generation.
Mikki believes that working with parents is key to this success, and this was clearly demonstrated when Auden Place Community Nursery won the ‘Working with Parents’ award and received highly commended in ‘Team Development’.
“Working with parents is something I feel really strongly about. If you can have parents on board, the children’s nursery life will be much more meaningful and productive. My office is based at the front reception and my door is always open. I always like to be available for parents and I make sure they know this.”
Good first impressions
First impressions count, so staff should be prepared to spare extra time when showing parents around the nursery. Being open and friendly is more likely to create a true reflection of your nursery and make parents feel at ease leaving their child in your care.
“When dealing with parents for the first time, always be friendly and open, sharing as much as you can without overload. Expectant mums are not yet interested in how you prepare the 3 year olds for their transition to school.
“Allow the parents time to get to know you. I never rush when showing prospective parents around. I allow them to sit in the room with the staff and the children to get the feel of it. Seeing how happy and confident the children are and how staff interact with them has more of an impact on new parents than policies and procedures, although sharing these are also important.
“When children start with us, the week before we settle them in, we have a free of charge ‘Parent Week’ to settle in the parents. For this week, parents get to spend a couple of hours each day in the room with their child getting to know the staff and the routine. This really gives them the confidence in us as a nursery.”
Every nursery receives complaints from parents, but Mikki believes it is how you deal with these complaints that influence your ongoing relationships.
“Luckily we don’t have too many complaints! When you do get a complaint, you need to ensure that you take on board what the complaint is. Always listen and never interrupt or become defensive.
“Most complaints are usually simple ones that can be resolved quickly. I always let the parents know that I will find out the situation and get back to them rather than deal with it immediately. This means I get all the facts, and also gives the parent time to calm down. I get back to the parent as quick as possible and always thank them for bringing something to my attention so that it can be resolved.
“If parents are not happy with your response, then be transparent on what the next steps are. I would give them the email address of the Chair on the Management Committee plus our Ofsted registration number and their telephone number.”
Mikki also puts the same amount of effort into keeping staff happy. Her popularity amongst her team is clearly demonstrated by their choice to nominate her for ‘Nursery Manager of the Year’.
“When I went on holiday in June, my Management Committee approached my staff team and all agreed to nominate me for ‘Nursery Manager of the Year’. They wanted to thank me for my hard work over the past 6 six years.”
Managers need respect from their staff and to possess a good level of trust for staff to carry out everyday duties. Maintaining high morale is essential if a nursery is to perform well and maintain a low staff turnover.
Download Mikki Parkes’ tips on how to keep staff morale high in the nursery
“Your team are the most valuable resource you have and you should treat them as such. Although the industry is renowned for high turnover (average of 2 years), in the 6 years that I have been managing Auden Place, I have managed to secure a loyal and committed staff team, with an average of 4 years’ service.”
Transparent and trusting relationships
Having a good, working relationship with staff and parents helps resolve subjects such as sensitive child issues quickly and efficiently, without staff or parents feeling like they can’t approach the nursery.
“By having such transparent and trusting relationships with all my staff and parents, when we have had sensitive child issues, everyone has felt confident in approaching me for support. All staff receive Safeguarding training during the first term of working with us, and refresher training every 3 years. In our monthly staff meeting, we discuss different scenarios and how to deal with them, so that that staff are not scared if anything comes up in reality.
“From day 1, we explain to parents how any difficult situations will be handled and work with them throughout any that may arise so that the trust is always there.”
Mikki hopes that Auden Place can sustain the success already achieved in such a short space of time and maybe even collect another award in 2012!
“We are starting an accredited quality assurance scheme in 2012. I also have 6 staff wishing to start their NVQ5 in childcare. And you never know, maybe ‘Nursery of the Year’ in 2012!?”
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