How can you use ‘love languages’ in your setting to enhance the well-being of your staff teams?

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Andrea McGanity, area manager at Waverton Day Nurseries, oversees 60 members of staff working in 4 nurseries in Liverpool. Feeling inspired after reading an article in the Parenta magazine, Andrea wanted to share her thoughts on how to support staff by exploring ‘love languages’.

I read with interest an article in the June edition about ‘The language of love’ – love languages. The article helped our team think through how children in our care can have their ‘emotional tanks’ filled with love and how to support children in building better attachments, enabling them to feel safe and secure. The article gave practical tips on how to develop each one of the love languages for the children.

This got me thinking about how we could use the love languages with our staff teams. As an area manager, one of my main roles is supporting the managers and staff teams in each of our settings. Staff well-being and being content in their jobs are very important and we all know that when staff are happy in their jobs, they perform to the best of their ability.  

I saw a tweet recently from Jon Gordon who has written many books on leadership. He said: ‘There are 7 things that will hurt your team, energy vampires, complaining, ego, selfishness, jealousy, resentment and pessimism and 7 things that will help your team, love, encouragement, vulnerability, selflessness, unity, communication and optimism.’ Taking this on board, I have begun to explore and develop how we can use the love languages with our senior leadership team to enable them to use these with their staff teams and get to know their individual staff even better. I also looked at how we can build this into our culture, so it becomes part of our DNA.

I have therefore begun with the following ideas to use with our staff teams to speak their ‘love language’.

Words of affection

Praise and encouragement are the most basic requirements for building a staff member up and making them feel affirmed in their job roles.

  • Making a point of telling them what they have done well rather than just saying “Well done”. For example, telling them about a particular activity they set up and that you observed how successfully the children responded to it
  • Praising them in front of others
  • Having a ‘shout out’ board in the staff room – where you praise a staff member personally. For example, giving a named award such as Marvelous Multitasker. Show how much you value a staff member’s abilities to keep the plates spinning! You could also consider putting up these awards on their coat pegs/lockers in the staff room

Quality time

Spending quality time with a staff member demonstrates you are interested in them as an individual and that they are important to you.

  • Taking time to listen and use good listening techniques such as maintaining eye contact, being attentive and using non-verbal cues like nodding
  • Making a point of setting aside time during your working week to ask them how they are doing
  • Spending time together as a staff team (not just during staff meetings) and doing activities such as going out for a meal once a month

Physical touch

For some staff, this is really important and builds their self-esteem.

  • Giving a high five or shaking their hand when a staff member has excelled in something
  • Touching their arm or shoulder in response to something they have shared with you. Good judgement must be exercised, however, as this may not be appropriate in certain circumstances such as a male supervisor with a female employee
  • If the situation calls for it, it may be appropriate to give them a hug if they are upset or clearly distressed

Receiving of gifts

Most adults/staff love to receive unexpected gifts for their hard work and this can reinforce how much you appreciate them.  

  • Having an ‘Employee of the Month’ award where staff receive a gift voucher for their favourite shop
  • Making up goody bags with a few items which show your appreciation. For example, bubble bath, their favourite drink or chocolates
  • Receiving a bunch of flowers
  • Sending them a card telling them what they excel at in their job role

Acts of service

These suggestions are for staff who enjoy having things done for them or enjoy doing things for others. These examples will help them feel loved and cared for:

  • Having their room/activity set up ready for the day, especially if they’re doing a specific planned activity
  • Doing their part of the cleaning rota for them
  • Doing their late/early shift them
  • Bringing in their favourite lunch to share

In what ways do you show your appreciation for staff working in your setting? Do you offer anything unusual or outside the box to say ‘thank you’? Let us know by sending an email to marketing@parenta.com

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