In an industry where high turnover rates persist, the early childhood organisation affirms the need to value its staff – especially educators – through career development opportunities, team building, incentives, and more.
This article is brought to you by Babilou Family Singapore.
A career in early childhood is known to many as a fulfilling one. The educators play a big role in shaping the minds of young ones, giving them an early start to their educational journey, and teaching them soft skills that will go a long way – a big responsibility, but one that holds much meaning to it.
Yet, the early childhood education industry is also one that sees high turnover rates, with workforce retention being one of the most significant challenges plaguing preschools and early education centres. Why is this so?
Lynn Lee, Human Resources Director, Babilou Family Singapore, explains: “The mental wellbeing of educators is a major concern due to the demanding nature of the job, including long hours and high emotional stress. As a result, passionate individuals who enter this field may eventually seek higher-paying and less stressful alternatives, leading to a high turnover rate.”
Babilou Family Singapore, a subsidiary of France-incorporated early childhood organisation Babilou Family Group, has 60 education and learning centres island-wide, which include the brands, KiddiWinkie Schoolhouse, Little Footprints Preschool, Ichiban Montessori, as well as Learning Leap.
Managing the HR function for the organisation, Lee notes the sentiments she’s received from talents on the ground. “Educators are looking for employers who offer competitive compensation packages, opportunities for professional growth, and support systems to cope with the emotional demands of the job. In general, many are looking for a better work-life balance.”
On the other hand, operators in the industry often struggle to provide competitive salaries amidst the high demand for qualified educators, versus a low supply of such talent.
Apart from retention, Lee points out other challenges faced in terms of requirements, and recruitment.
Talking about the requirements, she shares: “On one hand, we must ensure our staff meets the necessary qualification and training requirements – however, striving to go beyond is another ongoing challenge.
“Regulations and standards in this industry are kept at a high level, and it can be challenging to keep up.”
In fact, feedback from the ground has shown her that talents often look for employers who provide support and resources (such as sponsorship) to meet their ongoing training and certification needs. “They appreciate employers who also prioritise personal and professional development (such as soft skills and certification required for their progression) as this helps them stay current with industry standards,” the leader highlights.
As for recruitment, she cites attracting and recruiting skilled and passionate educators to the industry as a “significant challenge”, admitting that the perception of early childhood education as an “undervalued profession” persists despite efforts by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and industry players — thus possibly deterring potential talent.
Intensifying these complexities is the fact that new student intakes/graduates from local institutions are not adequate to meet the demands of the industry.
From the talents’ point-of-view, Lee says, prospective educators are increasingly seeking employers who offer not only competitive compensation, but also a supportive work environment, opportunities for career growth, and a commitment to recognising and valuing their contributions.
How Babilou Family Singapore is tackling these talent challenges
Babilou Family Singapore emphasises ‘People First’, which is one of the company’s strategic pillars. With this guiding principle, learning & development programmes are designed and offered for educators and HQ staff to meet their needs for career progression and provide recognition, all while encouraging a culture of open communication.
Learning & development programmes
There are various leadership and personal development programmes organised for centre leaders and HQ managers. Every year in June, Babilou Family Singapore dedicates a Learning Day for all employees where they can select a one-day course of their choice.
Apart from these programmes, employees are encouraged to set personal development goals and pursue higher qualifications and certifications to ensure that they stay up to date with industry standards. The company provides the necessary training and resources to help them achieve these goals, and educators will then undergo regular talent reviews throughout the year to ensure the follow-through and progress of the talents identified.
“This commitment to career development not only helps employees build fulfilling and sustainable careers within the company but also enhances the overall quality of education provided to our children,” Lee affirms.
Appreciation and recognition
In that vein, there are mechanisms in place to highlight exceptional performance, including “Star Employee - Teaching Excellence” and “Centre of Excellence” awards which come with both recognition and tangible rewards. The organisation has also introduced allowances and incentives to recognise the additional portfolio or responsibilities that staff have been tasked with, which are reviewed from time to time to ensure sustained effectiveness.
Lee tells us:
“These recognition initiatives create a positive and motivating work environment, reinforcing the value of our staff and their impact on the children and families they serve.”
A culture of open communication
Amidst it all, comes a strong emphasis on team collaboration, for which regular team-building activities and opportunities are encouraged. Babilou Family Singapore also recognises and promotes a culture of open communication and transparency where employees feel safe to give feedback, and share their experiences, challenges, and ideas with their colleagues and superiors. All these are done on a secured digital platform.
Recently, the company launched Workplace as an official staff communications platform as a means to encourage open communication and to boost employee engagement. Through Workplace, Babilou Family Singapore employees can communicate and connect with other Babilou Family employees across 12 countries. This supports cultural exchanges and learning ideas.
Apart from dedicated work channels, interest groups were created to cater to the diverse needs and interests of employees, such as cooking & baking, drama and movies, health & wellness, and makan places, among others.
The company believes that digitalisation not only plays a part in promoting open communication, but also helps to ease the workload and enhance the wellbeing of its employees. By reducing manual tasks, Babilou Family Singapore is moving ahead to digitalise workflow and processes using technology and digital tools. With this, all employees, particularly the educators, are better able to focus on the care and learning of the children.
Open communication also involves listening to employees’ feedback. The company conducts employee satisfaction survey yearly to gather insights on their employees’ sentiments and identify areas that they have done right and those that they need to improve.
Collectively, Lee highlights, these efforts not only enhance job satisfaction but also contribute to the retention of talented educators.
Undoubtedly, such a culture can only flow through the organisation when it is reinforced at the top – and as Chief Executive Officer, Benjamin Busse makes it a point to do so.
He tells us: “As the CEO of Babilou Family Singapore, I believe in modelling the values that I’d want to inculcate within our organisation. To me, having a culture built on respect, teamwork, and openness is key. In doing that, it is important that humility is present as well as there is always something new for us to learn and discover from the people we work with.”
The leader stresses that this combination of values marks the foundation of the company culture, adding that he is a “huge believer” in open and transparent communication in his interactions — both with his direct reports, and with everyone else within the organisation.
He continues: “Beyond initiating open communication, I also encourage leaders to create an environment that encourages the sharing of information between themselves and their team members. With this, our leaders are encouraged to set proper rituals with their team and employees to create a safe space where thoughts and concerns can be expressed openly, feedback is encouraged, and two-way communication takes place.
“All these are essential to building and growing a team that is both efficient and successful.”
On that note, he points out, as the leaders set up this culture of openness, there is a need to work closely with team members on key HR milestones. This includes providing clear objectives of their roles and conducting appraisals as an update on their growth and progression.
To help spur the growth of its leaders, Busse adds, the organisation has initiated training on management and communication as this will support them in making informed decisions and communicating clearly and effectively to their team and stakeholders.
Sharing some words of wisdom, he says:
“As a whole, being a leader is about being accessible and available to support the team – as well as celebrating your team’s successes, commending them for the effort put in and sharing feedback whenever there is a need.
“With this, I’d remind our leaders of the importance of being open when providing feedback, even when things do not look bright, as this will help their team members identify areas of improvement and encourage growth along the way.”
Avenues for educators and other talents to grow their career
In a time when encouragement, employee development, and the right corporate culture can go a long way, choosing the right employer in the early childhood education industry can make or break how long an educator, or any professional, chooses to stay with the industry.
That is why Babilou Family Singapore keenly affirms its position in the industry as an employer where the workforce wants to stay, develop, and educate future talents.
Internationally, the Babilou Family Group has a network of more than 1,000 nurseries and a presence in 12 countries around the world. In Singapore, this includes preschool brands as well as a student care brand (listed above) that you may spot on a day out.
All images / Provided by Babilou Family Singapore