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Communicating Effectively With Staff

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Effective communication can be understood as communication between two or more persons wherein the intended message is successfully delivered, received and understood. Since so much of the work in an early childhood education and care setting consists of listening, understanding and exchanging insights, effective communication makes up one of the key tools in the skill set for anyone running and/or leading a centre. The following article provides information on How Effective Communication Help, Basic Steps Of Effective Communication, Modes Of Communication, Difficult Conversations and more. 

How Effective Communication Help

When team members communicate well, they are more effective in looking after the educational and care needs of children, thereby ensuring positive outcomes which is after all the goal of any ECEC service.

Good communication can prevent misunderstandings between service and staff, like in matters related to pay, working conditions, roles and responsibilities.

Effective communication is crucial when an emergency at the service has to be averted, contained and resolved. Unless all staff at a centre are on the same page, the damage from a crisis can be much larger and more lasting.

Basic Steps Of Effective Communication

The first skill needed for effective communication is to actively listen to what is said to you.

  • Focus on the speaker – perhaps an educator wants to share an observation with you or a trainee teacher wants to discuss a concern. And as you listen, avoid thinking about how you are going to respond – there will be a time for that later.
  • Listen with your eyes as well as ears. Make eye contact as you listen and tune in to vocal inflections and pauses as much as to the words. All this will help you not only register the message being conveyed in the communication but also important subtexts like fidgety limbs indicating a worried team member or lacklustre responses implying exhaustion.
  • Also do not interrupt or finish your speaker’s sentences. This takes the attention completely away from what the other person is saying and focuses it on your own words.

The second step in effective communication is to process the information that you have received. Among the ways you can do this is by

  • Repeating or summarizing what you have been told in your own words to ensure that you have understood the speaker correctly.
  • Seeking clarification on any points that you might not completely understand.
  • Probing for missing information
  • Asking reflective, “Why made you arrive at that understanding?” or open-ended questions,” Can you tell me a little more about that” for a comprehensive understanding of the situation.

Knowing how to respond is perhaps the most complex aspect of effective communication. You can make this easier by remembering to

  • Be courteous; even when you may have to convey something difficult, ensure that you are respectful of your staff’s feelings and values. When talking to a staff member, be considerate of their religious/cultural background, gender identities and home arrangements.
  • Respond with empathy both in your words and body language; at the same time though, be genuine and honest as your staff will not benefit by any sugar-coating of the truth, no matter how difficult it may to accept such information, at first.
  • Spend time and effort in rapport building so that even if you may have to communicate difficult matters, your staff will trust and respect you enough to hear you out. Honouring commitments, being fair and transparent and modelling desirable behaviours are some valuable ways of creating goodwill with people working with you. Anticipating problems and addressing them as soon as they crop up as well as demonstrating professionalism in classroom and centre environments are other ways of building and sending out the message that you are a leader they can trust in their communications.

Modes Of Communication

Every service needs to put in place systematic modes and channels of communication not only to ensure optimum teamwork and staff efficiency but also to give them ways of sharing their inputs or difficulties, in case they are facing any. Some channels of communication that may be to communicate effectively are:

  • Staff Handbook – Apart from containing general information like the centre's mission statement and philosophy of operation, copies of all relevant policies, days and times of operation, ways to address illness or absence as well as contact information, staff handbooks should include an appropriate way of behaviour management in children, accepted methods of interacting with parents, pay schedules along with staff performance objectives and conduct policies.
  • Electronic communication – Different forms of digital communication are often the most expedient way to reach staff after hours or when documents and media have to be passed on to all. If you plan to use email as a regular means of communication with staff, ensure that they are aware of this and know to check their email routinely for communications from the centre. Have a system in place for the staff to store their current home email addresses and update them in case of changes. Phone text messages, directly or on groups, are rapidly becoming the most preferred way of informal communication with employees across the world. Your service’s website or social media account might be other ways of communicating electronically with your staff. Text messages and emails can also be used as mass communication resources during emergencies or unplanned changes. This will allow you to quickly share time-sensitive information and ensure that everyone is kept in the loop.
  • Meetings - Holding meetings with your staff is perhaps the most effective way to ensure two-way, real-time communication. To make, the most of your staff meetings, send out the schedule in advance to all staff members and follow a concise agenda. Use this platform to discuss any new issues, resolve problems if possible and inform staff of upcoming events. At times one-to-one sessions may be required, for example to support a staff member through challenging times or if they approach you to share difficulties they have been facing.
  • Gather feedback -  Part of effective communication with staff also involves being cued into what is not being said aloud. So put in place a mechanism that allows you to collect feedback, like with a strategically placed suggestion box or Google Forms with privacy settings so as to keep submissions anonymous. Such measures will not only make it possible for service to have an ear to the ground, so to speak, but address staff dissatisfactions in time to ensure better staff retention.
  • Be flexible - While systems and processes are great to ensure regular communication, sometimes it may to adopt a more flexible approach. As a director or administrator, you would know your staff very well and thus be aware that they might have their own preferred mode of communication; so for example, while one educator may be open to chat updates, another might prefer face-to-face dialogue while still another may wish to send you written updates. Understandably it may not be possible to always cater to individual communication styles, especially when running a large service, but allowing for some personal preference, particular in minor matters may go a long way in keeping channels of communication open.

Collaborate On Difficult Conversations

As a director or administrator, there are bound to be times when you have to face difficult conversations, like educators negotiating a pay hike or reinforcing professional obligations to a staff member. If not handled with care and patience, such discussions have the potential of going out of hand and quickly building up to unpleasant exchanges. So prepare yourself accordingly by scheduling a time and place to talk to the concerned staff member in person. This will ensure privacy and minimal disturbance so that you both are comfortable discussing complex matters.  Most importantly, show that the negotiation is not an opportunity for you to exercise your authority but an opportunity to investigate how things can be made better for all parties. Through verbal and non-verbal cues, convey your willingness to collaborate with the staff and work together to find a solution.

Make opportunities for your staff to brush up on their communication skills as well. You can do this by planning a communication workshop at your centre so that they can share their own experiences, hear from guest experts on the topic and practice a few communication strategies. Hosting such sessions before the start of a new school year will not only mean minimum disruption of children’s routines but ensure that each educator can put their best foot forward with their new classroom.

Further Reading 

Building Relationships with Families and Co-Workers - This article will provide you with practical and useful strategies you can easily implement in your centre, to begin building positive relationships with families, co-workers and specialists in order to work together in building partnerships between childcare professionals and parents.

Handling Conflicts - The following article provides information on conflict resolution skills, managing and resolving conflicts, common issues to resolve and more. 

Managing Underperforming Educators - The following article is a guide for Lead Educators/Directors and those in charge of Educators within a setting, to understand underperformance, common performance issues, how to solve them and more. 

References:
Effective Communication, City Guilds Educational Institute
Why Communication Is Important, Kinderpass Institute 
Ways To Communicate With Staff At Day Care, Small Businesses

Created On July 21, 2022 Last modified on Thursday, July 21, 2022
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