Casual educators are more than just cleaners

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Talent Now surveyed fifty educators about the good, the bad and the ugly of working casually. Many respondents had worked in permanent and casual positions and were able to provide great insights.

Most educators surveyed felt centres could do much more to get value from their casual staff. We were surprised (and a little dismayed) to find, the most common recommendation from educators was to share cleaning responsibilities fairly between permanent and casual staff.

One educator said, “Don’t just get casuals to clean… that’s a role for everybody!”. Another said she felt like she was “just a cleaner” and not there to assist with the children.

Luckily, it’s not all bad news! Frequently educators felt supported, informed and appreciated and we have included their experiences and recommendations below. It wasn’t surprising that most educators said the best part of their role is engaging with children and seeing them learn, play and grow, which we all know plays a huge factor in job satisfaction as an educator.

Check out the key insights below to see if there is anything your centre could stop, start or continue doing to get the most out of your casuals…regardless of how many hours they do in your centre.

THE GOOD

Good communication from the centre director and other staff in the room had a huge impact on their overall enjoyment at the centre.

Can’t get enough induction! Educators felt that a thorough induction helps them feel more confident, informed and valued. It helps them feel a part of your team, even if for a short while. Inductions that included staff names, emergency procedures, room routines, children’s names and relevant allergies (and any other relevant info specific to your centre or the children in the room) was hands down the most effective tool for them on a casual shift.

Nice to meet you! A smile and warm greeting goes a long way. Educators felt that being introduced to staff particularly the ones they will be in contact with during their shift was of great importance and was the difference between a good and a great day. Some educators also welcomed and encouraged being introduced to any parents who were present and felt this was reciprocated by parents.

Trust me, I’m a professional educator! Being trusted to run group activities as well as interact with the children makes casuals feel valued and respected.

Knowledge sharing! Some of the educators surveyed said they appreciated when directors and staff asked them about their experience. A simple question like, “Is there anything you would like to do with the children today?” can reveal so much and reap rewards for the centre.

Experienced educators have many wonderful tricks up their sleeve or in their resource bag. Many have several decades of experience and felt that once the centres knew this, they were treated more like a member of the team and not just “another casual”. One with a science degree said she has an “awesome kit of science resources and activities”that children love.

Thank you! The best experiences our casuals shared involved being treated as a team member, respected, appreciated and acknowledged for their work. We all value positive feedback.

“Every day as I left, the director would ask how my day was and if there were things they could improve on. It was nice to be asked my opinion.”

THE BAD

No person or centre is perfect and we wanted to uncover any common issues that centres could quickly assess and rectify to make the life of a casual just that little bit easier.

Hello! Don’t ignore me! Educators are here to help. Being ignored or bossed around never feels good. Tell them what you want. Give them a few tasks to get them started. Team them up with a buddy or mentor so they know where to get information from.

“Use me. I am more than a body in the room to fulfill ratio requirements.”

Be inclusive! Many of the casuals felt that they were often left out of conversations and generally ignored throughout the day. Many were only spoken to if there was a task that needed to be completed, leaving them feeling isolated and lonely. Simply by being asked how their day was going and other friendly conversation, the educators surveyed felt more respected and valued as a peer.

THE UGLY

We asked educators to think about the shifts that left them feeling underwhelmed and frustrated.

Don’t make assumptions! There’s a general misconception in the sector that educators are casual because they can’t get permanent work, or they are somehow less committed to the profession or inexperienced. Casuals are often working casually because of family commitments, study, health reasons or just to have a break from permanent employment to gain experience at difference centres.

Be reasonable! “I don’t mind changing nappies, but not for the whole room, all day. The worst part was the stress on the children who felt uncomfortable because I was not a familiar face.“

Casuals aren’t worth what you pay them! The reality is that casuals do not get sick leave, annual leave and other benefits and as such are paid a loading as part of the award.

Some of the respondents felt as though this myth of them being paid much more than their peers, created somewhat of a divide, resulting in jealousy and exclusion. Given that most casuals are paid no more than the award wage, it’s fair to say casuals choose this line of work for the love of it and not for the money.

In addition, the money centres pay agents for casuals is not what the casual gets paid. (****Just a friendly reminder that Talent Now saves centres 70% on the fees they would normally pay to an agency… ahem!****)

So what’s the big picture?

Anyone who has ever visited a childcare centre for more than 20 minutes can quickly gauge the effort it takes to manage such an operation smoothly.

Given the daily demands of rostering, paperwork, programming, supporting families, staff and children – nurturing your casuals can quickly become low on the priority list, which results in a less confident and demotivated casual workforce overall.

Many centres simply couldn’t keep their doors open without the talented pool of casuals who, on a daily basis, are willing to drop everything and head off to work in a centre they’ve never been to with a team they’ve never met.

The next time you have a casual in the centre, adopt some of our takeaways to ensure you get the most value out of your casuals. See our summary of the survey by clicking on links for centres and educators below.

For more information on Talent Now, click here or email info@talentnow.com.au

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