Where are the best employees hiding?

The right people can make a huge difference to your business. Having the right team in place is the difference between your business being a constant struggle or being a dream-come-true.

But where are the right people hiding? And how can you get them to join your business?

Lee O’Neill of Little Bear’s Nursery passes on his advice in this great interview.

Why are the people you hire so vital to the success of your childcare business?

Our quality team are a key aspect to the delivery of our childcare service, ensuring a safe and caring environment in which our children can learn and play. The people we hire are taken on to support our team and, as such, we have stringent interview and selection criteria to maximise the success of the new team member in both meeting our standards; and, integrating into the team to further drive our quality provision.


What is the most important thing to have in mind when hiring someone?

There are a number of pre-selection criteria which must be met including experience, qualification, aptitude, presentation, team-working, and the individual’s health. Once these factors have been assured, I believe the most important requirement is the candidate’s passion for caring and educating children.

Have you made any mistakes when hiring someone in the past?

Yes. Like most things in life, when mistakes happen one has to identify and correct the mistake quickly. All staff are engaged on a Probationary Period which is specifically set-out as a mechanism to enable the monitoring of new members to ensure their practice is consistent with the interview process, thereby allowing for any necessary correction.

Why do you think some childcare businesses find it so hard to find reliable staff?

Irrespective of the industry sector, recruitment is difficult. There are many statistics on the likelihood of recruiting the right person via an interview – and they are typically less than 20%. These odds increase inline with the recruitment diligence performed by the employer

At Little Bear’s, we believe that a three or four stage (depending on roles) recruitment process enables us to ensure that, firstly, we do not fail to offer the right candidate; and secondly, do not offer the wrong candidate. This recruitment strategy is safeguarded by our Probationary Period where behaviour, attitude, and capability can be monitored (and corrected) within the workplace.

That said, there is a shortage of quality candidates and competition for good candidates is high; so, you need to make your offer to stand out from the crowd. Schools are recruiting more Level 3 qualified candidates, offering higher state funded salaries, school hours and school holidays, which is a more attractive proposition than that of a full-day, full-year, daycare setting.

Many school leavers are pushed into the childcare route without a clear understanding of the demands of the role. NVQ training courses do not appear to furnish them with a good understanding of child development or the EYFS; consequently, they are not always furnished with the skills to fully understand and carry out the role effectively.

How do you help a new recruit fit into the existing mould of your business?

Typically, when people start with a new employer, they fundamentally desire to norm with the Team; understand the jobs requirements; and, ultimately, to perform the role to the best of their abilities. It is the management’s responsibility, from Room Leader to Nursery Manager, to ensure there is no ambiguity surrounding any of these aspects and to ensure the integration of the new employee into the team – this is the second stage of recruitment.

When a new employee is a great fit, what more can they bring to your business than just extra man power?

A team or organisation that fails to grow and develop is an entity that is waiting to fail. Every team member will have experience and/or opinion which need to be assessed and, if appropriate, implemented. We do not support the all too frequent syndrome of “not invented here” – all suggestions need to be probed; assessed; questioned; and, ripped-down or implemented. That’s one aspect of our business learning and development.

What’s your one top recruitment tip to anyone looking to hire their first employee?

You’re first employee is joining an individual and not a team. They will become the building block upon which your team is built – treat this crucial hire accordingly.