Saturday, September 5, 2009

Essential Tools for Communication

Communication. It is key to a successful relationship. Over 90% of failed relationships between ANC employers and employees are the result of ineffective or no communication at all. A very frustrating statistic as we wonder how many of these relationships could have been saved.

Many nannies express frustration over the lack of regular communication with their employers. Caregivers working in a relatively isolated environment depend upon the feedback of their employers. How else can they gauge their performance and work on enhancing it?

Employers are oftentimes reluctant to give honest feedback for fear of an employee calling it quits. We are saddened by how many potentially great relationships are undermined by a lack of ongoing and direct communication

In every orientation pack, our new nannies and families receive a hand out on "Guidelines for Effective Nanny Employer Communication". As veterans and pioneers in the in home childcare movement we know just difficult communication can be in the face of conflict or frustration

The relationship between caregiver and employer is a dynamic one. As the relationship evolves, developmentally, it is crucial that the channels of communication are open and in good health Avoidance can be fatal. It is tragic when a child loses a great caregiver over an issue that could have been resolved through communication and a strong working relationship. Every nanny and family should be invested enough to make this a priority. The child, after all, is the priority.

The Tools

1. Every employer and employee should have a clear and written job description that clarifies responsibilities and expectations. A work agreement between both parties is also essential and provides a sound foundation for the relationship.

2. Orientation. Every employer needs to provide an orientation period for their new employee. This is the time for adaptation and giving lots of valuable training and feedback on performance. It is unfair to throw a new employee into a new nanny position with out this important period. New employees should take advantage of this opportunity by being invested and raising questions about the job and children as they emerge.

3. An effective employer is generous with positive feedback and praise of good performance. They are also calm and patient when it comes to giving employees opportunities for improvement on performance. Accentuate all critical feedback by leading in with positive feedback, first.

4. Schedule weekly or bi weekly meetings. By routinizing meetings issues will be brought to the table and both parties will have the opportunity to give each other positive and constructively critical feedback. This assures that the channels will remain open through out the duration of the employment contract. Once the "honeymoon" is over the scheduled meeting will be a safety valve.

5. Meeting Agenda. Plan ahead and make a list of priorities. Include discussion of expectations, responsibilities, issues, performance, and mutual goals. This is the time to explore mutual feedback and experience of the relationship. Employers should not fear bringing up areas of improvement for employee and employees should not fear brings up concerns about their job or employer. Feedback is essential for employee performance development and growth. It is also essential for employer development, growth and effectiveness.

6. Respect your employee by consulting in advance about any changes in schedule, responsibilities, procedures or other employment matters.

7. I-Statements build bridges. You- statements can bring down a relationship.

I- statements reveal important information about us and do so in a way that is far less accusatory and threatening than You-statements. I -statements provide a solid foundation for employer and employee by encouraging connection and building trust. I-messages are a way of expressing a problem to another person without accusing them of causing the problem. Too often, when a nanny or employer has a problem they let loose with a you-statement.

Example: Nanny to Employer: You were late last night and I missed my class.

By phrasing it in this way the employer is likely to respond defensively

" Did you want me to tell my last patient to take his symptoms and go home?"

A better approach to the same issue would be through the use of an I-statement.

Nanny to Employer: I am becoming concerned about not attending enough classes. I know how busy you are. Is there a way to work this out?

While this might not totally eradicate the problem it sets a tone and climate of mutual respect and cooperation. It will also help the health of the future working relationship. Always be prepared to compromise.

8. Be direct and honest. It is important to lay cards and issues on the table. Be clear, do not hint or talk too abstractly. Neither party is a mind reader. Sometimes nannies or employers are totally clueless.

9. Be an active listener. This is especially true for employers who have so much power in this relationship. Avoid interrupting and really listen instead of waiting for your turn to talk. Employers need to practice the art of empathy and give the support and respect that will let your nanny know she is an integral part of the team. Employees, too, need to give undivided attention and listen.

10. Be sure to keep each other in the communication loop. Oftentimes it is difficult to make time for the important updates, reminders, or disclosure of information that employer or nanny relies upon. Texting is one way to get information moving back and forth; another is leaving notes for each other. At ANC we encourage our nannies to keep daily logs. This is a very efficient way of making sure that parents are totally informed. We also encourage employers to respond and add important updates as well.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Knowing When To Let Go

Knowing When To Let Go
For many of my clients finding a new nanny is more daunting and painful than undergoing root canal surgery. In my role, I am often asked my opinion on whether or not to keep a nanny on at certain pivotal points in the life cycle of the relationship.

Some parents out of fear will hold on even when they know that it is time to move on. How does a parent know when it is time to transition out of one arrangement and into another? Here are are some helpful tips or questions to raise.

1. Has your nanny expressed interest in ending? If so, it is unwise to pressure someone to stay on when they have decided that they want to end.

2.Are your nanny's strengths more aligned with the stages and needs of infancy? If so perhaps your toddler is ready for a nanny more adept at working with toddlers.

3. Are you experiencing constant issues that are not getting resolved? Every relationship has some conflict but if your relationship has become conflict-habituated it is probably time to terminate.

4. Are your children unhappy? Chemistry is important If your nanny has not bonded with one of your children it might be wise to make a change.

5. Are you seeking certain changes in the job description and responsibilities that do not play to your current nanny's skill set and interests? Make sure that your nanny is really interested and invested in this change.