What you Need to Know before your Next Hire
Unsuccessful hires are costly to all involved. Learn from the mistakes of others by discovering what the experts always see in the most successful nanny placements.
The Cost of Making the Wrong Hire
In the corporate world, you will often hear about the difference between hard cost versus soft cost. Simply put, the hard cost we can easily measure, and the soft cost is more elusive. In the nanny business, there is an additional cost that comes with this line of work and we refer to it as the “emotional cost.”
The amount of time it takes to search for and hire a nanny (or conversely, the amount of time it takes to find a job) is costly in ways that we can certainly measure. Whether you are a family or a nanny, this includes the time it takes to define how best to have your needs met. Or the time it takes to interview and negotiate work agreements. However, the emotional cost is impossible to measure and in the end, it is probably the highest of the three. There is an emotional toll on both the hiring parent and the nanny employee. We call this “emotional labor.” Unlike a job where you clock in and clock out, you become invested in the lives of other humans and their outcomes. A few examples of industries with a high level of emotional labor are the healthcare industry and education.
In the nanny world, parents are seeking someone to care for their children, in their home. A work environment doesn’t get much more personal than that. The nanny is seeking a family they can connect with. They seek to care for children whose lives they will have a long-term impact on. They seek a job with stability via a stable income and schedule. The family wants the best care they can find, someone who will keep their children safe and engaged, and will hopefully stay with them long-term.
If the family hires wrong, they will be doing all of this again soon and every area of their life will be affected by the disruption. Childcare is arguably the most stabilizing factor for working parents. When childcare is shaky or falls apart, the parent’s personal and professional lives are heavily impacted. When a nanny takes a job that is not a good fit for the long haul, it will affect more than just their finances. It will impact their mental health and wellbeing. Worse, their employment history may take a hit if they leave the job earlier than agreed upon or their employer withholds a positive reference. All this adds up to a major toll on both the parent employer and the nanny. Therefore, hiring right is imperative.
In our experience making nanny placements in private homes for nearly 30 years, we have found the following tips to be helpful in making a hiring decision that will last. Here is what we have learned from the most successful nanny placements.
1. Communicating Expectations
Before a family even sets out to conduct a search for a successful nanny placement, they must carefully define their needs. There is a lot to think about in addition to the care of the children.
Parents should ask themselves about their own parenting philosophy and how they wish to have that replicated in the care of their children. Parents should first agree with each other before inviting a nanny to share the duty. (Is it positive parenting? Gentle parenting? Authoritative parenting)? How about how they want their children to learn? Should it be collaborative or independent? Are there certain teaching methods the parents wish to have their children exposed to, such as Montessori or Reggio Emilia?
What duties would it be helpful for the nanny to contribute to with regard to the ongoing functioning of the home? Clarifying job responsibilities before the hiring process will help any candidates who are interviewing to get a full understanding of what is expected of them.
The nanny should ask themselves if the ages they have the most experience with align with the ages of the children they wish to care for. What duties are they comfortable with taking on? Do they feel comfortable driving children? Would they drive them in their own car, or prefer a family to provide a vehicle for transportation of the kids? Are they okay with pets? How about pet care? Some nannies will offer to do children’s laundry but do not like to do the parent’s laundry. Nannies should make sure they go into the interview with a clear idea of what they will and won’t do. Be prepared to be firm before accepting a job that may not work in the long term.
Both parties should attempt to set realistic expectations and openly discuss them prior to initiating employment. Implementing a schedule for regular “check-ins” will help to keep expectations aligned. As responsibilities change, both parents and nanny should be flexible to adapt as children’s needs change. In anticipation of these inevitable changes, as the kids grow, it would be wise to build in periodic formal check-ins.
2. Employment Agreements
It cannot be said enough how essential it is to put in writing what is expected of all parties. This can come in the form of a formal contract or a statement of understanding. The most successful nanny placements always begin with a written agreement.
Think of the job as a journey. Without a map, how will you know where you are going? The written word will be a neutral point of reference to revisit whenever there is confusion or a misunderstanding around expectations. Monthly or quarterly check-ins specifically designed to address changes to the agreement will remove the awkwardness of bringing it up only when an issue creeps up.
A critical element of the agreement may be to define compensation. This includes not just the rate of pay, but what happens when inclement weather takes place. Will the nanny still be paid if weather conditions prohibit them from getting to work? Will they be paid if the family takes an unplanned vacation? What holidays can they expect to be paid for, or have off unpaid? What about when the parents are late, will there be overtime? The compensation includes not just paid time off but sometimes stipends for education, safety training, or health insurance. Building these items into the agreement also goes a long way in demonstrating the value a nanny brings to the family who employs them.
Although the nanny industry is largely unregulated there are organizations fighting for the rights of domestic laborers, which is the category of labor that nanny work falls into. Some cities and states offer protections to nannies that many of them are unaware they even have due to the laws being so new. There is also a push to make this national law so that all working nannies can expect the same rights that other workers enjoy.
In the absence of regulation, it is important to have as much clarification as possible around the job pay, duties, and expectations in the form of a written agreement.
It is the job of the parent employers to make sure the nanny has the tools they need to succeed. Remember that your home is someone’s workplace.
Provide necessary resources and tools
A nanny who is caring for infants will need different work-related products than one who is helping to raise toddlers or school-age children. The most successful nanny placements take stock of what is needed in the home to be sure the nanny can carry out their duties from day to day.
Ensuring a comfortable and safe work environment
The home environment should be conducive to caring for children, taking their ages and individual needs into consideration. The environment should be clean and organized. If the health department were to visit a private family home and give them a rating similar to that of a restaurant, how would they rate your home? These are the things to consider when having someone spend their day as a working professional in the space.
Investing in the nanny’s skills and knowledge
Encouraging ongoing learning and growth through training and professional development is important to every nanny we have ever represented. The most successful nanny placements know this. There are so many educational opportunities available to this unique line of work. There are also added skillsets such as pediatric mental health certifications, and behavioral health training.
A family can show they care for their nanny and children by offering to invest in training. They will be more likely to retain their nanny and achieve success in the long run.
5. Show you Value the Relationship
The work of nannies and educators is undervalued. The work can be challenging, and the burnout rate is high. The most successful nanny placements are based on trust and demonstrating value.
There are so many ways to show the nanny you appreciate what they do. Don’t wait for a special occasion or a particularly challenging day to let them know how much you appreciate them.
Those parents who recognize this and preemptively demonstrate how much they value the work their nanny does will boost morale and nurture a positive work environment. Nannies tend to be very invested in their work and loyal to the families and children they care for. The most successful placements we see are the ones where parents make the effort to ensure their nanny feels appreciated.