What should be in your early years induction policy and how can you implement it effectively?

The value of induction

‘..a process often credited with the reduction of turnover early in the employment relationship is the presence of effective and timely induction.’
           Torrington et al (2005)

Induction is a process by which you welcome new staff into your organisation, supporting them and helping them to familiarise themselves with your routines, your ethos and your way of doing things. It will be interpreted in different ways by individual companies or organisations, but whatever system you use induction should be viewed as the first phase of a person’s professional development within your setting. It will be followed by appraisal and your own ongoing staff development or performance management programme.

EYU spoke to two nursery managers about induction, focusing in one case on the process of induction and how it can be adapted to your setting and in the other on the manager’s experience of the process.

Setting up your induction programme

Sue Mellors leads Nottingham University’s Day Nursery, which has achieved its Investor in People award. EYU summarises her views on the benefits of an induction policy and how to adapt it to your setting

Why have an induction period?
The induction period reduces some of the stress that people encounter when starting a new job and as such it is an effective way to welcome new members of staff to your organisation. It introduces new members of staff to the existing staff, as well as being a time for existing staff to meet their new colleagues. It is also a time when you can identify the strengths of each new staff member, and the priorities for their future development.

How long should an induction period last?
There is no right time. At Nottingham University Day Nursery induction lasts for about three months. During this time staff must show that they can reach the expected standards for them. It can be extended by a further three months if necessary, with specific performance targets and training. In essence the induction period never stops, it merely moves into staff development through the appraisal system.

Setting up a structured induction programme
If you are at the stage of creating your induction policy, or perhaps making some changes to your current programme, you should be thinking about why you will have an induction programme and what the individuals, the children and the setting will gain. Think about what you can expect the new member of staff to know, and what they should be able to do, as a result of involvement in the programme,

Your induction policy
First decide what you want to achieve by having this policy. For Nottingham University Day Nursery, the broad aim of the policy is to ensure that staff are fully integrated and fully operative members of staff assisting in the achievement of departmental and organisational objectives. The objectives you set will be made explicit in other policies and documents that you already have. You then need to detail:

  • Who will be carrying out the induction programme, and whether  people will take on the possible roles of mentoring, coaching or shadowing the new staff member.
  • What will be covered in the programme. Go through all of the things you expect your staff to know and decide which matters are so important that they must be covered right at the start of this person’s employment with you: health and safety, care practice, as well as the daily routines and codes of practice that you adhere to.
  • Where and when the induction will take place. Some of it will be whilst working with the children, other aspects will be at times when both members of staff can have time away from the children.
  • How it will take place. What resources will be needed, which policies, handbooks etc should be gathered together for the programme?

There are some common features to the contents of any induction policy, although it will have to reflect the size of your setting, the availability of staff and the way you organise responsibilities. Nottingham University Day Nursery uses the following headings in its policy. Some of them may suit your needs:

  • Why induction is important
  • The individual, the team and the organisation
  • Policies and procedures
  • Inducting, coaching, mentoring, assessing: roles, responsibilities and accountability
  • Appraisal and target setting
  • Individual development plans
  • Evaluation and review.

They also include some useful checklists

Nottingham University Day Nursery has an induction booklet for each work area that each new staff member is given when they first start. This booklet covers the essentials of their first week in employment and provides a blank time grid for their first week that they complete with the person carrying out their induction.

The benefits of a structured approach to induction

Sue Mellors listed the following benefits of a structured approach to induction:

  • Avoiding overload of information for the new staff member.
  • Ensuring that all essential information is shared.
  • Giving a focus to each day.
  • Providing a sense of progress as responsibilities increase.
  • Assisting integration into the team.
  • Providing time to reflect, question and clarify.
  • New staff become integrated members of the team more quickly.
  • Existing staff are clear about their roles with regard to the new staff.
  • Existing staff have clear expectations of the new staff.
    Avoids duplication.

Benefits for the manager: Sue knows that the staff are all inducted properly when the programme is followed:

  • A system of signing to say that new staff have been shown how policies are implemented, that they have been coached in implementing them, and then observed implementing them.
  • All new staff can then be deemed competent to undertake their duties.

Benefits for the children:

    • They have a confident and competent team of carers, working together in a consistent manner and in such a way that their health, safety, welfare, education and care needs are met.

Benefits for the business:

    • It assists in developing a shared culture.
    • It gives clarity of understanding to your mission statement and goals.
    • It places each staff member’s role in perspective across the whole team.
    • It ensures that all staff are treated equally.
    • It identifies processes by which staff develop an understanding of their role and their responsibilities.
    • It clarifies priorities.
[Reference: Torrington D, Hall L and Taylor S (2005, 6th edition) Human Resource Management. Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd]

Managing the induction process

Mary Mahoney was a day nursery manager and is now general manager of childcare and compliance for the Wind in the Willows nursery group. EYU summarises her views on the value of the induction process

Making time for induction
You will certainly have to make time to create the right programme for your setting. After that it should be a straightforward process. If it is taking up a lot of your time ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it organised so as to be as efficient and as effective as possible?
  • What are the timescales that we’ve allowed – are they suitable?
  • Are we dealing with the most important aspects first, leaving the rest until later, or are we trying to do everything at once?

Think about your attitude to induction. You may feel that it’s time consuming because you are not convinced of its value. You must appreciate its value if you are to share that belief with your existing staff and with the new staff members. Look again at the list of potential benefits and discuss these with your staff.

Use induction as a motivational tool for the rest of your staff. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Delegate the responsibilities, taking note of the skills and the roles of existing staff. Provide some training so that you know that they will do the job well, and monitor their impact. This can make an existing staff member feel valued and recognised as someone who can contribute to the organisation.

Especially in small settings it may be difficult to organise for the new staff member and the person leading their induction to have time away from the children, but this isn’t always necessary. You will need to allow the new staff member some time away from the children to absorb the information you have given to them, but if you structure the input you should be able to make this a regular flow rather than a deluge. What is more important is that they are supported and observed working with the children, working alongside existing staff, becoming part of the team. The person you have delegated to mentor the new staff member will be able to provide on-the-job training.

As manager, part of your role is to observe your staff at work, so you could couple these tasks, observing the new staff member’s practice and role modelling good practice as any effective manager will be doing. Additionally, you could take the place of the mentor whilst she works with or talks with the new staff member.

Another concern for managers is that induction programmes could involve even more paperwork. It definitely shouldn’t add to your paperwork. You may need little more than a statement that the new staff member and the mentor sign to say that information has been shared, understood and observed in action, so that you know she is competent to take on the duties you assign to her.

As induction feeds into the appraisal system, you will have paperwork linked to that process which will be where you record information about the person’s professional development achievements and needs. Targets, training and support will be recorded here as for any other member of your staff.

Talking to the new staff member and observing her alongside her colleagues, the children and their parents/carers will be a more valuable use of your time, than doing paperwork on induction. Through this you will be able to ascertain her levels of knowledge and understanding, as well as her attitude and approach.

Retention of staff
If you have a high turnover of staff induction may seem like a waste of your time.

There may be times when you are so desperate for staff that you have to appoint the best that you can get, rather than the quality you actually were hoping for. In such cases a good induction programme can be the very thing that makes them stay and that turns a mediocre appointment into a good one. Staff like working in a setting where they are well led, managed, recognised and valued.

Making people feel valued is part of the induction process. Knowing that you are dedicating time and personnel to making sure that they settle in well, answering their queries and supporting them over this potentially difficult time can be a major boost to their self-esteem. Show them that you expect them to train further, that you want to develop their skills and their knowledge, to build on their experience so far, and that you will support them in this, to demonstrate your commitment to them in exchange for their commitment to your organisation.