7 Challenges to Leading and Managing Change in Your Nursery
Over the last 12 months we have gone through a period of significant change. No one would have been able to predict the ways in which early years leaders and nursery managers have had to lead and manage change in their settings. Some of these changes have been thrust upon us last minute, without any time to consider the impact before having to drive the change forward. Others have been more subtle, or allowed us more thinking time before we adapt our practice. In this blog post we will look at ways in which nursery managers and early years leaders can lead their teams through times of changes and transformation, identifying the challenges you may face by embedding change within your nursery and early years settings.
‘Change management is the overarching approach taken in an organisation to move from the current to a future desirable state using a coordinated and structured approach in collaboration with stakeholders’
We know that change is necessary in order to continually improve our practice and the services we offer to our children and families. However, change can also be uncomfortable. It can move us out of our comfort zone and create challenges that we have to think about, work harder to overcome and all this whilst convincing everyone else that they need to embrace the change too! Its easy to see why lots of people don’t like change!
The early years sector is one which adapts to change as we use research and updated knowledge to improve our practice and try new ways of working. Over the Covid-19 pandemic we have seen even more changes to our practice, ones which may not sit right with our setting’s visions and ethos, but have been necessary to keep children and staff teams safe. These changes can provide many challenges that we as nursery managers have had to accept and find solutions for. Let’s take a look at some of these challenges:
1. Changes to leadership
Over the pandemic, some early years leaders and managers have struggled with the challenges they face, resulting in them leaving the role completely and new leaders coming into their role. Or perhaps you have a new deputy manager or room leader in post. When new leaders or managers take on a leadership position, there will always be resistance to the change, particularly if there were internal applicants who didn’t get offered the position. It is inevitable that any new leader, attempting to make changes to practice, will face resistance from their teams, particularly when faced with a pandemic.
2. Changes to communication
With social distancing rules in place, your usual communication methods may have changed. Perhaps your staff meetings are now remote or in bubbles for example. With all the changes that have taken place over the pandemic, communication has been crucial to the success of an early years setting. Failure to communicate when a change occurs or is about to occur can cause huge problems within your staff team. If processes, procedures, the change of environment, set up or even just moving snack time, isn’t consistently communicated, to your team, further resistance to that change will no doubt occur. No matter how large or small the change may be, if employees are left out of the loop it can be disruptive.
3. Rationale behind the change
There will be a range of reasons why things may need to change. When we think about the pandemic, none of us could have predicted the changes we needed to embrace. Who would ever have imagined we would be taking children from their parents at the door, or using more hand sanitizer than we ever knew existed! Some of the changes were imposed upon us, we had no choice but to go along with them, whereas other changes we were more able to influence depending on the needs of our setting and our children. However, in order to truly embrace change, your team need to understand the rationale behind the change, particularly if they were quite happy with the way things were, thank you very much. It is important that your staff team truly understand the rationale behind any change, to fully understand why the change needs to happen in order to fully embrace it.
4.Not involving the whole team
Your staff meetings may not always include every member of your staff team, your cleaner, cook or maintenance person may not necessarily be in attendance when you communicate change to the rest of the team. Imagine your cleaner coming into a setting to clean the environment, following their usual routine, only to find that the environment has changed. This might impact on the routine that the cleaner has, they might question if they should put things back to how they were yesterday? Perhaps you’ve changed the routine to include some mindfulness activities, have you communicated this to the whole team? Not involving your full team in changes that need to be made can lead to frustrations and divisions amongst the team, and who needs that to deal with on top of everything else?
5. Changing too quickly
Not letting your team get used to an idea or giving them time to think it through can make it more difficult for them to embrace and implement the change. Over the last 12 months, we have had to change quickly and adapt to the challenges we were facing, but in terms of some of the changes we might like to embed now, we can take a different approach and enable some time for our team to get used to the ideas we want to implement. Giving them time to reflect on a change to their practice will enable them to not only embrace the change, but offer their own suggestions and thoughts around the change, making them feel valued and part of the team.
6. Not offering training
If you want your team to embrace a change or adopt a new way of working, its imperative that they fully understand and are able to put that change in place. Training new ways or techniques within your setting is important, especially if you have a team that learn differently. Plan some training that meets the needs of your workforce and you will find it far easier to embed the change efficiently. Think about the upcoming changes to the EYFS. Are you going to be making changes to your practice as a result and therefore expect your staff team to adapt o new ways of working? If so, how will you train them to ensure that they can fully implement what is expected of them?
7. Negativity towards the change
We know that change is inevitable and important if we are to continue improve our practice and the outcomes for children. However, some practitioners may think that any changes should have an immediate effect and may become disheartened and negative if they don’t see the results straight away. They may feel the change was pointless, that its not working and challenge the changes to practice. As a leader it is important that you set expectations in terms of when you expect any changes to show results and to review the change to ensure it is working correctly.
Change in any early years setting is often for the better, and even if the change in practice didn't have the desired outcomes, there will still be some positivity to be found in embracing the change in practice and giving it a go. But change isn't embedded easily and without its challenges. As nursery managers and early years leaders, our role is to inspire, support, communicate and train our team so that they feel able and wiling to embrace the change.
If you are looking for further training on supporting change within your environment, take a look at this downloadable session, which looks at theoretical change models to help you lead and manage change within your setting, as well as practical activities to drive change forward with your team onboard!