How to Have
Better Staff Meetings in Your Nursery
Time to make meetings useful again.

It’s a classic scene. Practitioners daydream, sigh, or start to nod off. Managers carry on regardless, frustrated that no one is offering any ideas or even properly listening to what’s going on.

Almost nothing gets done, only more problems get created. To-do-lists grow and grow.

Does this sound familiar? It really shouldn’t. Staff meetings are an invaluable time to get key information to your staff, focus on their development and stay on top of everything that is going on in the setting. So how do you make them more productive, more efficient, and less of a time-drain? Let’s see shall we?

How long should this thing be?

Most early years settings hold staff meetings once a month, usually for around an hour. Goals tend to be split into three categories:

  • Sharing vital information with staff
  • Reflecting on nursery issues and safeguarding
  • Training

An hour could seem quite short but research says that people in professions where they have long days with a lot of human interaction find it hard to focus for much longer.

Keeping your meetings on target

So how do you cram everything you need to discuss into just one hour then? Well, it all starts with getting more organised. Here are some of our ideas on how to do just that.

1. Prepare an agenda and try to stick to it

Take careful notes during the staff meeting to get feedback on how well your agenda aligns with the actual needs of the nursery and your staff.

Ending up with heated discussions on a certain topic? Ask your staff if you need to allocate some more time on a separate occasion to deal with it specifically. Don’t overdo the feedback here. Just stop and ask: “Do you want to meet separately over this?”



2. Keep it focused and targeted
Make sure that cases which don’t involve the whole nursery team get dealt with in smaller groups. If a member of staff seems to go on and on about a certain incident or is getting a little emotional and personal about it, for example, you can invite them to a one-on-one to clear things up in a smaller setting.

If the issue is getting personal, dealing with it when the whole staff team are there isn’t going to work. What’s more, it’s going to end up derailing the meeting. Remember, getting the most out of this small meeting is all about sticking to the plan.

3. Is the purpose of your meeting getting blurry?
According to a study published by the University of Nebraska on the psychology of meeting purposes, staff meetings tend to either be ‘instrumental’ or ‘content-based’. What this means is that participants of staff meetings either want to solve a task (instrumental) or discuss a certain topic (content-based). It is good if you decide in advance which way you want to go.

Our advice is that you pay close attention to the needs of your staff. Practitioners are in the company of children their whole working day and they have to be on their toes at all times. If your staff meetings turn into a wind-down or a social event, maybe it’s time to encourage your staff to meet socially outside work. You can initiate such events yourself and see how your team turn into a tight-knit bunch as a result.

Nicky, who works at a busy private nursery in central London, says staff meetings never last longer than 30 minutes at her setting, because her boss is so superbly organised.

 

She lays aside everything urgent on the one hand and anything that needs more detailed attention on the other – these things get addressed in different setups.

 

The weekly staff meeting is for regular business, which is usually completed in about 20 minutes after which “staff casually go into a more chatty mindset”. The weekly meetings are complemented by routine checks at the start of each day, which are quick updates of a few minutes each to make sure things go off without a hitch in the plans.”

Nicky, Private Day Nursery, Central London

Quick tips for making your staff meetings better

Feeling ready to get those meetings on the straight and narrow? Here are some quick tips that you can introduce when you’re ready to make sure that your staff meetings fly.

Getting organised

  • Have established procedures in place for organising a meeting – both last minute and regular ones. By doing this you’re respecting your staff’s time and respecting the sacrifices they make to be a part of the team.
  • Find the venue that works best for you. The office or a café? A local pub? Going off-site may be worth your while once or twice a year, for special occasions and to keep it fresh.
  • Put out the ‘do not disturb sign’ and be strict on a no phone policy. People don’t need an extra reason to switch off. If you can stay on task and be more organised, the meeting will be over more quickly and staff are going to be far happier.

Personal and career development

  • There are sometimes difficult or annoying obstacles to productive staff meetings. You think it was left behind in school, but peer-pressure exists in the workplace, too. Make sure you snip conflicts in the bud and create a safe, positive work environment.
  • Topics that aren’t strictly connected to the early years can still promote self-development goals and become a part of a big-picture career plan for your staff. Assess your team’s training needs in this respect, too.

Anything else?

  • Give some thought in advance to the fact that a lot of different people are going to need your attention in the setting. Keep everyone in mind when you’re planning the meeting: the child, the practitioner, the parent, the leadership, the safeguarding officer. Make sure no-one is missing out.
  • Make sure you formally switch to “meeting mode”. This is sometimes hard, but when attention starts to fade, the agenda also moves slower.
  • Prioritising problems is key and this should be reflected in your agenda. Urgent issues might come first, and more open topics can come towards the end. Make sure you do leave time for long-term planning and self-development goals for the staff too.
  • High staff turnover can make cohesion at meetings difficult. If this is a problem in your setting, make sure you have clear and consistent roles among staff so everyone knows what to do and who to turn to.
  • Make sure people know who to turn to if they have further thoughts at a later date. Don’t forget that everything you say in those four walls is going to have an afterlife when people get a chance to reflect on it themselves later on.



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