Understanding and Addressing High Turnover in Early Childhood Education

Published on July 19, 2023 by MustardHub Admin

High turnover rates within the field of early childhood education (ECE) have been a persistent issue, with practitioners often experiencing stress and dissatisfaction. We explore the factors contributing to high turnover in the ECE sector and suggest potential solutions to mitigate this problem, emphasizing the impact on both practitioners and the children in their care.

Factors Fueling High Turnover in Early Childhood Education

ECE practitioners, responsible for the important task of nurturing and educating young children, face a range of challenges that can lead to turnover. Countless industry research identifies key factors that predict high turnover:

  • Extensive Time Demands: ECE professionals are often required to meet extensive time demands, including long working hours and the need to juggle multiple responsibilities. This can lead to burnout, making them more likely to leave their positions.
  • Poor Compensation: Inadequate compensation is a significant issue. Low salaries and limited benefits can be demotivating, making practitioners seek better-paying opportunities elsewhere.
  • Lack of Social Support: Practitioners who feel isolated or unsupported by their colleagues and supervisors may experience increased stress, which can contribute to turnover.
  • Personal Stressors: External personal stressors, such as family or financial pressures, can exacerbate the difficulties associated with the demanding nature of ECE work. This may push practitioners to seek less stressful alternatives.
  • Demographic Factors: Characteristics such as years of experience in the field and the perceived level of support from colleagues and supervisors are also predictors of turnover. Supportive work environments tend to lower turnover rates.
  • Organizational Factors: Perhaps the most influential factor is the organization itself. Characteristics like role ambiguity, excessive workloads, quality of interactions, compensation, and practitioner involvement all play a role in whether practitioners choose to stay or leave.

Impact of Turnover on Businesses

High turnover in ECE negatively affects multiple aspects of the profession, including practitioners’ job performance, the quality of education, and children’s overall development.

Practitioner Performance: ECE professionals experiencing factors linked to turnover may make fewer impactful contributions within the work environment. This can result in less developmentally appropriate practices, slowing children’s development, hindering relationship quality, and reducing the number of learning opportunities.

Child Development: Children’s success in ECE is closely tied to stable, consistent relationships with caregivers. High turnover disrupts these relationships and adversely affects children’s social-emotional and cognitive development.

Work Environment and Colleagues: Turnover has a ripple effect. One practitioner’s negative feelings toward an organization can influence others. This creates a cycle of turnover and further diminishes the work environment’s quality.

Financial Impact: Replacing and training new staff is not only emotionally taxing but also financially burdensome. Recruiting and training new personnel can cost up to 20% of an employee’s annual salary.

Solutions to Reduce Turnover in ECE

Understanding the factors contributing to high turnover in ECE is crucial, but it is equally 

important to find solutions to address this ongoing challenge. Here are several strategies to retain ECE practitioners more effectively:

  • Competitive Wages: Settings that provide competitive wages and educational opportunities for practitioners are found to have lower turnover rates. Investing in higher wages can attract and retain experienced professionals.

Comprehensive Benefits: Health and wellness is critical to a happy, productive staff. Health benefits, as well as rewards and recognition can transform company culture to a supportive and inclusive environment that employees will not want to leave. MustardHub is a platform designed for early childhood education organizations to save on budget and wow their staff. 

  • Public Preschool Settings: ECE settings, such as public preschools, that offer higher wages experience lower turnover. Public support and funding are essential in making this approach sustainable.
  • Retaining Staff in the Field: Differentiating between mobility and attrition (leaving the field entirely) among practitioners would provide a clearer understanding of turnover patterns. This knowledge can help tailor retention strategies for different groups.
  • Educational Attainment: Research suggests that practitioners with higher degrees contribute to overall higher setting quality. However, the relationship between degree attainment and turnover remains mostly unexplored. Understanding how higher education impacts turnover can guide strategies to retain educated professionals.
  • Impact on Student Development: Investigating the effects of turnover on students by comparing settings with stable staffing to those with high turnover can offer insights into the educational outcomes associated with staff stability. This information can help identify the most effective strategies to improve retention.

Investing In People Can Be Transformative

High turnover in the ECE field is a complex and multifaceted issue that negatively affects practitioners, children, colleagues, and the work environment. The quality of early childhood settings heavily relies on stable staffing. Research and data-driven solutions are essential for understanding and addressing turnover. 
MustardHub is a comprehensive benefits platform designed for small businesses that help attract talent, eliminate turnover, and transform culture into a destination for workplace happiness. By offering competitive wages, retaining staff within the field, recognizing the influence of education levels, and examining the effects on students, the ECE sector can work toward higher retention rates, ultimately benefiting both practitioners and the children they serve.


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