According to Gallup, the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary. They calculate that this means U.S. businesses are losing a trillion dollars every year due to voluntary turnover.

A New Zealand expert goes deeper, and suggests:

  • For entry-level employees, it costs between 30-50 percent of their annual salary to replace them.
  • For mid-level employees, it costs upwards of 150 percent of their annual salary to replace them.
  • For high-level or highly specialised employees, it costs around 400 percent of their annual salary.

Replacing an employee means:

  • Advertising Costs
  • HR costs
  • Time for senior management or hiring managers
  • Onboarding 
  • Temporary staff hires 
  • Time spent reassuring customers

Losing your best people means losing your champions, your innovators, your connectors and some of your most effective problem solvers. It can lead to a loss of customers, loss of productivity and reduction in the quality of work produced.

It can threaten your staff ratios, brand, lead to litigation, and ultimately in an ECE context, have a significant impact on children, losing close valued relationships when educators leave, and creating an inconsistency of care.

‘Passionate’ is a word to describe early childhood teachers all over the world. This profession gives a lot of people a chance to live their purpose, and we hope we can support this journey in service to our purpose at Storypark. A core part of our mission is to build the capacity and capability of those people in the community around each child. This space is important to us.

Sadly, a lot of employee churn is fixable (but isn’t)

According to Gallup research, fifty-two percent of voluntarily exiting employees say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job.

“You may assume their manager did everything they could to make things right, but statistically, that’s probably not the case. Over half of exiting employees (51%) say that in the three months before they left, neither their manager nor any other leader spoke with them about their job satisfaction or future with the organization. This means that in three months, nobody asked them how they felt about their job. Nobody talked about their future. So it makes sense that they decided they didn’t have one there.”

Recruitment and retention in ECE

Combine this context with progressively deteriorating working environments for teachers who have been pushed even further than their typically high stress by local Covid requirements, and a lack of interest in studying to be a teacher and the global ECE profession has a major systemic recruitment and retention problem.

In fact, studies estimate annual turnover rates between 26 and 40 percent for early childhood educators in licensed facilities. 

In the US, the ECE landscape is even more marginal, with smaller profit margins and negligible government funding meaning educators get paid less than people working in bars or fast food chains.

In December 2020, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which represents and advocates for early childhood professionals, published the results of a November survey of more than 6,000 home- and center-based child care workers. Among its findings: 69 percent of respondents said “recruiting and retaining qualified staff is more difficult now than it was before the pandemic,” citing reasons ranging from fear, anxiety, the need to protect themselves and their families, low compensation and lack of respect.

So what can we do about this?

Firstly we all need to shift our thinking around the true costs of employee turnover so that organisations heighten care for their people and slow/stop the exit of valued employees.


Lobbying for changes in government funding (and therefore salaries for educators) is a slow and historically unreliable process. However, employers can quickly support more effective recognition and career development processes – the next two most important aspects of people’s reasons for leaving.


Forbes says people’s pain points typically include three categories: interpersonal issues, workload problems, or a lack of recognition. This means employees feeling unacknowledged for their hard work, potentially resenting a lack of career development or a low salary, especially if it’s not competitive for the region you’re in. These are interesting challenges when applied to an ECE context which remains internationally unrecognised for the huge value it offers at the most important time in a human’s development.

At Storypark, we have been interviewing a variety of large multi-site providers in both Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand about their recruitment and retention challenges. There’s some interesting parallels – despite the disparate government funding and Covid contexts.

Most groups have some kind of Learning Management System (LMS), their own framework to induct and train their teams in ways that align with their unique philosophies, and experienced head office staff to manage these processes. However one word that most people we interviewed used was ‘accountability’. “How do we know that people are using the resources or doing the work? And how do we know if they’re putting it into practice?” This is important to ensure ROI from these processes, and ultimately ensure that every new and existing team member is engaged from entry to exit within the organisation (hopefully a span of many years).

Personal learning & development (or lack of) is a critical engagement factor / and reason for people leaving. This experience starts at onboarding/induction, which is a critical point for building engagement and long term commitment. Embedding culture, personalised support and a view to a career development pathway are all key aspects of an effective induction.

In my time at Storypark I’ve come across many organisations who say that members of their team are not confident with technology. Your suite of digital tools is a critical part of employee experience now, and this in turn has a big impact on satisfaction and retention. The quality of your employees experience, support and digital tools will either nurture or detract from the employee experience and impact on decisions to leave. 

Storypark’s new suite of tools to support recruitment and retention enable more personalised induction processes, clear individual career development pathways, engagement data, customised goal cycles, mentoring and peer to peer learning.

For more information on these resources get in touch with us here.

Posted by Peter Dixon

Peter was born in Auckland and went to Brooklyn Kindergarten. Since then he has helped develop a number of ventures in both New Zealand and North America, and worked to support other organisations who believe in making a difference in the world.

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for this article… I have been part of the storypark team as an teacher for years but I had to work it out as I went along…
    So I have decided to do some online training as I’d like to get all the benefits that Storypark has on offer. As far as retention of ECE one reason there is an increase in casuals is that they don’t need to programme…
    Take a typical post Covid centre. This could be an exact or hypothetical setting…
    Staff leaving …..personal reasons….Children and families leaving….personal reasons …
    Numbers drop…. permanent staff drop….Covid illness within families continues…So hard to find Any staff and no programming time or very little time allocated.
    Professional educators feel incredibly disappointed and stressed that they can’t provide the best outcomes for everyone…will they eventually leave and will they feel terribly disappointed in the profession as a whole??
    Maybe add this to the list of educator turnover. It’s been going on for a very very long time.
    Thanks for reading


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