At Petit ELJ, our beliefs extend to the children, their families and our educators, teachers, chefs, centre leaders and national support office. We take a whole team approach to listening and learning from our early childhood professionals.

Over the last three years, we implemented annual employment engagement surveys to provide a benchmark for where we were at and to discover what our people thought about their work environment. The surveys have provided valuable data and initiated open and honest conversations with our teams about how we can improve as an early childhood sector employer.

Our 2023 Employee Engagement Survey results which closed in October are now in and we’re shouting them from the rooftops! Even with significant changes to the company structure in September and on top of the current market challenges, our teams’ engagement has grown significantly.

In this cultural article, we examine:

Centre leaders sit at round tables in a conference room with large glass windows facing outside. The tables have papers and discussion sheets spread out on them along with water and coffee. The leaders are listening and learning from each other.

We are always listening and learning

In our article on Investing in Professional Development, People and Culture Operations Manager Melissa Hart stated Petit ELJ’s understanding that adult learning is as important as the learning programs provided for the children. Not only does a shared vision for learning  benefit the whole team but the learning also flows through to the children and their families.

“Over the past year, there has been a strong focus on learning and collaboration” says Melissa. “This includes our career pathways, networking, mentorships, individual projects, scholarships and personal development opportunities. These efforts have led to incredible learning opportunities for our teams and individuals. We’re thrilled by where this will take us in 2024.”

“We want to secure our learning community and reward our teams’ learning culture. So, if an educator is working towards their certification, that is really valuable to us.”

Petit ELJ Wooloowin team smile and laugh at the camera as they gather around a table with jars and colourful stripped packages as they celebrate Educators Day. The educators are wearing customised early childhood educators day shirts. Petit's People and Culture Operations Manager makes the peace sign as she contributes to employee engagement.

Employee engagement process

Following the results of our 2022 employee survey, our People and Culture Operations Manager Melissa Hart travelled to every service to meet with each centre leadership team.

At each meeting she discussed the national results of the survey but also the local results for each centre.

The two national focuses for 2023 were:

  1. Learning and development for our people.
  2. Resourcing strategies.

Each centre’s leadership team then reflected and contributed a local focus for their centre to contribute to in 2023.

“The 2023 Engagement Survey was launched on Sunday, 1 October 2023, and closed on Sunday, 15 October 2023. The overall engagement has increased by 11% compared to 2022 and it is 2% higher than the Australian benchmark (71%).”

“An increase of this size in the early childhood education and care sector, that’s incredible. We’ve increased engagement during a time when we have had significant change management as well. We were able to keep our team happy and engaged. That says something.”

“We had three centres achieve 100% engagement.”

“And then on top of all of that, we’ve actually reduced our turnover by 31%.  We’ve achieved so much in the last 12 months. Our cultural strategy and our people objectives have really been impactful in the last 12 months.”

“What we’ve been doing is changing our strategy. Following our 2022 survey, we introduced localised action plans, which is where I went to every centre and we put a plan in place to meet the needs of that centre. And it worked.”

Four lead educators, also known as room educators, wearing black uniform shirts and name badges with Petit Early Learning Journey's logo on it stand facing the camera and smiling as they look forward to new initiatives to come from the employee engagement survey.

New focuses, new initiatives

“And so this year, we are following the same strategy but with a new plan and with new goals.”

“We are still strengthening our previous goals too. We have started involving the centre directors collectively as part of our leadership conference in setting the organisational activity. And we’re taking it one step further again in 2024 to build the leadership and cultural maturity of the organisation overall.”

“The data shows that there is a correlation between occupancy and engagement, as well as between turnover and engagement. Centres with higher occupancy and lower turnover tend to have higher engagement rates. Over a 12-month period, as engagement increased, turnover decreased.”

“The engagement survey found that employees value leaders who show genuine interest in their wellbeing and are good role models. As such, the Petit ELJ Management Team has determined the national engagement focus for 2024 should be Leadership Development with a goal of improving leadership and management related engagement measures.”

For 2024 we will be expanding the definition of leadership to include everyone from the Centre Leadership Team (Lead Educators, Educational Leaders, Assistant Centre Directors and Centre Directors), as well as support roles like the National Operations Manager and Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Petit ELJ employees pose for a photo at First Aid and CPR training. One employee holds a model of a heart, the next three employees help hold a training respiratory dummy and the last employee holds a baby training dummy. The early childhood professionals look engaged and demonstrate the themes and results from feedback on employee engagement.

Feedback from our early childhood professionals

As part of the 2023 Employee Engagement survey, participants were encouraged to leave feedback. It’s an anonymous survey but these comments demonstrate the encouraging themes we’re seeing in the results.

“My centre director, assistant director and the area manager are the best people I’ve ever worked under. These people make me self-motivated and keeps me going.”

“During my diploma studying period and placement, the Centre management and colleagues gave me great support and assistance. I am really appreciated.”

“I appreciate how you, as a company, always go above and beyond to provide us with the necessary resources and support to help us improve and achieve our goals, from training programs to consistently demonstrating your dedication to our growth and success. It’s evident that you truly value your employees, and it motivates us to work even harder towards our shared vision. Thank you for being such a supportive and proactive company.”

“Providing new and different experiences for the children. Willing to get resources that educators would like to have within their spaces.”

“The education and care that Petit Early Learning Journey provides is as good as, or better than, other early learning centres.”

“Sense of community and belonging is high! As a new team member, it is amazing to walk into such a welcoming and warm environment.”

“I would love for Petit to be my long-term work family. I hope to work towards rising up through the leadership of the company and to contribute to external projects and ideas that will grow the company in value.”

“Support from head office and my ops manager is fabulous. Trust is given and I am able to grow and thrive at work.”

“I always feel valued and important.”

“I can honestly say I love working for Petit and would not want to be anywhere else at this point in my life. They are a company who makes you feel supported and valued.”

A group of Early childhood professionals from our Petit Early Learning Journey Forest Hill centre gather for a photo at their awards night celebrating their dedication and engagement. Seven educators in the front row, bend slightly to reveal eight peers standing behind them. Everyone is smiling.

Join a team of early childhood professionals at Petit Early Learning Journey

We are a pretty inclusive bunch of diverse people who have a huge thing in common – our passion for bonding with children and helping them to learn and grow. Our teams also look forward to learning, extending their knowledge and sharing what they know with others in the Petit family.

Are you seeking a career change or a different setting where your skills will be nurtured and successes celebrated?

We’re hiring.

Learn more about careers with Petit ELJ