Open and respectful communication is at the heart of any good relationship. Below are some communication best practices for creating a positive employment relationship with the nanny, house cleaner, and home attendant that supports you in your home.
1. Prevention is the best medicine, establish a written agreement
- Help avoid issues down the road by setting up clear, mutually-agreed upon expectations in the form of a work agreement at the beginning of the job. See sample childcare work agreement, house cleaner work agreement, and home attendant work agreement.
- Include a clear plan for regular check-in’s and formal, mutual evaluations. Check out our guide to having productive check-ins and evaluations.
2. Schedule an Annual Evaluation
- Set aside time at least once a year (or every six months if you anticipate lots of job changes). Be sure that you set aside ample time and that that your employee is paid for the time.
- An annual evaluation is an important opportunity for you and your employee to raise any concerns or give feedback on the working relationship. It is also an opportunity to give the employee a more formal review based upon your agreed upon expectations and a chance to create a work agreement if you’ve not yet, to set expectations for both you and your employee going forward.
- Below are some tips for holding a successful annual evaluation:
- Talk First. Start by expressing your appreciation for everything the worker in your home has done for you and your family. Take the opportunity to share specific, positive observations about their work. Then you discuss areas where there is room for improvement. Refer to the work agreement if that’s useful. If you do, make sure you both have copies.
- Then Listen. Next, it will be the worker’s chance to tell you where there is room for improvement. Remember that as the employer, you hold power in this conversation. Reassure them that you want to hear what’s really on their mind. They should share any concerns or bring up anything that has been a barrier to fulfilling their responsibilities.
- Agree on Next Steps. Together you can outline an action plan that lays out steps everyone will take to address concerns raised in the discussion. Reiterate your appreciation for their hard work and their thoughtfulness in having these conversations with you!
- Review or create a work agreement. Take the time to review the existing work agreement, or create one, and discuss any big changes coming up (such as reduced or expanded hours) or their responsibilities (i.e. a new baby on the way). You should agree on the length of the renewed agreement (six to twelve months) and schedule the next annual evaluation.
- Provide a Pay Raise. An annual evaluation is also a great time to give your employee a raise, which could be based upon the Cost of Living Adjustment in your area plus any raise associated with an increase in responsibility (such as a nanny taking on a 2nd child, increasing the caregiving tasks of a worker whose prior responsibilities were more focused on house cleaning, etc). An annual raise shows your employee that you respect them and their need to care for themselves and their families.
3. Hold short and frequent check ins
- In addition to an annual evaluation, you should try to have regular, brief check-ins at least once a month, though weekly is probably more effective, to check in on the relationship. These could be just 15 minutes and a time to share a highlight, a new challenge or concern (such as the baby not napping as easily or there being a new piece of furniture to treat specifically), and any important updates for the coming week. Remember to schedule these short meetings when both of you have the time. And if an issue comes up that can’t fit into a short check-in, then you can schedule a different and longer time to address that concern together.
4. It’s all in the details
- Say Good morning! Show respect and consideration by greeting your employee in the morning, returning home on time, taking interest in their family and by paying on time.
- Always say thank you. We often fail to recognize the value of expressing our gratitude. Make the effort to show your thanks on a daily basis.
5. Welcome all questions
- Your employee needs to feel comfortable asking questions to get to know you and your priorities. Our homes are very specific to each of our personalities and life circumstances.
- What one person considers an average amount of cleanliness, noisiness, discipline, and diet may be new to the worker you employ. Let your employee know that you are available for answers.
How Can We Communicate When We Don't Speak The Same Language?
If the worker you want to employ is more comfortable reading and speaking in a language other than English, you should get the written agreement translated into their primary language. To create the initial work agreement or to hold a check-in or evaluation, consider asking someone you know (or asking if your employee knows someone) who can come over and interpret for you. You can also look for a local community organization that might be willing to help, and plan to visit it together. For smaller, daily or weekly communication, many employers and employees use text and email to communicate, relying on google-translate, whose interpretation of text has greatly improved over time.
If you do this, remember to look directly at the worker you employ during the conversation when either of you is speaking, not at your interpreter. This shows respect and helps build the relationship between you.