Growing nursery group Thrive Childcare and Education has appointed its first Director of People and Communications to spearhead its vision to promote early years education as a career of choice and enhance its learning, talent and development culture.
Azma Broughton, who has more than 25 years’ People, leadership and development experience in customer-focused sectors including leisure, hospitality and retail, has joined the group of nearly 50 nurseries in Scotland and North-West England.
Formerly Director of People and Development at family-owned hotel and pub group Daniel Thwaites, Azma has also worked for food retailer Booths, the Co-op and Lloyds Pharmacy in Senior Business Partner and Head of HR roles.
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Azma’s strong background in driving transformation and change attracted Thrive, which last month announced the acquisition of the award-winning Village Nursery Group of eight Good and Outstanding nurseries in Cheshire and Greater Manchester.
Thrive CEO Cary Rankin, said: “As Thrive continues its growth journey, the landscape will continue to change. Competition for talent is fierce and our focus on retention and attracting new people will be critical to growth and stability.
“Our overarching focus therefore needs to be engagement and making sure our people have a sense of belonging. On top of that, the pandemic has reminded us how important it is to focus on wellbeing and our colleagues’ mental health.
“Our decision to appoint a People and Communications Director was important in demonstrating our commitment to shifting from what might have been seen as more of a ‘transactional’ HR function, to a team whose priority was people focused.
“Azma, in her new role, will work with leaders across the business to ensure that our people strategy and the tone of our communications and engagement across the business are all aligned to our values and that these will continue to be central to our growth plan. It’s great to have Azma on board to hold us all to account when it comes to how we lead and invest in our people.”
Azma said: “I have been busy connecting with our teams in the nursery settings and listening to colleagues and managers to understand their successes, issues and challenges.
“I have been blown away by the pride, passion, and positivity of colleagues, and the value people place on their careers. There is so much to build on.
“Enabling it to be even better is about consistency: whether in Perth, Edinburgh or Warrington, colleagues should have the same experience and opportunities.”
Azma’s early focus has been on developing Thrive’s People Strategy which will signal clearly how the organisation leads and manages, communicates, supports, rewards and recognises colleagues and builds the team environment.
“My desire to work for Thrive was fuelled by the genuine focus on people which comes from the senior management,” said Azma. “Colleagues working with children in our nurseries are the most important people in the business because, if they have a positive experience, they will continue to ensure our nurseries are inspiring and nurturing places for children.
“We want to build really engaged teams, where coaching happens in the moment, moving from a training culture to a learning culture which is critical in a nursery setting. It’s vital to support our managers to have the skills to motivate and encourage the teams and provide real clarity of expectation, foster a sense of pride and ensure everyone knows what good looks like.”
Like many businesses, Thrive faced real challenges through the Covid-19 pandemic as nurseries closed during lockdowns and, after reopening, had to deal with staff isolating, fluctuating numbers and losing some team members from the profession. Now, the business is building a clear plan to recruit and retain high quality early years professionals.
Azma explained: “We need a clear vision of what it means to work for Thrive, how we look after our teams, and how we want them to feel. This means looking at the whole colleague journey from attracting people, to being recruited in line with our values, the quality of our induction and training, the support from managers, how we value people as individuals and support their performance and development.
“We have some shining stars who love working with children. Many of our modern apprentices have developed to become fantastic managers, building their career paths with us. It’s exciting, at Thrive I can see everyone wants to help each other. There’s a passion for change and honest conversations about what’s working well and what isn’t.
“As new businesses transition into Thrive, it’s important people still feel valued. New ownership can be a challenge, we want to work in collaboration with the teams to move forward and really focus on ensuring the colleague experience is right.”
Photo: Azma Broughton at Thrive’s Media City Nature Kindergarten in Salford, from left,
Sylvia Campos, Senior Colleague; Tobenna Nwoga; Lyla Burns; Azma Broughton, Director of People and Communications; Donna Sumbland, Nursery Manager; Olivia Allen; Noah Pershpali; Isioma Nwoga; Jessica White, Deputy Manager.
For more information contact Jenny Grinter at Mosaic PR & Digital at [email protected]