It’s essential to help a business grow. The strategy considers the talent they have, the talent they need and how to develop and retain ‘high-potential’ employees. The same can be said for schools. If staff needs are met and there is a balance between expectation and workload, alongside a supportive and progressive culture, overall good wellbeing and job satisfaction – student attainment will be higher and staff costs substantially lower.
Here are some considerations for developing a people strategy across your school’s ‘staff lifecycle’:
1. Attracting the staff you want Generate interest in your school. Share why it is a great place to work and shout about the culture. Identify routes to reach ideal candidates and give them reasons to engage with you - even if currently you have no vacancies – for example, opening up CPD opportunities to staff from other schools.
Remember the best ambassadors you have are those already working with you and the stories they tell.
2. Recruitment considerations You may be recruiting in a highly competitive market. Job interviews and selection days are part of a process - alongside the usual job description, person specification, application form and job advert. How does yours stand out from others?
Focus on attitude and cultural fit, and not just skills and experience. Generate some goodwill by offering feedback to candidates - even if your time is tight. There are simple ways to share brief feedback, for example a quick video - you have to review the applications anyway!
This will set you apart from others as candidates share their experience.
3. Welcoming new staff - Onboarding, not induction, starts when staff are appointed and provides ongoing support and challenge. You may be desperate to get them in the classroom on day one, but week one should include so much more - meetings with senior leaders, lunches with other staff and quality time with their line manager.
New recruits need a personal plan that covers the coming months - regular 1:1s; coaching; feedback; training; two-way reviews; a career development conversation and more.
4. Performance management Managing staff members’ performance delivers strong results and supports staff wellbeing. If poor performance or behaviour is not tackled early, it can lead to conscious or unconscious resentment and dips in the performance of others.
Line managers often perceive dealing with staff issues as ‘difficult’, rather than part of a transparent process, which must also include praise. Plan ahead, collect relevant evidence, ask questions and listen openly, and agree achievable goals with scheduled follow up meetings. As a supportive process it becomes a positive part of school culture.
5. Professional development When planning CPD try to find links between staff members’ interests and your development plan. Staff will be intrinsically motivated and appreciate your consideration – the CPD will have a personal connection to their individual needs, rather than it all being ‘must do’.
Successful CPD cannot simply be short twilight sessions, 15-minute briefings, training days and workshop merry-go-rounds. It should include career conversations, and agreed long and short-term plans.
6. Staff retention Developing a people strategy and supporting staff through each stage, strongly influences your chances of retaining them. Plan ahead, identify and manage talented staff early, know what roles are at risk and have candidates ready and able to step into them. Keep in mind not everyone aspires to school leadership.
Create alternative career paths - strong classroom performers need rewards, without having to progress along a leadership path. Be creative and embrace flexible working, and have clear plans to retain those going on maternity leave. ‘Stay interviews’ are also important – schedule regular conversations with staff about actions that will help to retain them.
7. Staff farewell Inevitably some staff move on and how they leave is important. Teachers may be seeking promotion when there is no opportunity for them, or others are ahead in the ‘queue’. Even if you would prefer them to stay, proactively support them to find the role they want, even when this is external. It may be disappointing to lose them, however they will be spreading the word about the fantastic school they came from, and building your reputation as an employer.
Others may not be meeting expectations despite the support given, or perhaps teaching really isn’t for them. Help them to depart in a prompt and professional way and enhance your reputation when they tell others of their treatment.
Exit interviews will collect further feedback, though doing this before they leave (stay interviews) should be a higher priority.
The importance of developing a people strategy School leaders are time-poor, there may be financial constraints and delivering an effective and long-term people strategy takes time, focus and hard work. However, if recruiting staff and retaining them is important, then there is little choice.
Building staff wellbeing into the foundations of your school culture has an incredible impact that goes beyond ensuring good mental health. Happy and healthy staff have a direct effect on the mental wellbeing and attainment of students. It is also an important ingredient in the recipe for recruiting and retaining staff. Anyone who feels supported and an integral part of an organisation, invests more of themselves.
Make your school a great place to work, build a culture where staff are supported and appreciated and where wellbeing is something that simply happens every day.
For staff wellbeing and people strategy support and advice, please contact welbee.international.