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Increasing School Morale Through Engagement and Empowerment

It’s time to take action and focus on two things that really matter when it comes to increasing staff morale in schools:

  • Employee engagement: The willingness to do great work because you really care and understand your purpose.
  • Employee empowerment: The ability to do great work because you have all the right information and tools.

Leaders need to provide an environment that simplifies, reduces or even eliminates time-consuming practices that prevent engagement and empowerment. By cutting out insignificant or inefficient tasks that draw staff away from their real work, you can leverage employees’ passion for their jobs to achieve new levels of productivity and success.

stressed tired ladyOne of the most common issues impacting on staff morale in schools is duplication of administrative processes. The perceived duplication of processes and inefficiencies surrounding the collection of data are almost inevitably near the top of the list of complaints. The issue arises often in the surveys of staff satisfaction that we undertake on behalf of school leaders who recognise the importance of staff morale and the impact it has in schools.

‘Cut back to achieve more’ is a great theme for 2016. Reviewing current practices and streamlining them wherever possible has tremendous potential for increasing efficiencies.

Review and Reduce Ruthlessly – Current processes need to be reviewed ruthlessly, especially the collection and use of data.

  • Why are we doing this?
  • How does it help student learning?
  • Does it add value?
  • Is the process as efficient as possible?
  • Are we duplicating our efforts?
  • Is the most appropriate person doing it or could it be delegated to support staff or centralised to make it more efficient?

Add Selectively – Our drive for school improvement often leads to new initiatives that are well intended. Whilst a commitment to continuous improvement is great, we must ensure that new initiatives are congruent with current practices. We need to avoid duplication and look for redundant practices. Are we continuing with processes that are not serving us well? It is important to look at processes that we are going to STOP doing. Through streamlining and culling procedures that are not adding value, we highlight and increase the emphasis on those that do. It is far more effective to implement three strategies well then dilute our efforts and end up trying to do 10 things and doing them poorly.

Clearly Communicate Purpose – All staff in schools are busy. Whilst most staff are compliant and try to do everything that is requested, tasks that are not seen as helpful will generally be given a low priority. Administrative tasks that have a clear link to student learning and help teachers are more likely to be allocated time and energy than compliance tasks.

A key role of leaders is to communicate the purpose and the value of admin tasks. For example, how will the data that is collected be actually used? How will the data be used to improve student learning? As leaders, if we can’t clearly communicate the purpose of the task we will battle to gain traction.

It is vital that we regularly communicate the purpose of administrative processes. If staff in our school don’t understand why we are asking them to complete the activity they will not invest the limited time and energy they have available. Explaining the ‘Why’ is even more important that communicating the ‘What’.

Keep It Simple and Consistent – Priorities, new initiatives and expectations need to be kept simple. Too many initiatives and priorities clutter and distract staff. More traction and progress is achieved through keeping it simple. All staff in schools should be able to clearly describe THREE priorities in their school. Getting clarity and consistency on these three areas is vital and needs to be the focus of leaders. Be specific, be clear and be concise or you will be ineffectual.

Complexity, duplication and unrealistic expectations undermine staff morale. Too many priorities, mixed messages about what is important and ‘words’ that aren’t congruent with the ‘actions’ of the leadership team have a negative impact on staff morale.

What exactly are the three specific priorities for your school in 2016?