One of the biggest killers of standards in schools is low staff engagement. Unfortunately, the 2016 Employee Outlook report from CIPD indicates that job satisfaction is the lowest it’s been in two years, and nearly a quarter of dissatisfied staff are looking for new jobs.


A deeper look reveals that staff are most unhappy with performance management processes and opportunities to develop their skills, and feel unable to reach their career aspirations in their current position. Dissatisfaction certainly leads to low engagement and low engagement results in lower standards and performance.


According to the report, despite private businesses having the biggest engagement challenges, public sector organisations such as schools are also affected by low engagement. Among educators, disengagement has been connected to staff absenteeism and even increased teacher turnover. On the other hand, the Teacher Quality Division of the Department for Education made a few intentional changes and improved engagement by nearly 20 percent.


Most of the changes implemented had to do with school culture and making an effort to improve both management and working conditions for teachers. For instance, part of the improvement plan included building trust through transparent communication, considering staff development needs, and dedication to management.


In schools with a strong values-based culture, engagement might not be the issue. However, you may not even know how satisfied and engaged with their jobs your team is unless you ask. Even if you think your staff is performing to their best abilities, it’s always wise to take the pulse and get feedback.


If you survey your staff (or even a sample) and discover they’re dissatisfied, take note of the underlying reasons and address them from a cultural perspective. Here are some recommendations.


  • Be transparent and take action. After you collect feedback, be active in acknowledging concerns, drill down to the root causes and then develop a plan to address the issues in a manner consistent with intended school culture.
  • Focus on staff recognition and development. As noted earlier the biggest reasons for dissatisfaction are performance management and development related. In other words, people want to be recognised for their performance, and have opportunities to develop their skills on the job – make sure both happen.
  • Embed changes into culture. If the change isn’t part of the culture, efforts to improve will likely be temporary. However, if you address staff engagement as an SLT and as part of an overall plan to improve performance throughout the school, the results are far more likely to be sustained.




Image by George Hiles. All rights.