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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

Why Schools Need An Employee Experience Strategy Now More Than Ever

It's that time of year again - recruitment season - when international school leaders and their trusted representatives head out in search of next year's batch of new teachers and school administrators.


The problem with recruitment these days, however, is that the pool of available candidates is diminishing, due to a complicated cocktail of competition from an ever expanding market of international schools, mixed with a global shortage of young people entering the profession.


At the risk of being indiscreet, the problem with recruitment these days is also that the person doing the recruiting (often the Head of School) was never trained to be a recruiter and enters the fray, armed with little more than a collection of school publications, a contract, and the ability to talk convincingly about the school.


What is missing in many schools, I would respectfully suggest, is an Employee Experience Strategy. Without this, however powerfully the school's representative can speak to a learning vision, employee culture, or the benefits of living in a particular corner of the world, there is likely to be far too much simply left to chance.


So where to begin?


Many of you will know of the Lifecycle of School Experience that we developed some years ago now to visualise the six stages that families journey through, from Attraction to Departure. Our contention has always been that the same is true of all employees. But, just to make the point, we've made this explicit in the illustration below and called it (not surprisingly), The Lifecycle of School Employee Experience.

A illustration of the Lifecycle of School Employee Experience, from Attraction to Departure

This is the starting point for an Employee Experience Strategy: to understand that the role of Human Resources, or whichever name this department goes by in your school, is to intentionally design each stage of this journey for every single employee.


And, just as with the journey of families, intentionally designing the experience comes down to three fundamental, yet connected, endeavours:


STORY: Our role is to tell the story of the school, envisioning the community of employees that we want to be, both now and in the future. It is to disseminate this message both inside and outside of the school. It is also to ensure that this story is coherent at each stage of the Lifecycle.


PEOPLE: Our role is to find inspiring and engaging ways to invite people to be a part of this story. It is to understand people by listening attentively to them and intentionally building a college (in the original meaning of this word) where people can flourish. It is also to ensure that the community is safeguarded against those who have no place in the evolving story of the school.


PROCESS: Our role is to manage a set of processes that enable the above to happen smoothly, efficiently, and with the least amount of friction along the way. It is to ensure that policies are in place, contracts are drawn up, organisational charts are coherent, and everything operates within the local, national and other constraints.


In some schools, a reductionist, one-dimensional approach to Human Resources has evolved, which is focused on Process only, without much consideration of the bigger picture. Equally, in some schools, however hard you look, there is no one person in the organisation who feels responsible for curating the experience of employees at each stage of the Lifecycle. It is much more piecemeal and disconnected, often leading to a piecemeal and disconnected experience for those around.


So the next time a Head of School is sent out into the fray, take a moment to imagine how much more enticing it could be to a prospective employee to know that this was a school that had taken the time to carefully and purposefully design each stage of their journey; that steps had been taken to ensure that the journey was coherent along the way; that people across the school knew the role that was theirs to play in curating this experience; that the necessary moments of feedback had been designed with learning and growth in mind; that surprises and moments of human kindness had been built in along the way; and that this entire endeavour had been designed to ensure, not only for students but employees also, that time spent at school was time well spent.



Cover photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash.

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