October 2016, Vol. 1

Driving employee engagement

School employees who are engaged are attracted to and inspired by their work. Their commitment and productivity levels are high, and they have a vested interest in the future of their school. These kinds of employees are the backbone of a school, but driving engagement up requires a substantial amount of effort and care from districts.
 
Employee engagement can set good schools apart from great ones. There are a variety of factors influencing the level of engagement in employees, from length of time doing the same job to size of the school.
 
But perhaps the most impactful cause is workplace culture, or the character and personality of your district. Culture is what makes each district unique, and comprises its values, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes. Articulating your district’s culture is paramount in establishing employee engagement.

Length of employment

A recent survey from Quantum Workplace stated that during the first year of employment, engagement is high. More than 77 percent of employees who have been with a company for less than one year are engaged. However, employee engagement plummets 15–20 percent after five years. This means something is happening between years two and five that disengages a substantial portion of a company’s employees.
 
In education, these numbers are even more disappointing. A Gallup report in 2014 found that nearly 7 out of every 10 teachers are not emotionally connected to or are dissatisfied with their workplaces. Teachers were the least likely of any profession surveyed on workforce engagement to respond positively regarding whether they feel their opinions at work matter and whether their supervisor creates an open and trusting environment.
 
Mirroring the corporate trend, teachers are most engaged (35 percent) during their first year of employment, but their level of interest and enjoyment in their profession drops significantly between three and five years (28 percent) of teaching experience.

Increasing engagement

It's clear that employee engagement is something districts should monitor closely and work to improve. Ensuring your district’s teachers remain motivated and engaged doesn’t have to dip into the budget. One way to increase engagement without decreasing funds is to follow the 10 C’s of employee engagement from the Ivey Business Journal:
 
Connect—Show that you value employees. Employees who feel valued, are more likely to go above and beyond for the school and better yet for the students 
Career—Provide challenging and meaningful work for career advancements including implementing stretch goals—allow individuals to enrich the work that they do through extending their duties and responsibilities to build their capacity.
Clarify—Communicate a clear vision and goal—What is your vision? How can goals help fulfill that vision? How can each employee contribute to the success of meeting these goals?
Convey—Set out expectations for each employee and provide feedback on their functioning in the organization. This may entail personal goal setting for meeting the vision, which may be incorporated in their annual appraisal like T-TESS or T-PESS.
Congratulate—Praise and recognize staff for strong performance and do so often.
Contribute—Employee input matters. Allow staff to get involved in decision-making by permitting them to voice their own ideas.
Control—Provide freedom for control over the pace and flow of an employee’s job, but show regard for their needs.
Collaborate—Allow staff to work in teams to develop and foster trust and cooperation as they seek to attain goals. Incorporate feedback loops so everyone is heard.
Credibility—Sharing successes and accomplishments builds pride among the staff in the work that they are doing.
Confidence—Create an environment that allows employees to take risks. Failure should be seen as an opportunity to learn.

Following these guidelines will establish levels of trust and commitment between your district and your staff. Teacher attrition can’t be solved with just one idea, but making sure your employees are engaged in their work is only going to help your cause.