The only constant is change they say, but just as constant is resistance to that change. With schools facing a distinct shortage of suitable workers something has to give and that means opening up to shifts in the way things are being done.
Outside of payroll and Workplace Health & Safety and industrial relations, the breadth of expertise in contemporary HR can be either misunderstood, or just assessed as a low priority. As a result, education systems lag behind in adopting standard workforce change practices seen in other sectors, hindering efforts to create contemporary work environments.
Effective change management in Australian schools needs a holistic approach that addresses workforce challenges, fosters collaboration, and prioritises the wellbeing and professional development of educators.
Resistance to change in any sector often stems from a lack of understanding about the necessity and benefits of proposed changes. Stakeholders may not grasp the rationale behind new initiatives, leading to skepticism and reluctance to embrace them.
To address the resistance, fostering clear communication and understanding among stakeholders is essential says Fleur Johnston, Founder & CEO at PeopleBench.
“One step in the right direction is the introduction of more flexible work. A “lack of flexibility” was one of the most cited reasons that participants in our 2023 State of the Sector report suggested they were likely to leave. We can see that, objectively, schools have not kept pace with other industries when it comes to offering contemporary and dynamic work redesign.”
In some parts of the country, four-day working week options are being explored. In others, reimagining how support roles in schools work with teachers are being investigated to build a more contemporary and sustainable workforce for the future.
“None of these ideas are radical, but when we observe the alarmist response from the media, and in some cases the community and current workforce itself, there is little question that implementing these changes is due to be the next hurdle to jump through if the sector is to reap the benefits of a new working model,” Johnston says.
Education leaders need data, benchmarks, and workforce strategy capability to initiate and sustain positive long-term change.
Introducing data-informed workforce strategy processes in education needs to leverage both insights and the wisdom of the leaders that drive the decision-making. It needs to enhance existing strategic planning and school improvement processes.
The sector needs to do all that it can to keep up with other industries if it wants a sustainable supply of resources into the future. And this means reimagining organisational structures and roles to address the major issues affecting the education sector’s industry’s ability to retain teachers.
As with most major shifts, implementing change is a complex process and through the introduction of technology-enabled workforce strategy schools, can improve the size and quality of candidate pools, slow down turnover, and reduce staff absenteeism and psychological injury claims to name just a few of the things our clients are working on - ultimately all to enhance student outcomes.
“Our work is about democratising access to ideas that should belong to school leaders everywhere, and we make use of technology - as well as human-centered relationship support - to help our clients accelerate their journey to become contemporary places to work."
Using tools like PeopleBench’s platform, is a way that school leaders can draw on benchmarks and best practice, alongside their understanding of their unique context to create an evidence-informed workforce strategy in hours.
Rather than start with a blank page, or with “me-search”, appropriate workforce data platforms provide curated information about strategies that make a difference in school workforces and suggests appropriate KPIs to ensure that leaders are measuring the impact and value of the things they are trying to make their schools great places to work.
“By empowering leaders to craft a workforce strategy specific to their school’s context and needs, this approach can really facilitate meaningful and sustainable change within our education system,” she says.
Image by Ankush Rathi