Build Your People Strategy (Part 1)

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Build Your People Strategy (Part 1)

YouR People Strategy

There is a competitive, moral and financial imperative for schools and MATs to build a culture where staff really matter. At the centre of this needs to be a comprehensive and effective people strategy to recruit, manage, develop and retain the very best staff and deliver the student outcomes needed. This is the first of two articles to share one way you might go about this.

Moments of Truth

I remember looking for my first job. Fresh from university and searching through adverts, desperate to get on with my life and earn that first pay cheque.

Thirty five years ago things were a little different. Higher unemployment, less choice, and information wasn’t easily available. Times have changed!.

Workload, budgets, stress, mental ill-health and teacher shortages are regular news items, all contributing to a competitive labour market. Schools and MATs are fighting to recruit and retain the best staff from a shrinking pool.

If you look back at your own experiences you may remember the little things that had a big influence on your decisions. The school’s reputation, word of mouth, the job advert, the recruitment process, your first day, the training and development you received, and how you were treated.

Each of these include specific ‘moments of truth’ that add to your view of an organisation, meaning you might think “I can’t wait to be a part of it,” or “I wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole.”

Get these moments right and you build staff engagement, improve loyalty, increase retention, reduce stress and raise student outcomes. Get them wrong…and I don’t need to spell out what happens!


Where do these ‘moments of truth’ show up?

There are many opportunities of showing staff the benefits of working for your MAT and creating a great staff experience. One that compels them to join and remain with you. I’ve listed these under eight headings.

  • Everyday leadership behaviours (how staff are treated)
  • Attraction (how prospective staff and other stakeholders view your school or MAT)
  • Recruitment (the process prospective staff go through in being considered for a job with you)
  • On-boarding (how welcome staff feel when they join you – this covers much more than the first day or your initial induction process)
  • Performance (how this is managed)
  • Development (the time and focus given to staff CPD, career conversations and progression)
  • Retention (how you proactively retain good staff)
  • Farewell (how staff feel when they leave and how well this is managed)

All of these are linked and come together to form your employer brand and determine how people think, feel and act when coming into contact with you.

Many of the larger MATs have recognised the opportunities and recruited specialists to build and lead their people strategy. This means they can fast track talent, better manage poor performers, build their succession plan, more quickly fill key vacancies and keep more of their good staff.

For the rest of this article I will focus on the first of the areas – everyday leadership behaviours.

Begin with the everyday behaviour of leaders.

Your staff face moments of truth every day. They include how workload is distributed, whether they are involved in decisions affecting them, to what extent they are supported and the behaviours they experience from others.

One common factor across all of these are interactions with their line manager and other leaders. Do those leading in your school or MAT have an awareness and understanding of the direct impact they have? Too often the answer is no.

Working and talking with Headteachers, Principles, CEOs and other leaders, they are often driven by the heavy demands placed on them and are always racing against the clock.

In too many cases many other line managers haven’t had the required training and development. One day they were a teacher, the next asked to lead a year group, key stage or department (depending on your sector). They remain subject or specialism experts when they need to become people experts.

The good news is that extensive research from Goldsmiths, University of London , identified twelve specific leadership competencies that will help. (Management competencies for preventing and reducing stress at work. Identifying and developing the management behaviours necessary to implement the HSE Management Standards: Phase Two - Prepared by Goldsmiths, University of London for the Health and Safety Executive 2008).

They are different from those used in National Qualifications and introducing them to all your senior and middle leaders is a great first step. Discuss how well they are modelled within your school or MAT and agree actions so they become part of your culture.

Getting this right will mean many more positive moments of truth and it is the fastest way to improve the experience of your staff. I have put together a brief guide to these competencies, and also developed a simple self-assessment tool (you can assess yourself against one of the competencies).

Self-assessing against these competencies is the easy bit. Supporting leaders to choose to adapt and change behaviour is much harder. People have deep and long held beliefs and need to understand why they should change, as well as regular and deliberate reflection and practice to develop new habits.

Senior leaders must be role models, so others copy, and as line managers they have to coach their middle leaders. Without this people will very quickly return to their default position.

Embedding these behaviours across your school or MAT is the cornerstone on which to build your people strategy.

In the second article I will review the other seven pillars needed for your people strategy and share how to bring them together to improve staff recruitment, retention and performance, while reducing costs.

Put staff first - accelerating wellbeing


Introducing the Acceleration Academy

Are you interested in:


  • A fast track process that helps line managers put staff first and raises student outcomes?
  • An evidence backed way to measure staff wellbeing and focus on those things that have the biggest impact in your school?
  • Supporting line managers so they understand those behaviours and competencies that have been proven to reduce staff stress and improve their wellbeing and performance?
  • Reducing costs and spending more of your stretched budget on the things that matter to you?

Answering yes means the Acceleration Academy is for you. It’s an on-line platform with wellbeing measurement and a growing resource base, designed to make it easier for schools and Trusts to tackle this important area.


You can find out more, register for a free account or invest in an affordable solution.

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