Head warns independent sector of staff ‘exodus’

Brentwood head, Michael Bond, will today tell the AMCIS annual conference that an ‘exodus of employees’ threatens schools lacking a positive organisational culture

Any independent school lacking a supportive, inspirational culture risks triggering an “exodus of employees”, the AMCIS annual conference will be told today (10 May) .

In his keynote address to the conference for the independent school sector’s admissions, Brentwood School head, Michael Bond, will warn delegates:

“No matter how strong your strategic plan is, it won’t be effective – or at least not as effective – if those who work in your organisation don’t share your values, aspirations and vision.

“If your colleagues aren’t passionate about your school’s vision, they won’t be enthusiastic about executing the plan to achieve it, which means your strategy stands no chance of being successful.

“And organisational culture happens, whether you work on it or not. It’s at the core of every school and workplace and most of it is created by leaders – sometimes, and perhaps quite often, unknowingly. The actions of leaders speak louder than their words in the process of culture creation.”

The most acute impacts of Covid might have passed, Bond will argue, but the sector nevertheless finds itself standing at a crossroads with no consensus on which way to turn.

“One of the questions with which we’re all grappling is the extent to which the pandemic has led or will lead to permanent change,” he will say.

From the archive: School fees should not be a barrier to independent education, says Brentwood School

“Some believe that all but the most operational changes made as a result of Covid will evaporate almost as quickly as they were incorporated, whilst others suggest that we have an opportunity to make changes that wouldn’t have been possible, or certainly not likely, were it not for the events of the last two years.

“One thing we should all be considering is the idea that when things begin to return to normal, companies will see an exodus of employees who now feel secure enough to change jobs.”

The AMCIS annual conference address will quote management theorist Peter Drucker’s notion that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, with the success of long-term strategic planning and marketing dependent on organisational culture being embraced across the board.

Now more than ever, with Bond pointing to a Microsoft survey which found 41% of workers across the globe were considering quitting their jobs.

“Whatever the reason, more people want to feel valued and connected to what they’re doing,” he will say. “And those who lead schools need to step up to that responsibility by redoubling their efforts on organisational culture. In short, we need our schools to be the ones to which people come during what has been called ‘The Great Resignation’.

“There’s probably no bigger test of whether we have a positive or negative workplace culture than how we manage during times of adversity, and those organisations with a positive culture are probably those that have not only survived but thrived during the Covid pandemic.

“Culture has to transcend the traditional divide between teaching and operational staff. Getting to know each other is part of developing a culture, as is making sure parents understand the messages we are giving to their children. For example, all our assemblies are values-based and, in my blog for parents, I always discuss the recent assembly topic, to reinforce the message and the school culture.”

No matter how strong your strategic plan is, it won’t be effective if those who work in your organisation don’t share your values, aspirations and vision

Finally, Bond will note that learning from best practice should not restricted to looking only at the independent sector.

“Schools should acknowledge and embrace positive lessons from other businesses and organisations,” he will say.

“We are communities first and foremost, but we are also charities and businesses and we’re foolish if we think we can’t learn from organisations that have been doing this for years. We can take the bits that are useful to us and use and adapt them for our own school environments.”

The two-day AMCIS annual conference is taking place at the De Vere Cotswold Waterpark Hotel near Cirencester and opened yesterday with an address from the entrepreneur and author, Bianca Miller-Cole.

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