5 tips for middle and senior leaders on keeping your best staff

March 5, 2018
Holly Hartley

Holly Hartley

Principal, Thistley Hough Academy

Without doubt, schools are enabled to be successful because of their staff and the ethos that they create.

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This blog is part of Ambition:Feed's finding and keeping great staff challenge. Find more tips and discussion on the Ambition:Feed homepage.

These are people who are in it not for the money, fame or glory, but because they are true educationalists and want to make a difference to children’s lives.

Once you find those great members of staff, those who will put their all into the organisation and its aims and objectives, it’s important to maintain a working environment in which they can thrive, not burn out. Teaching may be a ‘long hours’ profession, but as leaders it’s our responsibility to ensure our teams have the support they need to thrive in their role. It’s important that they want to come into school day after day.

Here are my five tips on how to retain your brightest staff and help them do their best work. 

1. Be forward-thinking

As a leader it’s important to always be thinking about staffing. Although the resignation dates in our profession are set in stone, we shouldn’t only be thinking about our teams when crunch points are approaching. At our school we are keen on growing our own, and we have recently appointed three members of our senior leadership team from within. If you’re always keeping a watchful eye on who is developing and could step up, you’ll be prepared. Support, mentor and grow them to be the best that they can be.  

2. Put wellbeing at the heart of your school

Staff wellbeing is the key to retention, but as leaders we must ensure we do not have a tokenistic approach. While free tea and coffee and other perks can help, it’s important to think about staff health and wellbeing too. That’s why we have a coach visit regularly who staff can speak to confidentially about whatever is on their mind. To be the best teacher you can be, you have to be happy and healthy – so putting this at the heart of what we do is crucial.


3. Make sure your staff have downtime

Work-life balance is crucial in our profession as it can all too easily slip. At our school we’ve put an evening email ban in place. While there will always be emergencies and exceptions to the rule, this is followed and appreciated by all staff. Many of them have commented on how this has benefitted their mental health by reducing ‘email anxiety’! We’ve realised that staff want to spend time with their loved ones, so when thinking about wellbeing initiatives, bear this in mind. Although holding social events outside of school hours can be important to team building, remember that staff need to have their own time too. 

4. Make your workplace an exciting place to be

To keep the best staff in your school, you need to create an exciting working environment where staff can innovate. At our school we ensure we have our finger on the pulse. For example, we are the only secondary school in the country where all Year 7 and 8 pupils learn a classical instrument as part of the In Harmony project. We have also started pilot projects with Business in the Community and the NHS. Giving staff exciting projects to work on will foster a sense of belonging and loyalty which can help to keep them with you. 

"Cultivating a teamwork ethic is important and can be as simple as just checking people are okay"

5. Always be supportive

Whether you’re a middle or an executive leader, being brave enough to do right by your staff is key, especially in difficult circumstances. Cultivating a teamwork ethic is important and can be as simple as just checking people are okay - touching base within the work day can make a world of difference. Showing you are a supportive leader could make all the difference to the longevity of your team. 

What's your advice to leaders for retaining great staff? Get involved in the discussion over at Ambition:Feed - tweet us using #ambitionfeed or join our Facebook group. 

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