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Why You Should Be Empowering Your Employees






Technology is breaking down the boundaries of traditional management models. Here's a handful of ways that a little empowerment can help you achieve success.



School districts come in many available sizes and flavors, and – like many organizations – generally feature a hierarchical management model. This leadership structure, although familiar and comfortable for most, is also subject to disconnect due to the number of layers involved. Those at the foundational tiers of that pyramid are not always privy to the decision making process at the top, though there is a general interest in how those decisions will affect their daily work.

Dissemination of information and collaborative decision-making are two of the key challenges facing superintendents and senior staff. As technology has monumentally improved the flow of information in every other facet of our lives, it can also help district employees feel more empowered to drive educational improvement in the district, take greater control of their responsibilities, streamline internal processes, and communicate more effectively with each other and the other stakeholders in the district.
 

Dissemination of information and collaborative decision-making are two of the key challenges facing superintendents and senior staff.


Provide Access to Formative Data and Impact Student Outcomes

Compared to a generation ago, the amount of data available to educators is immense. That data can be a positive change agent for educational outcomes, but only when made available to any and all who can make use of it.

According to a 2002 report from the American Association of School Administrators, superintendents benefit from a culture in which data is made the backbone of any decision making throughout the district. That report was written at a time when data was much more difficult to come by and certainly more difficult to disseminate. Its recommendation was sound, and with today’s technology, it is easier than ever to establish that culture.

How does it work? Data about a student’s educational performance is generated every day. There is, of course, state assessment data, but that might be months old. There is formative assessment data generated by systems purchased by the district as well as informally administered by teachers. Finally, there are teacher grade book entries, observations, and behavior data. All form a vivid picture of the student that can be used by teachers, principals, and even parents in an effort to put the child on the right path toward success.

The trick is organizing all of that data in a useful way, making it searchable and reportable, and then giving the appropriate people access to it. Organizations much larger than school districts wrestle with the challenges of “big data” all the time. New solutions for managing that data can help everyone make use of even the most minute data so that decisions are better informed, more actionable, and more beneficial. But rest assured, educators are resourceful people. Give them access to the information and they will find a way to use it – and probably help everyone else do so as well.
 
It is unheard of for a VP of a department that size to not have access to that information...yet, in many districts, that is exactly the situation in which principals find themselves.


Facilitate Decision-Making with Accessible Data

As the old saying goes, if you expect me to cook the meal, I should at least be able to select the groceries. A 2006 report from McRel found that districts in which superintendents give principals “clear, non-negotiable goals for learning and instruction, yet provide school leadership teams with the responsibility and authority for determining how to meet those goals” had more positive results in all sorts of measures—including student achievement.

We discussed student data management in the last section, but that’s just one aspect of an administrator’s mission. Think of it as the end result. The processes in which they get to those results can also be aided by available technologies.

Think about what information a principal has access to and what needs to be filtered down from the central office in the form of ad hoc emails, memos, and meetings. For leaders of enterprises that usually have more than 100 employees, how much do principals know about their school’s financials? Human resources? Facilities? Purchasing? It is unheard of for a VP of a department that size to not have access to that information—and subsequently not be able to act on it. And yet, in many districts, that is exactly the situation in which principals find themselves.

Again, technology facilitates the flow of information. It’s not impossible for principals to be given access to the information that can dictate how their school operates and a certain level of autonomy to accomplish their mission. Existing technology can make that flow seamless.
 
If any of that process includes a call, email, or visit to the central office to take up the time of another valued employee (or - worse yet - those awful carbon copy forms), there is a better way.


Streamline Internal Processes

The work of many district central offices is based on managing strategies and managing people. There are the big picture initiatives that move the district toward the ultimate goal of increased student achievement – things like curriculum design and coaching. Then, there are the behind-the-scenes management aspects that fall under the umbrella of human resources. In larger districts, these functions can grow to envelope the operations of the central office and the district as a whole. Staffing, paying, and providing insurance for 10,000+ employees doesn’t happen overnight.

When approaching these processes, you need to ask yourself what the employee is capable of doing, then finding online ways for them to accomplish those tasks. Take time off requests as an example. An elementary teacher recently got married and wants to take time off for his honeymoon. In terms of effort on his part, what does that take?

If any of that process includes a call, email, or visit to the central office to take up the time of another valued employee (or - worse yet - those awful carbon copy forms), there is a better way.

Put power back in your employees' hands through an employee portal – no sense wasting time and procedure on the most basic information and requests. As a leader, all you need to do is make your employees aware of the resources at their disposal. That brings us to communication.
 
Empowerment breeds leadership, and strong leaders at every level continue to have a potent impact on both student achievement and fiscal responsibility.


Communicate More Effectively 

We previously discussed how the flow of information can tend to disconnect as it moves up and down the organizational pyramid and how technology can help specific processes within the district, but what about the flow of information itself? How can it be improved?

Some of the most successfully communicative districts maintain a wiki, or at least a dedicated page on their website for employees to find their benefits information, links to pertinent websites, and district news. Again, the goal is to eliminate a call or email to someone at the central office.

But what about lateral communication? How can the district make communication between parents, teachers, and other staff more effective?

There is no one great solution. The districts that have the most success with parent outreach adopt an “all of the above” approach. Making it easy for staff to call, email, text, and communicate via social media is an imperative. What helps you get in touch with one parent might not work with the others. Although some standards should be set by the district in terms of appropriate use, staff should be granted the autonomy to choose their communication methods based on the individual situation and the entire process should be driven by the centralized message center found within your parent and student portals.

Empowerment breeds leadership, and strong leaders at every level continue to have a potent impact on both student achievement and fiscal responsibility. While the transfer of authority and decision-making capabilities can be difficult, it pays immediate dividends from an efficiency standpoint and makes your district a better place to work and attend. 



Skyward is in favor of an empowerment leadership model. Only by surrounding yourself with great poeple who have access to all the tools and information they need to be most effective can you truly achieve success. Contact us today to find out more


 



 
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