“How much “change’’ can your company take?

Over the last two years I have studied change in Greek FLS extensively and in-depth. I have held sessions and written articles and I have said time and time again that change owes its bad reputation to the fact that it is unplanned, haphazard and usually comes without any back up plan.

The financial crisis came to change all that, mainly because professionals fail to take proactive action and are therefore caught off guard. To make matters even worse, the financial crisis brings about instability.

Employees feel that their rock-solid contracts and the reality they were used to come under threat every single day. Business owners feel they cannot count on their staff, which is underpaid and often finances the business by sticking it out and not receiving payment it time. The question here is how long can one stick it out?

By Maria Sachpazian

I know I have often said that people are motivated to work by the meaning they find in the work they do. However, people also work to make money and to ensure certain standards of living. If a living cannot be earned, leaving becomes a great option.

All kinds of change happen for a reason but losing key members of staff is not the kind of change a business can easily deal with.

In this article I would like to discuss how a business, a school in our case, can ensure that it will be up and running if key players (exam level teachers, branch managers, DoS or secretaries) suddenly inform us that they have joined an airline and are going to use their English to explain basic aviation safety rules to unsuspecting passengers and serve drinks at an altitude of 15000 ft.

The questions that arise are many. I will list them and attempt to answer them one by one:

1. How can I break the fall of the sudden change?

Early preparation for all contingencies is the single most important thing to bear in mind. The earlier staff is approached (the best time is at the end of the academic year when discussions should be held on next year’s plans) the better. Otherwise, nothing can be considered certain, either on the part of the school owner or the employee. Any self-respecting school owner should have a fairly good idea about who stays and who goes.

In our country, this is somewhat whimsically decided and not based on any kind of performance monitoring scheme but still owners know who has reached the end of term. To make matters worse, most school owners are interested in engaging the staff without presenting the options available for the following year. Some fail to mention the hourly payment, how many hours teachers will roughly have and if these hours are too few what else can be offered to teachers to make up for this loss.

These crucial questions are more often than not left undiscussed in May/June. In September when the bad news has to be broken, the teacher finds out that she can't expect more than 6 hours per week for 7 euro an hour! No wonder this teacher will not be committed to the school’s vision and cause anymore.

2.  What can I do to ensure that I do not lose staff, especially from the upper management of my school?

Unfortunately, no one can give such assurances. Some ways to guarantee that staff members do not suddenly decide to flee is to keep the channels of communication open and to show respect and appreciation in order to secure the commitment of the staff. Still, people will leave at some point and if we want the boat to remain rock-steady we need to think proactively.

Many schools place a lot of importance on certain teachers, leaving the rest of the staff to deal with the ‘simple classes’ (when you find which classes are the simple ones, could you please point them out to me?). What is needed these days is to see the team of teachers as players who should be able to interchange positions and whose skills are transferable and flexible.

This means that all staff must be hired based on certain criteria and be appraised and trained annually so that their performance levels remain high. This will ensure that the school offers quality, no matter who represents it at any given time.

Still, the school owner needs to address issues with the staff as they arise and not to pretend that they do not exist or to communicate with the teachers through the secretary. Placing distance between yourself (the owner) and ‘them’ (staff members) will only complicate matters and ruin any chance of resolving whatever issues have emerged.

3. How does my school look to the competition and to my clients if I lose staff every year?

The school looks the way we choose to present it. Feeling that our school looks weak on the outside makes us feel weak and the weak neither fight nor sell. Clients can smell insecurity, self consciousness and fear of competition. Schools and businesses are not dependent only on the staff they employ but on the owner too.

The owner is responsible for visualising what the school aims to achieve and for translating that into tangible means and strategies. Therefore, it is the owner that gives stability and quality assurance to the clients, not the teachers who left, even if they get employed by the competition.

As mentioned above, if the teachers who take the place of those who left are of the same class and quality as the previous ones and if the school has a solid induction policy that allows the same level of services to be offered, damage can be controlled.

A final note

Staff retention, much like client retention, provides stability and secures the income of the school. Still, if needs are not met, people will choose to leave. Nobody remains in a tough spot in order not to inconvenience others when better options are available.

You might ask: ''What about loyalty?'' and I will answer that unless you are prepared to sacrifice your finances to show loyalty to your staff, do not expect them to do so. Just have a quality assurance system in operation that will ensure the stability of the school no matter who comes and who goes.

In June’s column we will deal with an even more serious issue: How to deal with the departure of your business partner. Till then, Happy Easter and a successful Exam Period to all!

 Maria Sachpazian

Maria Sachpazian BA education / RSA dip/tefl (hons) is the Co-owner and Academic Director of Input on Education a company which provides academic, business support and consultancy to Foreign Language Schools.

She is also an educational management specialist who has worked as a teacher trainer and materials’ developer. Maria works as an EFL teacher at the Straight Up Markoyannopoulou schools

www.input.edu.gr This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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