By André Double– Founder & Author LYIS.
Policies, Policies, Polices!
It’s the time of year, when we look toward the school policy to provide us with the knowledge, awareness and satisfaction that what we are doing is both ethically right and aligned to the school’s mission, overall philosophy and guiding values. The school policy is an important aspect of your school culture. Too many policies, at too great a depth and you risk losing people along the way. Too few and too loosely implemented and you risk people not taking you and your leadership seriously.
Given the sheer volume of policies that are needed in international schools these days, it can often be difficult knowing where to start. There is only one place to start however when it comes to policies – the safeguarding, protection and welfare of your students. For those of you have been accredited you will already be aware of this – accrediting organisations look for you to have this in place, as a key priority in EVERY aspect of your school and its culture, at the forefront of your meetings and school development. But policy design and appearance continue to be a burdensome chore for many – and a ‘one-way’ communication tool, that lack engagement and reciprocity from your staff.
What if your policies could be so much more?
Communicate Out What Staff Can Expect From You – Not Just What You Expect From Staff.
For aeons of time, policies have been used as a means of communicating out what you expect from staff. Expectations of dress, behaviour and professional conduct, teaching and learning, marking and assessment. Filled with stacks of important, yet hard to digest information at times. Its no secret that school handbooks have got fatter and fatter, hoovering up the latest changes to culture and society; think policies on: electronic devices, important advancements in DEIJ, overseas school trips and cyberbullying. My friend and mentor of all things HR Warren Cook repeatedly reminds me:
“International Schools can really give themselves a competitive advantage if they change their thinking around policies, and start communicating out, what staff can expect from them, from their leadership and its approach“.
Imagine if your policies could tell a different story. What might you let staff know to expect from you?
What Could Your Policies Communicate Out to Staff?
Here are several examples of what your policies could potentially communicate out to your staff:
- How staff can expect to be led, managed and communicated to/with.
- How they will be involved in decision-making.
- How they can can ‘manage up’ and how they can give feedback to senior leaders. YES – I did say how staff can give feedback to senior leaders on their performance.
Can We Make Policies More Interesting for All?
In short – YES, we can! Here are several ways in which we can make policies and their content more interesting and engaging.
- Use the power of story. Whether it is Child Protection, teaching English as and Additional Language or your Professional Development pathways for future leaders, use the power of story to bring them out, enable others to visualise them and engage with them.
- Check for understanding. Having something as simple as a multi-choice questionnaire about your key policies will let staff know that you take them and their content seriously. Allowing them to sit and gather dust in the staff room is not in anyone’s interest.
- The ‘two-for one rule‘. For every new policy you bring in, try and make an effort to get rid of two. Slim them down, incorporate their content and ideas in others areas. Everything cannot be important to everyone all of the time.
- Add essential policies to your Job Descriptions. Let staff know what are likely to be the underpinning keys to success in their role.
- Model content/interactions/behaviours/meetings. Physically act out and model some of your policies. Model meetings, model interactions you might have with staff and how staff are expected to interact / not interact with each other. Turn words into physical actions.
- Make policy design and review a strategic leadership opportunity available to staff, keen to develop their careers. Often the people least affected by the policies end up writing them. Change this and have the people most effected by them involved in writing them.
- Make your policies inclusive. The way they are written, words they use and messages they signal. Make them clear vehicles for complete inclusivity.
Policies can and should do so much more that simply tell us what to do and how to it. Use your policies to embed your school culture and allow your staff to ‘manage up’ and hold leadership accountable for the standards, actions and behaviours it expects from others.