10 Ways To Motivate Your Staff


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Helen Woodley

Helen Woodley is a primary trained SENDCo currently working in a large KS1-4 Pupil Referral Unit in the North East of England. She spent 3 years studying Theology in Durham; Helen has worked in a wide variety of special school settings, including all age schools.... Read more about Helen Woodley

How do you keep your staff motivated for the academic year?

These 10 tips are ways that Dr. Helen Woodley feels school leaders in a broad sense, can motivate staff and develop the school ethos. It can also apply for a classroom teacher who will be a leader of a teaching assistant within their classroom. Read her suggestions below and add your own to the comments.

Whilst I would never turn down a pay rise, I am also motivated to work as a teacher for the simple fact, that I love education. But that does not mean that I don’t want to feel valued or wanted – I am human after all! We know that the staff body of a school are its greatest resource, so keeping them happy and motivated is crucial for all learners.

1. Recognise Achievements

This can be acknowledging staff competing work related courses such as NPQML / NPQSL, or completion of others courses such as Duke of Edinburgh Awards or a Masters qualification. These courses have meant staff are sacrificing personal time as well as continuing to do their day-to-day school duties. Their achievements benefit your school, so celebrate them! It doesn’t have to be much – a comment in a newsletter or in staff briefing can mean the world to someone.

2. Remember Birthdays

I once worked for a head teacher who wrote a card for every birthday of every employee in her diary. This was in a large special school, so she had over 60 staff to think about, yet on each birthday, I had a card in my pigeon-hole. It was a small gesture, but it was a lovely reminder that she genuinely cared.

3. Staff Voice

Encourage every member of staff to have their say – an enthusiastic NQT will have fantastic ideas and the determination to carry projects out; an established member of staff may have experience of how to deal with a situation from another perspective. Both are of equal value. Create space for all staff to get involved in decision-making. This will give them a sense of ownership as well as strengthening the school culture.

4. Priorities

Take staff concerns seriously – they may be far down your priority list, but they are probably higher up for the staff raising them. You may not think that the broken bin in the playground is crucial, but there maybe repercussions you have not thought of. For example, staff asking students to put litter in the bin and then having an argument because a student throws it on the floor as the broken bin is out of action.

5. Listen

Listen to staff – don’t assume that you know what is going on and dive in with your sleeves rolled up to take the matter into your own hands. Nor dismiss what you hear as being unimportant. Actively listen to staff and encourage personal reflection.

6. Understand

Know who your staff are – they are real people – and their identify is more than that of someone who works in a school. We each have our own worries and concerns, joys and dreams. If you take time to get to know who your staff are, and what makes them tick, you can support them to perform better or help them to achieve their goals. This makes for a happier workforce!

7. Be Realistic

Let your staff know who you are. What do you do outside of school? When we know who our leaders are, then we want to work with them more than if they are distant and live in their office and become a person we know little about. By allowing staff to see leaders in a more holistic manner we can build respect and trust.

8. Be Flexible

Negotiate paid leave – all staff need time off during the school term at some point in their career. Something simple attend a child’s first nativity play is massive for the family. Or take a relative to a hospital appointment or to pop back home to meet the emergency plumber. One school I worked in allowed us three paid days a year for such occasions, which meant that staff could take a half day to watch their child in assembly without worrying about the financial cost of not being at work. And yes, staff loved working there and didn’t take advantage.

9. Positive Thinking

Praise, praise, praise – a small ‘thank you’ for getting the history department data in before the deadline, or a ‘well done’ for the way a teacher managed a difficult parent shows that you value the contributions your staff. This makes up for an efficient running of a school.

10. Small Gestures

Surprise them – the odd box of doughnuts in the staffroom on a Friday after a difficult week is a small but effective gesture. How about arranging for a buffet on a whole school CPD day? Or hiring a venue away from school for training?

“There is a significant and positive association between the wellbeing variables and the following measures of school performance.”

(Staff wellbeing is the key to a school’s success: Briner and Dewberry, 2007)


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