The year is young, but 2019 has already seen several teacher demonstrations in major cities across the country.
From Denver to Los Angeles to Oakland, school teachers have engaged in strikes and sickouts aimed at making their voices heard on issues and challenges confronted in their jobs and facing their schools.
The recent unrest is a stark reminder of the critical importance of employee engagement in our schools.
In the latest installment of our ongoing series on school customer experience superheroes, we highlight the passion and efforts of school leaders in Illinois’ Rockford Public Schools 205, and their commitment to working with employees and staff to create a “cycle of continuous employee engagement.”
One of the largest public school districts in the state, with more than 28,500 students and 4,700 employees, RPS 205 faced some critical decisions–and administrators knew employee engagement would be front and center.
“We didn’t have a ratified contract going into the school year, and our student achievement data showed little to no growth over the past several years,” explains Kelly Monson, the district’s chief continuous improvement officer.
District leaders wanted to hear from teachers and staff about how they were feeling—and use their feedback to develop a plan for how to create the best possible place to work.
Building a baseline
First, the district worked with K12 Insight to develop a comprehensive employee engagement survey—one that would help employees “go deep” to really understand how teachers and staff felt about their time in the district.
The employee engagement survey results revealed certain areas where the districts was performing well, along with some areas where it could perform better.
Transparency was one area that employees said they wanted district leaders to focus on. In open-ended comments, several employees said they felt the district “goes through the motions” of seeking staff input, but often makes decisions without considering that feedback.
Monson says these and other results helped the district develop an honest benchmark upon which to start having constructive conversations with staff, and to begin tracking and measuring improvements over time.
Want to learn more about RPS 205’s approach to continuous improvement? Check out our free, on-demand webinar featuring Dr. Kelly Monson.
Make feedback matter
After the survey closed, the district was quick to share the results with stakeholders. K12 Insight worked with the district to host a series of live Making Feedback Matter workshops with principals and cabinet members. These workshops put the survey results “in the hands of the people who could do something with it,” and helped them understand its implications.
“When we presented the survey data, we were able to say that we heard everybody and this is what we heard,” explains Monson. “Then we took that information and developed immediate goals. We said this is what we’re going to do, starting today, and then we launched it.”
At the school level, principals embraced the process, working with leadership to identify opportunities for improvement in their schools.
An ‘always-on’ conversation
For Monson and others, it was important that the employee engagement survey be seen as the first step in a larger, “continuous conversation” about employee engagement.
The district worked with K12 Insight to adapt its use of Let’s Talk!–a cloud-based community engagement and customer experience solution that helps school district leaders have ongoing conversations about critical issues with members of the community–to build a stronger way for employees to provide feedback.
The technology, which can be accessed through a tab or button on school district websites, was set up on the district’s main site as well as individual school sites. A backend dashboard helps school leaders monitor and respond to feedback and use the results to make decisions in real time.
“Let’s Talk! gave us a place to send employees after the survey if they wanted to provide other information,” explains Monson. “Now, we use it throughout the school year to engage teachers and staff, and really all of our stakeholders.”
Monson says administrators have already seen improvement in employee perceptions.
“Pairing the employee engagement survey with Let’s Talk! gave us an authentic way to understand and fully engage with our employees and other stakeholders,” says Monson. “By opening lines of communication and providing timely, accurate, and courteous responses, we can prove that employee and community voices matter in our district.”
Don’t miss our full conversation with with Dr. Monson.