Case study

Employee engagement and wellbeing: Teacher Quality Division

How the Teacher Quality Division at the Department for Education improved employee wellbeing scores from 2012 to 2014.

Key ideas from this case study:

  • build trust through open communication, even at times of difficult change
  • understand and act on challenging People Survey results in an inclusive way
  • consider the staff development needs when allocating work
  • recognise that good management requires dedicating time

The Teacher Quality Division has seen a large improvement in the proportion of the team reporting low anxiety from 2012 to 2014, from 46% to 68%. Over the same period, life satisfaction scores rose by 10 percentage points.

The division comprises 26 staff at a mix of grades, and is responsible for all policies and ministerial correspondence relating to existing teachers. This includes performance standards and pay, evidence-based teaching, teacher qualifications, professional development, and support of a professional body for teaching.

We interviewed the division leader at the time, and 2 of the 3 unit leaders, to understand how this substantial improvement came about.

Openly Managing Change

A department-wide selection exercise was undertaken in 2012/13, through which staff were required to reapply for their positions.

Myself and the rest of the division’s management were highly conscious of the uncertainty and anxiety this may cause, and worked effectively to communicate honestly and openly with staff, and to support them through the process.

For example, we worked as a team to help all staff with their applications, rather than leaving this support up to individual line managers. We were also responsive to line managers’ own concerns, and devoted time to discuss them in weekly meetings.

This support and open communication built trust that endures today, which is manifested through a strong team ethos and staff feeling highly valued.

Responding to People Survey results in an inclusive way

As a division we made good use of the People Survey results. We held inclusive discussions to fully understand some unexpected and challenging findings. These discussions shed further light on issues of split-location working, and the clarity of some staff’s performance objectives.

Highlighting these issues as a team enabled effective action to be taken, including a reallocation of projects across locations, and the development of a standard objective for all staff in one of the units.

Flexible allocation of work

Our division consistently re-evaluates and reprioritises its workload to ensure that staff have a stretching but achievable workload, and that team members are able to take on opportunities meeting their development needs.

The conclusion of a large programme of work gave the team an opportunity to have a fundamental review of the work allocation, they made sure they did this in an inclusive way, with staff having the opportunity to discuss at various points in time. Furthermore, management feel empowered to ‘say no’ to new projects if needed, where there is a risk of overly high workloads.

Valuing Good Management

We firmly believe that good performance management results in productive staff who feel valued and enjoy their work.

Published 18 February 2016