People planning in uncertain times
Just about everyone I have spoken to in HR and leadership positions across all sectors are consumed by coronavirus planning and staffing is a serious risk. Closure of schools is obviously a hot topic and school and Trust leaders are working tirelessly to maintain education for children.
Consider for a moment the scale of the challenge facing our colleagues in the health service. Already under immense pressure with staffing shortages, they face the impossible task of maintaining a 24/7 service, significantly increased pressure on services and chronic staffing shortages. It takes me back to my years in the NHS when we had to plan for Swine Flu. One of our key concerns in our staffing plan was school closures as that could decimate our clinical staffing, it is good to hear that Government seem acutely aware of this and considering how this could be managed but that may create another challenge for schools.
It is wonderful to see from social media how school leaders are pulling together, supporting each other, sharing plans and approaches. People planning is one of the biggest issues to consider and some areas that schools need to explore will include:
• Coping with immediate staffing shortages if people are ill or caring for loved ones, including use of agency staff, teaching assistants, retired teachers and asking part time staff to do more hours if they can
• How to run a scaled down service if schools stay open for key workers children and/or examination years, what does this mean for staffing and running facilities
• The impact of school closures on staff ability to work and childcare arrangements, particularly in a sector with a majority of female workers who are likely to bear the burden of childcare at home
• Using the opportunity of closure for a focus on staff CPD or planning but bearing in mind the need for flexibility given staff may be caring for their own children or loved ones or may be ill
• Counselling and support for staff to cope with all the challenges they may face including isolation, illness and anxiety
• How to run any online learning safely for both students but also staff and ensuring technology works, is secure and people are trained
• The implications for policies in areas such as paid leave, sickness absence and homeworking, ensuring staff are given clear parameters but feel trusted and cared for
• Keeping in touch arrangements with staff working at home or in self isolation, offering support and communication rather than a ‘checking up on’ approach
• Ensuring communication can flow to staff and is constantly kept up to date. This is a time for the ‘head to speak to the feet’ directly whether that’s the Academy Trust or school leadership. Communication needs to be fast, clear and consistent and relying on already overwhelmed Headteachers or middle leaders to pass on messages may not be the best approach. Having one place where all information can be found and is up to date is really crucial and communication needs to include everyone working in a school or Trust
On top of this, Academy Trusts will be reviewing their central business continuity plans and should have in place arrangements that mean services to schools can continue despite potential staffing shortages. Critical services should be identified with clear back up arrangements in place for dealing with staff shortages and/or the need to reduce the number of staff working in the office.
My thoughts are with everyone working so hard right now to care for children, young people and their staff. This week I am offering free bite size online coaching sessions for anyone leading in a Trust/school or HR function that would like to talk through their people planning. Or simply needs to let off some steam!