Impact And Excellence In The People Team
How can we make the people operations department, as a unit, more cohesive and effective?
Sometimes it helps to look at what is happening in other fields, and this article looks into a promising model currently being used in some American schools to optimise the performance of head teachers/principals.
The model was devised by Julie and Raymond Smith, who each have over three decades of teaching experience, and is set out in their book, Evaluating Instructional Leadership: Recognized Practices for Success.
The book explains that behind every head teacher is a system of leadership evaluation that, if functioning correctly, rewards excellent practice and sorts out areas of deficiency.
Of course, most departments will have a similar system of evaluation for their leaders but, just like those used in schools, they can become stagnated and ineffective.
This book looks into the reasons behind this and, most importantly, provides solutions.
A central concern of the model is the notion of impact:
- What is the definition of impact?
- Are teachers having an impact on student learning?
- What kinds of evidence can be found for impact (above and beyond test scores)?
- And what can teachers do to ensure they are making a difference?
Just as in the HR department, the typical school is awash with plenty of data within which impact can theoretically be measured, but much of it requires careful and honest interpretation. Otherwise, it can be all too easy for leaders to take credit for advances that have come about through the efforts of others or general external conditions.
But why can measuring impact be more important than evaluating individual leaders for their qualities?
Some school leadership evaluation programs are criticised for being little more than box-ticking exercises, with leaders allowed to evaluate teaching staff effectiveness by their own standards rather than by looking at the effect the teachers are having on the students they teach.
In a similar way, the people operations leader who shows strength, determination and diligence – all good leadership qualities – may nevertheless be having an overall negative impact on the department by holding staff members back, creating an unsupportive atmosphere or focusing on goals which are misaligned to those of the company.
The Smiths’ book isolates five elements that need to be considered in effective leadership evaluation, with each given its own chapter; they are:
- Establishment of a shared vision, goals and expectations
- Strategic use of resources
- Staff effectiveness
- Leadership of and participating in teacher development
- The presence of a safe, orderly and supportive environment
These are all elements that could easily be transposed into the modern HR department when evaluating leadership in that context.
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