Effective induction in practice
A recent workshop, organised jointly by BlueSky and Stone King, considered the issues raised by induction and what effective induction looks like in practice. Many of the experiences shared echoed the findings above, in particular the need to recognise that induction doesn’t begin on the day the new member of staff arrives at school but as soon as the person is appointed or before deriving from the psychological contract, and how schools use that period between appointment and arrival is important.
During the workshop there were discussions about how the psychological contract or the ‘job-seeker’ perception of an organisation can begin before the person starts looking for a job. Preconceived ideas shaped by ‘what they’ve heard’, the influence of social media or even how the advert is worded may deter them from applying. It works both ways, as employers also have expectations and when those expectations are not met there is a need to follow through.
Some schools see the time as an opportunity to ‘paper dump’ and send the new person a stack of documents – contract of employment, of course, and employee handbook, but also a sheaf of policies, other handbooks, even schemes of work to read ahead of their formal start date. It can be useful but it can also be needless work-creation on both sides. Senior staff should already be familiar with standard school policies while brand new entrants to the profession may feel overwhelmed.
In terms of formal induction before the start of term, workshop participants identified a number of issues for leaders to consider:
- The process and structure to ensure that it is not ‘content dumping’ and new staff are not ‘left to get on with it’, because others are so busy.
- Providing the time and availability for staff at all levels of the organisation to support the formal induction day.
- Opportunities for a buddy/mentor to guide and support someone new.
- How information is presented to new staff whether it is generic, specific to the job or to the individual – or all three. Are there more effective and efficient ways of disseminating information?
- Messaging that the new person receives – on culture, ethos and values as well as on policies and procedures – is consistent across the organisation.
- New arrivals are genuinely supported and they feel able to ask for help or share their concerns.
- Support staff receive the same content, level of detail and clearly stated organisation expectations as teachers.
The workshop also considered what happens when staff arrive mid-year or mid-term. It’s relatively easy to organise an induction day for new September starters but less so at other times of the year. Do those new starters receive the same level of support and information – what does their ‘day one’ look like?
Interestingly, the workshop attendees identified a range of induction timescales from a week through to the whole of the first year. It raises questions such as how often the process is reviewed and how issues identified are dealt with, what mechanisms are available for new recruits to raise concerns or ask for support, peer support for new recruits, and at what point can induction be said to have ended and the member of staff be properly embedded in the school (this may happen sooner or later and may be different from the duration of the induction process).
A poor induction experience can leave new starters feeling a variety of negative emotions – overwhelmed at the scale of the information they are being asked to take on board, lost or insecure in a new job, disengaged from the start, alienated from other staff and therefore possibly left questioning their career choices.
As Hughes notes, reflecting on the induction process, including seeking feedback from new recruits, is key to improving it and preventing the same mistakes being repeated year after year.
Getting the right balance is never going to be easy and getting feedback from new recruits is a great way to see how your process is perceived so that you can reflect and improve upon it.
Employers have expectations, too, and if induction fails to go as planned and the new employee is struggling or even failing, for whatever reason, early intervention is key if more formal procedures are to be avoided later. Colleagues at the workshop recommended:
- Don’t shy away from having the conversation.
- Use mentor/buddy to address informally.
- Monitor processes/procedures covered, asking for feedback on whether the member of staff has understood and make a point of asking whether further support needed.
- Follow up!
A good induction process matters to the school/trust and individual. Key elements include:
- Plan the process in advance.
- ‘Brand’ awareness – ensure what is portrayed, is experienced.
- Have a clear induction plan for the individual.
- Make messages consistent.
- Identify key staff who will be involved in the process.
- Identify mentor(s)/buddy(ies).
- Encourage new staff to meet, collaborate and share experiences.
- Let employee know it is OK to ask for help.
- Regular reflection and feedback on the process by new staff and leaders.
In terms of the specific content of an induction plan there are a number of best practice and statutory requirements as well as school specific needs.