HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Research Corner: Assessing Our Workplaces

by Ilisa Cappell Issue: Educational Innovation Prizmah

One of the most frequently asked questions we hear from heads of school is, How can I find and retain top talent in my school? In order to support our schools in ensuring they are great places to work and to create conditions to attract top talent to the field, Prizmah partnered with Leading Edge, the Alliance for Excellence in Jewish Leadership, to offer their Employee Experience Survey to day schools. This initiative was offered at no cost to schools through the support of generous federations and foundations.

In May, 22 schools administered this survey, and more than 1,400 staff and faculty participated. The survey focuses on employee engagement: the level of connection, pride, motivation and commitment a person feels for their work and how likely they are to stay or leave their place of employment. At Prizmah, we want to ensure our schools are incredible places to work. At the heart of our work is the people, and this tool supports schools in their efforts to identify ways to ensure the people who have chosen to devote themselves to the enterprise of day schools feel wholly engaged and supported in their work.

Among the key survey findings:

Jewish day schools excel at ensuring employees feel strongly connected to the mission of the school. Employees express a good understanding of the school’s mission, they deeply understand how their work contributes to the organization’s mission, strategy and goals, and they state that the mission of their organization makes them feel like they are making a difference in their work.

Employees feel comfortable asking for help from one another when needed, and they seek opportunities to collaborate with peers. The highest rates of favorable scores reside within teams where people feel most connected to the work and to their colleagues.

Faculty and staff value flexibility and autonomy within the school and appreciate the opportunity afforded by their positions to do challenging and interesting work.

Direct managers have great leverage in creating conditions within their teams where employees feel supported, well-cared for, and clear about priorities and responsibilities.

The data reveals areas where improvements would advance employee engagement:

Strengthening internal communications. Employees give higher scores for communications with direct managers and within departments than within the organization overall.

Managing performance through appropriate and ongoing feedback. Fewer than half of respondents said they receive regular feedback on how they are performing.

Ensuring a more even distribution of work across portfolios. While employees felt they have the information and resources to do their job well, fewer feel there are enough people to do the work.

Setting and communicating an organizational compensation philosophy. Few employees understood how salary decisions and raises happened at their organization and how salary scales compared to similar positions in other schools.

All of the organizations that participated in the Leading Edge survey were offered a one-on-one consultation with a Prizmah consultant to identify an approach to address the opportunities and challenges they face in their school and develop plans for next steps. Prizmah offers support to schools in facilitating leadership-team retreats, workshops on school culture, and coaching for senior leadership and boards.

Often, so much in a school feels both urgent and important. This tool is an effective way to identify what levers to pull on to maximize impact, create a safe space for employees to reflect on their experience within their organization, and give shared language to schools as they chart a path forward. We look forward to measuring progress over time and to supporting our schools in developing strategies and prioritizing work to ensure we create conditions where leaders can thrive.

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Educational Innovation

The articles in this issue represent the balance between the old and the new, sacred and profane embodied in Jewish history. The issue tells the story of the drive for innovation in modern education that has gained strength in recent decades. It features efforts to learn from, adopt and adapt innovative programs and pedagogies from the larger educational universe, even as authors advise caution, patience and planning around such changes.

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