From education to employment

How can data help the FE sector to gain an insight into and improve staff wellbeing?

Workplace wellbeing is always a topic that’s up for discussion, and one which is highly important no matter at which end of the education spectrum staff work. But how can institutions step up to further support the satisfaction – and retention – of their workforce?

Here, Caroline Lewis, sales director at workplace and UC analytics company Tiger, shares her thoughts on the role data can play in helping the further education (FE) sector to better understand and improve staff wellbeing.

A closer look at the current landscape

It’s been a turbulent time for the education sector over the last couple of years, and the wave of uncertainty brought about by the pandemic has undoubtedly played a huge part in this. The shift to distanced learning for much of 2020 was a strange time for schools, colleges, and universities across the country, and the increased reliance upon digital technologies to bridge the geographical divide was also a new – and arguably daunting – territory for some.

But fast forward to the here and now and despite there being some constants, lots has changed. While the virus and all its challenges continue, most institutions are now back to in-classroom teaching and are continuing their ‘business as usual’ operations – but armed with an array of safety measures and risk assessments in place. And this is the ‘new normal’ that the nation keeps hearing so much about.

But what does this mean for teacher wellbeing?

In recent years, studies have revealed that among the educator landscape, FE lecturers stand out due to their high levels of anxiety and the lowest levels of wellbeing. Throw a pandemic into the mix and these figures are likely higher than ever, but this is a trend which needs to be bucked as soon as possible.

The latest Government COVID-19 guidance also recognises it’s natural that many staff members and students may be feeling more uncertain and anxious in these current times. So, how do education leaders protect their staff and how can they work to create an environment which alleviates instead of creates any feeling of stress? And not forgetting, how can decision-makers themselves feel more supported too?

In truth, the answer could be a lot closer to home than first thought – and lies in the power of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) data.

Drilling into the detail to make better decisions

By equipping education decision-makers with the data they need to make impactful choices, they can use this intelligence to iron out any staff pain-points or operational bottlenecks, which could be contributing to the unhappiness of an employee.

By harnessing the insight into ‘if’ and to ‘what extent’ a colleague is adopting the institution’s communications tools, this helps to identify if they’re dropping out of calls, whether they’re using video options, and how engaged they are in staff meetings. And the same principle applies to students using these technologies too.

For example, if students are logging into lessons from home, and many turn up late and don’t have their cameras on, while this could signal wellbeing or technical issues from their side, it could also be a warning indicator that the teacher may need further support and assistance with remote teaching methods or using the software correctly.

This isn’t and should never be implemented as a ‘Big Brother’ surveillance tool, but rather as one which encourages employee empowerment – providing an effective way to identify the success of online interactions and flexible working, and to also alert of any potential engagement issues.

The truth is that if personnel feel overloaded, unsupported, or under pressure – or a combination of the three – unlocking the data behind this can help senior teams to make decisions that help to alleviate the stresses and strains.

This could relate to anything too, from allocating more staffing resource to providing technical workshops on software tools. But without the intelligence adding context to the challenges and pain-points, leaders can’t put the appropriate measures or support pillars in place to remedy the source of unhappiness.

Ultimately, data in context can not only allow the FE sector to gain more of an understanding into how new technologies are being used, but how their usage can also be crucial in driving forward the decisions that safeguard a workforce’s wellbeing, company culture, and personnel retention.

By Caroline Lewis, sales director at workplace and UC analytics company Tiger

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