Believing in the power of education

Stephen Mitchell

Leader, Speaker, Trainer, Consultant, NED

If there is one thing that is going to skewer the effectiveness of a team it is the ability of the leader to lead.     I’m sure that we all have horror stories where we’ve been subject to leadership styles that have left us completely demotivated.  Similarly, we probably also know what its like to feel empowered, respected, appreciated, and part of driving an organisation forward.

So – what is the golden nugget for being able to manage people effectively? Well, this RIB is going to look at the intrinsic links between motivation and performance.  Well, first we have to understand how staff’s performance is affected by motivating factors.  If we look at the two blue boxes on the left in the diagram we can see how the motivating factors are directly linked to the Outcomes.  If we know what outcomes we want to see, then we can seek to influence the motivating factors under our control.

Many people will be aware of Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs, and how society generally aspires to climb that pyramid.   Cleary it’s a model that’s stood the test of time, but it is actually lacking empirical support, and is quite a westernised ideal of self-actualisation.   Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory shown below indicates that if ‘hygiene factors’ are not present then employees will be dissatisfied, and performance will likely suffer.  However, the ‘motivation factors’ can be used to really impact upon employee’s performance levels.

If we accept that this model is true, and I believe it works well, then it gives a very simple model for schools to work to in order to ensure that staff can feel motivated.   The hygiene factors are all signs of a well-functioning school, and should be pre-requisites.    The fun part lies in sorting out the motivation factors – how can we reward achievement, vary workload, review job descriptions, look at growth etc.  This opens up all kinds of areas, not least of which is making good use of SMART objectives.

PRP for teachers has been heralded as a great thing for motivation.  I’m not sure that the systems most schools are adopting for PRP (holding to traditional pay scales) is really that great – it only goes part of the way in embracing the power of what performance related reward systems can achieve.

Academic literature does clearly articulate that one of the major differences between PRP in education and the more “traditional” businesses is the unit of measurement.  In schools this has traditionally been based around student achievement, and therefore is not 100% directly connected to the performance of the teacher.  Salespersons, for example, are frequently remunerated through PRP based upon the volume of goods sold being used as a proxy for their performance level.  Teachers do not have this direct, unequivocal, link to their product and are dependent upon the willingness/ability of their students to learn.

There is evidence though that teachers are not responding well to the PRP scheme, although are accepting it.  This may be because most of the teachers feel that their performance is already of a sufficiently high level to justify incremental pay rises, and that schools are generally being fair about its implementation.  However, they clearly believe that targets should not be set for performance to be linked to pay.   Evidence further points to the culture of the organisation as not being ready to embrace a change from traditional education sector pay-scales and progression to a more performance focussed approach. 

There has been some fascinating research carried out by the recruitment firm Hays recently, and the charts below show direct excerpts from that study, specifically into the education sector.  If you haven’t already got a copy, I suggest you download it from