IntroductionThe school under reference is a CBSE school. Though I was able to collect a lot of data from parents, teachers and even the Principal, to preserve confidentiality, even close references to it are not mentioned; the school happens to be supported by a large industrial group but is totally autonomous; it has a good team of highly dedicated teachers who have done wonders in conducting all the online classes for all students, right from the first standard. This has been made possible due to the superb co-operation of all teachers, but more importantly the fabulous identification of talent of every single teacher, by the Principal. Since a huge number of parents are known to me personally, the creative methods used by teachers to get things done came to light. And the leadership qualities of the Principal also came to be known. When I had two rounds of discussions with the Principal, his commendable insight into talent management and making it work became very evident.
In the main, this case-study proves that talent management in schools can be a success only if a) Clear role definition is made possible b) Teamwork becomes such a natural process c) Teachers do not play politics but always add value d) Feedback about performance is obtained on a daily basis and e) Removing bottlenecks in operations becomes a way of life.
Clear role definition is made possibleMs. Radha is a very senior teacher of mathematics in the school. All names in this case study have been changed. Ms. Radha was always a person who showed interest in administrative work and she had a good way of effectively coordinating the work of all teachers. She sometimes was authorized by the school management. This natural talent was observed keenly by the Principal, Mr. Mohan. When the lock-down was imposed, the Apex School Committee mandated Mr. Mohan to do all teaching online. It was then that the problems started presenting themselves; the semi-urban location does not have good internet connectivity. The parents did not have two cell phones for two of their children and the laptops were also limited. After getting the e-passes, some parents had gone lock, stock and barrel to do farming in their native places for the entire three months, after the lock-down. Mr. Mohan requested Ms. Radha to take on the mantle of getting everything into some shape. Aided by another self-motivated colleague, Ms. Geetha, who also teaches Mathematics, Ms. Radha went on to do the job. She requested for a week's time and this was granted. An Excel database was created for each class and every student's parents were contacted over the phone; every single opportunity of sharing resources was identified; for example, the Principal used his personal influence in the small town to request the rich doctors, LIC development officers and so on to help four students each to utilize the internet facilities in their homes; some rich businessmen even gave their smart phones for the two crucial hours when the child would attend the online classes. Ms. Radha would speak to each one of the rich people identified. In the small town, every single person would have benefitted in some way or the other by the presence of the big industrial group with three major manufacturing units; the rich people offered to help when requested.
The parents also wisely purchased a second smartphone or requested their own parents to spare their smartphones for their grandchildren and use ordinary phones instead. That a wide network of such people are known to some teacher or the other also helped. The most important point was that the clear role definitions were made possible by the Principal's approach. Both Ms.Radha and Ms. Geetha did a wonderful job of co-ordination. The office co-ordination was left to one Mr.Vijay who was and still is the social science teacher. Since the students were not coming to school, the office staff were relatively free. The massive computerization of all records was entrusted to Mr. Prakash an office assistant. It was quite a job to record attendance of all students; to enable them to attend all online classes and so on; the teachers acted like a big cricket team, the leader of which was Ms. Radha who answered phone calls from any parent, as late as 11 p.m. in the night.
Teamwork becomes such a natural processThe visionary Principal had the able support of the school's correspondent, Ms. Vijayalakshmi. She also chipped in whenever essential and also lent support to the Principal. It has to be recorded here that Mr. Mohan made teamwork a natural process. It did not hamper the work of anyone. Only some teachers who did not work properly were reprimanded. Every four days, a meeting of the teachers was arranged online; there was massive praise for Ms. Radha who did a splendid job, under very different circumstances. Ms. Radha's son was an MBA from the Indian School of Business, working in a very senior position in a big Indian Conglomerate. This IT wizard also shared several creative ideas that helped the process go on very well. The crux of the story is that teamwork was never ever compromised over the entire nine months after the lock-down. When the senior students are now in the verge of preparing for the competitive examinations in addition to their public examinations scheduled possibly for April 2021, the teachers have doubled their efforts. The Management has been kind enough to not reduce the salaries of the teachers; however, apart from money a number of motivating factors have been at play and this has contributed to the success as well.
Teachers do not play politics but always add value This is extremely important. Only when the teachers become selfless and are totally involved, everything will fall in place. Value-addition to the quality of the teaching process can happen only when teachers are motivated very well. Since Mr. Mohan was so focussed on the process and the results, there was no chance of any politics. In this case-study, the uniform opinion of the parents was that Mr. Mohan, Ms. Radha and Ms. Geetha worked together as a team and since they ably supported all teachers, barring small issues, there was no let-up in the process; the actual fact is this school stands out for excellence as a very successful CBSE school in the district and in the surrounding districts; in fact, there are schools where the teachers have not been able to successfully conduct the online classes; worse, some parents have already decided to move their children to the Tamil Nadu State Board Schools in the English medium stream.
This case-study stands out for the increased amount of communication that took place between the teachers. The workload increased manifold and due to the pressures, there were instances when some teachers complained of being burdened; however, timely intervention by Mr. Mohan helped in a big way. Personal problems of Teachers were addressed too; there were at least ten instances of teachers who were relieved from their official duties and made to adjust their schedules later.
Feedback about performance is obtained on a daily basis Talents can be nurtured with constant encouragement. There should not be any lack of motivation, though. This is the key to good talent management. In this case study, Mr. Mohan would speak to each teacher who showed good performance. He rarely ventilated his anger but the teacher would understand that he was impartial and hence he would automatically co-operate and get things done if he knew the boss is happy with any aspect of his performance. Small group study of children, with all of them wearing masks, gloves and whatever, has also been attempted by some teachers.
Talent management is a natural extension. Ms. Radha was actually sponsored in the year 2019, to an advanced program on School Management conducted by a prestigious association of Chennai. This motivated her to grab the opportunity to make a difference; she had effectively used some of the learning from that program to a large extent.
Removing bottlenecks in operations becomes a way of life What is the use of continuously complaining about the poor connectivity problem? It leads both the teachers and the students nowhere. However, constantly engaging even rich citizens to help in one way or the other and making continuous efforts to solve any problem, was quickly appreciated by any teacher. In fact, this ensures their voluntary co-operation. It is not like a factory where subordinates are ordered to "somehow produce results".
A school is a big service center; more so, when a heterogeneous group of children from different social backgrounds study together. This school has children of farmers, doctors, managers and workmen of the same company that supports the school. The continuous efforts of Mr. Mohan and his team to do wonders in a given situation, by removing all bottlenecks, has lead to success.
Conclusion Given the complexities of the Covid pandemic, it takes much more than ordinary efforts to manage talent. The school in this case study is still learning from the experiences and has grand plans to make online learning a big substitute for regular teaching when the schools get back to normal business. Talent management is a never-ending process. Anyone who wants to implement talent management has to go through some basic steps discussed above. The school is also ready for further innovation.