Changing Landscape of the Education Industry
Earlier, there used to be at the most only 3-4 sections for each class in every school. These were named in alphabetical order like A, B, C, and D. But with the rise in the number of students enrolling into schools every year, the alphabets are soon going to fall short. From kindergarten to colleges and universities, every year there is a rise in the strength of students. But the challenge is not only this. Educational institutions face tremendous pressure from parents, students, authorities, and society on various grounds. The issues revolve around board affiliations, infrastructural facilities and standards, fee structures, quality of education, teaching methodologies, co-curricular activities, healthy student-to-teacher ratio, etc.
In an altered environment of standards and expectations, schools and other educational institutions can no longer be managed with conventional managerial and operational systems and capabilities. The need of the hour is to treat these institutions as professional organisations now. And if anything has to move first, it is the perspective of the managing bodies and trusts running these institutions.
Operational Challenges for Educational Institutions
Loose ends in Assets Management
An educational institution stands and runs on a huge network of assets. These assets include land and building, furniture and fixtures, buses and vehicles, technological infrastructure, science labs, sports facilities, etc. The activities of every department must be maintained. Otherwise, the services will be hampered. For instance, the inability of a school to provide sports facilities to students will irk both students and parents. The challenge for many educational institutions is managing such a huge network of assets. Without organisational structuring and operational planning, managing the infrastructure of educational institutions remains a daunting task.
Reporting, Performance Management and Audits
An educational institution should not be judging its performance based only on the performance of its students. It should also keep an eye on the performance of its teachers, administration, policies, processes, and the entire machinery as a whole. For example, is the school canteen maintaining the standards of safety or hygiene or not? How could the management take a call on this? Or are the teachers fair and impartial to students? Are they encouraging the curiosity of the students by encouraging them to ask questions? We know peeping is not the answer. A mechanism has to be built to derive these insights. There has to be a systematic way of making the observations. The answer lies in having reporting systems, periodical audits, and PMS for the employees.
Insufficient Training and Development
Providing training and development programs is critical for educational institutions to keep their teaching and administrative staff updated in their respective fields and areas of work. Even the skills and knowledge of the best employees one day begin to stray into the edges of redundancy. Then it becomes immaterial if at some point in time they were the best.
The need is to provide a platform to employees to help them upgrade their knowledge and expertise to keep up with the developments. Unfortunately, most educational institutions do not seem to be making the right or sufficient efforts in this direction.
Inadequate use of Technology in Operations
Building the right IT infrastructure is necessary for educational institutions. The task of managing an educational institution keeps on getting complex and bulkier with increasing numbers of students every year and enhanced locational presence. With growth and expansion, there is an increase in employee strength. More classrooms, buildings and infrastructure are required. Additional school buses get added to the existing fleet. There is a corresponding increase in administrative, housekeeping and security operations. And while doing all these, the standards of services have to be maintained. Without the aid of technology, managing the operations of an educational institution is an outright daunting task.
Weaker Hiring Systems
Today, we no longer live in times when staff recruitment decisions are made based only on qualifications. The qualitative features of a good teacher have gone beyond qualifications and rope in their personality traits, passion for the profession and updated awareness to name a few. These considerations must weigh in during the recruitment of teaching staff. Similarly, there are contemporary hiring factors for non-teaching staff as well. These requirements and criteria must find a due place in job analysis and also, in the hiring process. Modern-day educational institutions no longer confine themselves to local candidates. Geography is not allowed to become a constraint in hiring the best employees. And fair and competitive salaries and benefits are offered to the right candidates.
How SOPs can help Educational Institutions
Performance Management System
Different job profiles have different KRA and KPI requirements to fulfil. Thus, every performance has to be gauged through unique lenses. For instance, the performance of a HOD of a college cannot be judged on the same scale used to evaluate the performance of a school teacher. This is because of the differences in their job descriptions and job specifications involving different KRAs and KPIs. The solution is developing a PMS. However, developing and implementing PMS for an entire organisation is a huge task. But if the trouble is taken, it enables educational institutions to establish the standards of performance against which every job in the organisation could be evaluated. If the PMS process is not mapped and defined as a process, it can get cumbersome and chaotic for the HR department to smoothly carry out this important HR activity.
Maintaining the assets of an educational institution is a huge operational challenge. The first reason is the large number of assets required to run a standard educational institution. Then, these assets have to be maintained both in terms of records and physical existence. Things get more complex when the factor of specialisation comes in. For example, every department in an educational institution uses computers and printers, but it is the IT department that has the expertise to carry out the repair and maintenance activities. It is the administration department that keeps the purchase bills to claim any warranty. If the problem is related to electricity, the concerned department has to be contacted. And while all these activities are done, the work of the affected department would stay halted. This interconnectedness of departments could be simplified and translated into a smooth workflow if processes are developed and followed.
Standard educational institutions like schools, colleges, and universities employ a large number of people for various departments like teaching, administration, housekeeping, transportation, etc. The staff strength can reach up to hundreds. Even with an HR department, managing the HR operations for large organisations is always a challenge. Increasing the strength of the HR departments does very little to improve the situation. The need is to have proper organisational structuring, defined processes, and use of technology. For instance, in monthly payroll operations, the HR department has to take into account the leaves availed by employees during the month. Ideally, leave applications are kept by the HR department. But to screen leave applications manually for payroll purposes would be a tedious task; there could be hundreds of them in a month. But even with a software application, processes and organisational structuring cannot be avoided. These two elements dictate how the software will serve.
Leveraging IT & Technology
SOPs constitute the groundwork for identifying and adopting the best-fit IT and technological solutions. Defining the processes using SOP technical writing is a task only half done. How an education institution intends to run (policies, processes and procedures) must also be integrated with its IT systems. And having the right technological infrastructure enables educational institutions to run their processes and operations more efficiently and effectively. It also helps them immensely in recruitment drives, admission seasons, managing rosters, maintaining safety and security in the campuses, holding virtual classes, managing fleet of school buses, etc.
Many prominent schools adopt the franchising strategy to expand their network of institutions. In doing so, they hand over the rights to franchisees to operate under their brand name while retaining strong control over how franchisees manage their franchise. Barring minor adjustments for reasons of localisation, the franchisors dictate the policies and standards the franchisees have to maintain. SOPs can and have proven to be useful to franchisor schools in defining and controlling franchise operations. With the availability of planned and proven processes, it is also easier for the franchisees to jump start with the operations and adhere to the policies of the franchisors. Thus, process solutions provide a win-win situation for both franchisors and franchisees.