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What do Academies need to do to set themselves up for success? In this article Keith Miller identifies five useful strategies.

Research from strategic consultants McKinsey, showed that in 2009, for the first time in 200 years, emerging markets contributed more to global economic growth than developed ones. McKinsey predicts that by 2025, China will have more large companies than the USA or Europe, and that 50% of the largest companies in the world will be headquartered in emerging markets. This is the environmental backcloth that today’s secondary school pupils will experience when they transition to the job market. They will encounter a world of increased job competition not only from the UK but internationally. Successful Academies understand globalisation, and reflect it in their vision and operational priorities.

Another factor which dominates the job market for young people today is the impact of innovative and disruptive technology. Three examples illustrate: 30,000 unfilled IT vacancies in the South of England; 500% increase in jobs with social media content in the last two years; and 50% of management jobs to be replaced by digital jobs if the futurologists are to be believed. Even successful Academies cannot be expected to address all the requirements of tomorrow’s jobs, but they can nevertheless seek to identify and equip pupils with the skills needed to navigate this digital world.

A third factor that distinguishes the best Academies is that they communicate their message in a compelling and consistent manner, both internally and externally. They have values and they live by them. This is transmitted through their recruitment, retention and development programmes. They recognise that, “Leaders behave like leaders before they are leaders” (Stuart Lancaster) and they therefore seek out talented individuals to work with, and draw them into the mission by demonstrating passion for their cause.

With the first three in place, enlightened Academies are able to engage with both active and passive candidates, affording them an opportunity to select from a wider pool of higher calibre individuals. Less progressive Academies struggle to be able to achieve this and often state that talent is in short supply, when it is not. There are some hugely talented people in the education arena and particularly in our schools. The best Academies get onto the front foot, seeking out good people and forging relationships with them.

Finally, Academies can differentiate themselves through their approach to strategic thinking, and in particular the management of change. The classic model is to examine strategy first, structure second and then infill with people third. But more innovative approaches now exist. Holacracy may not be the way forward for all organisations, but its philosophy allows for management structures to become more flexible around people’s capabilities and the requirements of the organisation at a particular time. It generates a positive and powerful dynamic as it is easier for talented, yet inexperienced people to have more input, as it plays to their specialist knowledge. Failing that, there is something to be said for Jim Collins’ (“Good to Great”) approach – just start by getting good people on the bus. They will help you decide how to get there!

For a conversation about bringing real talent into Academies, call John Dodd on 01625 508100.

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