As with any role in your organisation, to effectively lead or manage a technician you’ll need to develop a ‘working understanding’ of what they do on a daily basis.
For those that lead a technician in a primary school, that may mean entering into an unfamiliar world of technical vocabulary and endless cable runs of wires, switches and servers – but don’t be daunted. Look past the jargon and fancy equipment, and try to focus on the following:
1. Listen and ask questions
Creating an open dialogue with your technician will make it easier to proactively identify problems and work together to create a mutually beneficial environment – as well as making your technician feel appreciated and acknowledged. This is best achieved by scheduling regular opportunities to sit down and talk, perhaps at a biweekly meeting. Don’t limit your open dialogue to just meetings, though – as with other members of staff, take time to touch base and ask your technician how their day’s going. Be mindful of how much time they spend on activities that address your organisational goals and make these the focus of your interactions.
2. Let your technician determine the methods
Give your technician an end result to obtain, rather than methods through which to complete the task. Explain in simple terms that there are many ways to skin this cat, and encourage your technician to do what they think is best to obtain the end goal.
3. Give your technician input
Ask your technician about timelines for projects and tasks and listen to what they say. Where necessary, seek additional input from other specialist voices – perhaps a governor with technical understanding, a technician from another school or a third-party technical advisor. When introducing a third party, avoid confrontation by affirming the shared goals of all participants and setting clear guidelines for any interactions.
4. Provide the right tools
Give your technician tools that help them and a suitable space to work in. If they tell you that a specific tool will aid their work, let them use it. Consider pooling tools with other local schools to reduce costs, or leasing equipment that might be required for short term tasks such as PAT Testing or network debugging. Create protocols that will prevent your technician from being drawn away from big projects by staff with minor technical issues who may be better assisted by colleagues familiar with, for example, the photocopier or printer. A ticket-based help desk can help here – see spiceworks.com for an example of how you can set one up.
5. Empower them
Give your technician the power to come up with new approaches and let them try things out. Assign them tasks that will see them interact with others both in and out of IT, and allow them to attend industry conferences such as the Bett Show. Don’t underestimate the advantages to be had from letting your technical staff network and build relationships with other technicians and suppliers. Above all, treat your technician with respect – not just for who they are, but for what they can accomplish.
Gary Spracklen is headteacher at The Prince of Wales School, Dorchester, a former Digital Educator of the Year and a member of the government’s Educational Technology Action Group.