EtonHouse: “Treating staff like our children”
EtonHouse’s Ng Gim Choo is passionate about people, whatever their age. This includes her students and her staff. She said: ‘’To some extent, I see nurturing my staff as similar to nurturing a child. We nurture students and staff to be curious, to have the right values and to respect each other’’.
Going into detail she explained: ‘’We encourage children to ask many questions. Similarly, at work, we encourage staff to ask many questions. We have to always think outside the box and try new things. I believe it helps innovation’’.
The founder and managing director of EtonHouse also applies the same principle to nurturing leaders within the educational institute. ‘’In an organisation, we also need a strong culture to be successful. Staff members watch the behaviour of their leaders just like children who are constantly observing their parents’ behaviour. In an organisation, leaders have to be role models to our employees’’.
Respect is another core value at EtonHouse, that equally applies to students and staff. “We believe children have 100 languages, 100 ways of expressing themselves. If you respect children, they will in turn respect adults. We don’t talk down to them. Similarly at work, we need to respect our colleagues. We need to respect the strengths of each individual”.
The EtonHouse group currently employs more than 4,000 staff worldwide across 120 campuses. EtonHouse educators and professionals are recruited from all over the world including the UK, Ireland, US, Canada, Australia, China, Korea, Japan and Singapore.
Given this diverse range of nationalities, Ng was focused on building a strong culture within the company that could bring together all the employees with common goals and purposes. The culture is based on the tagline “COLOR with Passion” – which stands for being collaborative, lifelong learners, open-minded, respectful and passionate.
Ng believes it is very important to hire people at EtonHouse who are aligned with its organisational culture and philosophy. ‘’Fortunately for us, we do attract good quality professionals who want to work with us due to our reputation, quality of our curriculum and strong professional development programmes’’.
These professional development programmes also help retain and develop staff, alongside attracting new talent. “We are one of the very few education groups with a dedicated in-house training and research arm, the EtonHouse Education Centre, with a team of pedagogists who offer ongoing professional development to staff through mentoring/consultancy programmes and professional development’’.
EtonHouse also regularly organises industry forums and workshops that attract educators not just from the Asian region but around the globe. Ng’s educators are even given the opportunity to participate in annual study trips to Reggio Emilia, Northern Italy – the birthplace of the educational philosophy Ng believes in.
Building career pathways is also an important part of the employee value proposition. These include the conventional pathway where teaching staff can progress from entry level through positions of increasing responsibility to reach the appointment of a Principal. If a teacher is keen to progress to a leadership position within the school, there is a leadership training programme that helps to equip them with the skills and competencies to move from being an associate/assistant teacher to a core teacher, senior teacher, curriculum coordinator, vice principal and then principal.
Another career attraction are overseas postings. Being an education group with more than 100 schools spread across 12 countries, EtonHouse is also able to offer invaluable overseas assignments. ”We often see teachers move within our schools located in different parts of the world. Through overseas placements, we have been able to retain staff who are looking for an international experience’’.
The EtonHouse founder recently picked the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year award in the Education category, highlighting her business acumen and strong leadership. As smart leaders all know, people play a critical part in any organisation’s success. ‘’I hired the very best people, who not only have the skills, but who share the same passion and commitment. In fact, my management philosophy can be summarised by 4Ps. They stand for Passion, Perseverance, People and Professional development,’’ she said.
Having trained as a teacher herself, Ng understand the pressures and challenges they face. This is why she puts their well-being very high on the EtonHouse agenda. She signed up for a Masters course in Early Childhood and did a training course as an assistant teacher. ‘’I strongly believe in connecting with my people in order to lead them. I knew that to lead an education organisation well, I had to understand what happens inside a classroom’’.
There was a seminal moment for Ng in her career that she will never forget. ‘’I remember one day after a long day at work I was so tired. My clothes were messy with all the classroom activities. I was wearing a red skirt and by the end of the day the buttons were all gone. I was exhausted.’’
So what did she do afterwards? ‘’That’s when I decided to increase the annual leave for teachers to 35 days as compared to the industry practice of 21 days. I realised just how much work goes into caring and educating young children’’.