One of the most important goals for any organization remains attracting and retaining the best talent available. In your school district too, you must focus on hiring top educators and keeping them comfortably onboard. Like any other job, the lure will always mainly involve salary and benefits, but in the unique profession of educating young people, retention strategies must extend beyond financial rewards alone.
You’ll need to think outside the box to earn the trust, dedication, and loyalty of today’s best and brightest teachers. The best teacher retention strategies involve a comprehensive onboarding, agile feedback, supportive collaboration, and healthy work/life balance.
Optimal Teacher Retention Strategies
Great onboarding starts the moment an offer letter is signed. Don’t think that your new educators differ all that much from employees in private industries. Many new hires are often left feeling lost between the time a job has been accepted and the first day of work begins. Newly hired employees who undergo comprehensive onboarding processes are 69% more inclined to stay with an organization for up to three years. Proficient acclimation efforts help reduce turnover—especially the costly exits that occur in the first year of employment.
In the weeks leading up to the first day of class, don’t leave new teachers in the dark about what they might expect when arriving onsite. Spend some time to communicate the school’s mission and their role in it clearly. If pre-hire paperwork—like benefit enrollments or I-9s—can be completed beforehand, that’s one less thing a new employee has to worry about.
Replacing a teacher puts a burden on financial and human resources alike. Naturally, with retiring educators, you can expect and plan for attrition. But life happens, and departures can occur without warning. An easy way to minimize losses of this type is to monitor employee engagement. This may sound burdensome, but it doesn’t need to be a full-blown, scientific experiment. Since time often comes at a premium, a simple ten-item questionnaire (with space for comments at the end) should serve to identify problems or progress with teachers.
Many companies cull feedback from online purveyors such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms. These are easy-to-use, cost-effective methods of gaining insight into how employees are adjusting to their new positions within the district. Keep options open for individuals to identify themselves on the surveys if they feel comfortable. If you can resolve issues face-to-face, that personal attention can help educators feel their concerns will be respected.
To take engagement to the next level, you can create committees within the district to gain input on potential improvements and enhancements to the organization itself. When employees are given a voice in processes, policies, and procedures, those involvements cement teacher buy-in and foster a sense of belonging.
Despite the number of students taught in a day, teachers can feel somewhat isolated. It’s them, the students, a classroom, some periodic breaks, and lesson plans—rinse and repeat. However, districts that allow teachers to team up—in and out of the classroom—report higher levels of engagement and less frustration. Those efforts might extend to curriculum development or to sports and other extracurricular activities. Finding collaboration and comfort with colleagues promotes a sense of belonging and support and can help alleviate the daily routine.
One popular strategy is to create a mentor program in which rookie teachers are paired with seasoned professionals. It helps smooth the transition and relieve some of the anxiety that a younger teacher may have with their new role. In addition, administrators can facilitate communication by espousing an open door policy for teachers to make recommendations or raise challenges in a supportive forum.
The Personal and the Professional
The idiom “all work and no play” may never have had more significance than in today’s society. And an overworked staff may hesitate to take time off for illnesses or personal reasons for fear of disrupting the academic flow. In the past, an imbalance between work and home life has been a principle reason why teachers leave the profession. Fortunately, simple solutions to these dilemmas exist.
Many districts contract their absence management programs to assure conscientious educators that qualified substitutes are readily available at a moment’s notice. Educational staffing agencies handle the substitute teacher process from start to finish, alleviating any concerns from administrators or staff that a day away might leave their coworkers in a pinch. In addition, with short and long-term substitutes, these agencies have the resources to manage payroll, benefits and onboarding, while measuring teacher engagement levels.
The Final Bell
School districts can take some lessons from private companies that successfully recruit and retain key employees. Educational staffing agencies such as ESS specialize in partnering with schools to manage talent acquisition and promote retention among valued teachers.
Retaining good teachers requires administrations to develop a sense of community among students, teachers, and the administrative team. From the moment a new hire commits to teaching until the time they retire, successful districts continuously promote teacher interactions and value educator input—and make sure educators know that they’ll be supported, even on the days they can’t be in the classroom.
Ed Keating is a school business manager who blogs about concrete solutions to the many financial and administrative issues facing school districts today. In his spare time, Ed enjoys fishing, backpacking, and camping with his wife and two daughters, Molly and Anne.