Which came first? Great question! It’s that age old riddle that has sparked many arguments and debates.
The same great riddle can be posed around the term ‘teacher recruitment and retention’ – or should that be retention and recruitment?
In our opinion, it’s about retaining your best staff and recruiting high quality teachers. And, there is no doubt, marketing has a role to play. Concentrate on your staff retention strategy in the immediate term: this should be with the development of your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) – more later – and fine tuning the benefits of working for your school or MAT. From a marketing perspective, don’t forget the messaging, promotion and communications to key stakeholders.
When only the best will do
There is oodles of advice on staff retention strategies in the education sector so we thought we would explore the theme wider and review the advice from the national professional body for HR and people development – the CIPD. We have added a sprinkling of our school marketing take in italics:
- Selection – Give prospective employees a realistic job preview at the recruitment stage. (Ensure your vision, values, ethos and culture shine through your website as this is what will retain and attract high quality staff.)
- Career development and progression – Maximise opportunities for employees to develop skills and careers. (This highlights the importance of your EVP - look at other sectors for ideas; the NHS employee retention strategies are particularly impressive.)
- Consult employees – Ensure that employees have a 'voice' in performance conversations, attitude surveys and grievance systems. (Look beyond the staff survey and consider an internal cultural transformation project involving coaching and mentoring that will revitalise and re-energise your staff and your school.)
- Be flexible – Wherever possible, accommodate individual preferences on working hours and times. (This can be developed and enhanced through the EVP with creative solutions.)
- Employee well-being – Support managers to help their teams thrive and manage issues such as workplace stress and presenteeism. (Communicating this to all stakeholders will support your retention strategies; think about staff profiles and case studies published on your website and social media channels.)
- Treat people fairly – A perception of unfairness, whatever the management view of the issue, is a major cause of voluntary resignations.
Our repeated mantra is that it should not be ‘a one size fits all approach’; either in terms of retention or recruitment. The staff development opportunities, at different levels, should be promoted widely internally and via all communication channels. Be creative and increase these opportunities beyond CPD and through your networks. Some of our schools have partnership opportunities within their community and with businesses with exciting initiatives from coaching to financial benefits.
Fishing in a wider talent pool
Looking to the future and the potential challenges facing the sector due to the pandemic, there needs to be a proactive approach to recruitment beyond the buzz words of talent management, talent finding, talent pool… this goes beyond Britain’s Got Talent!
Start with the bait: what is your compelling offer and what makes your school unique? How are you currently attracting high quality staff: teaching and support? What’s worked well and what needs refining? How accessible is your application process? Would you want to work at your school or MAT? Consider this from all aspects, particularly the proposition you are presenting, as part of your public profile, to prospective employees and indeed the world.
Known as the ‘People Deal’, work on the development of your EVP and what characterises your school and differentiates you from the competition. Review this in terms of: financial incentives; CPD and progression opportunities; wellbeing; general incentives and rewards, and the benefits of living and working in the area. Prepare an online branded staff recruitment pack promoting your offer in a similar but more appealing fashion than the school prospectus; fill it with engaging content - testimonials, case studies, benefits and opportunities.
Prepare the hook: be creative with your advertising and appeal directly to the people you want to attract. Look at what your competitors are doing to attract staff? Are there novel ideas from other sectors you could adapt? Review the contents of your current adverts, job descriptions and person specs. How can you improve the website experience for prospective staff? Do you have promotional teaser adverts on social media, linked to staff profiles on YouTube and your website?
Find the right pools: similar to the NHS and their renewed recruitment drive, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the education sector to get ahead in terms of recruiting the best. On the plus side, there may not be a pressing issue and there may well be more choice than the profession has ever seen before with the number of new trainees joining the system. However, nationally, at the other end of the scale, succession planning will be needed with retiring staff, including a raft of high quality headteachers and deputies.
Think about WHO you want to recruit before the HOW? Rather than following the same old procedure of placing the same advert through the same media outlets, look at the opportunity gaps? There are many more potential high quality candidates that are looking for a new profession; others wanting to return to a job they loved or a whole new generation within your own school walls. Are you still in contact with NQTs or those great teachers that left the profession early? Where are potential candidates from other sectors who are looking for a new career move? Are there returners to the profession who are looking for job security? Targeting different groups may be an alternative way to developing your recruitment strategy as well as the long term investment of ‘growing your own’ with your current or former students. What are you doing to raise the profile of teaching as a profession with your own young people?
We believe the potential is endless. Before advertising nationally, think locally – can you launch a recruitment campaign online to attract returning parents (maybe not those scarred from teaching their own children at home during the pandemic!). Think creatively and out of the box. Find alternative cheaper routes to market – but remember to do the groundwork.
Our advice: do not be put off by the logistical issues that schools have faced up to now in terms of holding interviews, forecasting staffing numbers, and juggling with the uncertainties. Be one of those forward-thinking senior leaders that is one step ahead and is implementing their succession planning, and retention and recruitment strategies.
Your school or MAT needs to be a magnet for talent, and have engaged and motivated staff. As the labour market recovers in 2021 and you are ahead in terms of legwork, look over your shoulder at the headless chickens and reap the rewards of having prepared and laid the golden egg!