WHERE HAVE ALL THE TEACHERS GONE…..AND WHAT ARE SCHOOLS DOING TO KEEP THEM?

According to a report by the Learning Policy Institute, four leading factors, contributing to a national teacher shortage are: 1) a decline in teacher preparation enrollments, 2) district efforts to return to pre-recession pupil-teacher ratios, 3) increasing student enrollment, and 4) high teacher attrition.  While often labor shortages can be temporary, reflective of a change to an industry or economy, this four-part combination, consisting of issues in attracting new teachers as well as retaining existing teachers suggests more of a failing culture of an entire profession.  Even be more alarming?  How school districts are responding to the shortage when compared to other industries faced with this same challenge.

Education is not the only industry experiencing a labor shortage.  Various news sources suggest that the US is suffering from labor shortages in skilled laborers, truckers, manufacturing, landscaping, and even hospitality.  It is however perhaps the industry with the slowest reaction.  Though reasons for each shortage may vary, it’s important companies within each affected industry look to focus recruiting and retention strategies around these driving forces.  When faced with staffing challenges employers are forced to innovate and again give attention to their most valuable asset – their people.  So, as dealerships shift their recruiting efforts to technical schools, or companies incorporate profit sharing incentives into skilled laborer compensation packages, it seems very little has changed in recruiting or retaining teachers.  Below are two of the most common “people strategies” implemented in a time where competing for talent is fierce.  Are schools in your community competing for talent?

Get social.

Perhaps the most powerful strategy given the role social media plays in society – social media, when used wisely, can be helpful in both attracting and retaining talent.  Monster.com provides a brief case study of Sodexo, a company committed to helping corporate clients improve performance and promote well-being through a variety of life service offerings, who after incorporating social media in their recruiting efforts saw a 25% increase in candidates. In a separate Monster.com article, social media is labeled a “virtual water cooler”, a powerful tool when shaping a workplace culture with intention.  Although navigating the world of social media within the workplace may be tricky – particularly for the public sector – is it a risk worth trying?  With growing student enrollment, high attrition, and low recruitment, shortages are predicted to grow to 112,000 by 2018.  By monitoring social media accounts and implementing a healthy social media policy, could school districts create a brand worth following?

Know your team.

What drives your teachers to teach?  As any manager or supervisor should be able to answer this simple yet important question about the people that report to them – a Principal or Superintendent should be able to answer this same question regarding their teachers.  Whether through a survey or one-on-one conversation, knowing your team is key.  If you can’t answer this question about the team you represent, make it a point to ask the question next meeting.  The asking is the most important part.  Recognizing and respecting their answer is an extremely close second.  The answer they provide, keeping in mind that it may change over time, is the key to keeping them engaged….and whether the private sector or public sector, engaged employees are critical to success.  According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, engaged employees have 41% lower absenteeism, 24% lower turnover, and 17% higher productivity – all extremely beneficial when workload is high but headcount is low.

So, while many discussions focus on better pay and benefits – also important aspects to consider when examining a labor crisis such as that of teachers – consider what the schools are doing in your community now regarding these two solutions that can be done for minimal cost.  They are solutions well-tested in the private sector, helping to distinguish the ideas of tomorrow from the antiquated traditions of the past.  Cinematographer, Conrad Hall said, “You are always a student, never a master.  You have to keep moving forward.”  Can the lessons in human capital learned from business be key to advancing education forward?

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