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7 Steps for a Balanced Recruitment AND Retention Strategy

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This is a guest post by Tracy Najera, Senior Director of Human Capital at Battelle for Kids. You can follow her on Twitter at @edurita.

There is rightly a major focus nowadays on recruiting and hiring the best educator talent in our schools. However, an equally important, and often overlooked issue, is how districts can effectively retain their best teachers and school leaders. Educator turnover costs school districts in the U.S. about $2.2 billion annually, according to a recent study. It also impacts learning opportunities for students, particularly those in urban and rural settings which face the biggest challenges in growing and keeping effective educators.

Last week, my colleague Tony Bagshaw and I had a chance to present at the Equitable Access to Excellent Teacher and Leaders Meeting hosted by the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the Center on Great Teachers & Leaders at American Institutes for Research (GTL). Building on experiences working with the Ohio Teacher Incentive Fund and rural districts across the country, we had a great discussion with attendees about challenges and promising solutions for improving teacher retention in our rural communities.

To ensure equitable access to excellent educators for all our students--regardless of their zip code--we need a balanced approach to talent management in education focused on recruiting, developing, and retaining the best and brightest educators.

How can districts effectively onboard new teachers and school leaders?

How can districts provide meaningful mentoring and feedback to support educator growth?

What leadership opportunities are available for new staff to advance in their career?

Below are 7 steps for developing and implementing a balanced recruitment and retention strategy:

Step 1: Examine Your Data
Use multiple data sources to determine trends, opportunities, and challenges with recruiting, developing, and retaining educators in your district.

  • Is your district losing its best teachers to neighboring districts?
  • Are educators leaving the profession altogether?
  • How does your district's salary schedule compare with other districts in the region or other organization's competing for educator and principal talent?
  • What type of candidates are applying for job openings in the district?

An analysis of teacher attrition data, job vacancies, exit interview notes, etc. can help answer some of these questions. Districts that lack exit interview information may consider reaching out to former teachers for an informal interview about why they chose to leave.

Step 2: Audit Your Practices
Evaluate your district's current approach to finding and keeping educator talent.

  • What strategies does your district currently use to recruit and retain teachers and school leaders?
  • How much do these efforts cost in terms of people, time, and money?
  • How successful have they been?

There are several free tools available to help districts audit their recruitment and retention practices, including this free human capital audit.

Step 3: Engage Your Staff
Research shows that poor working conditions are one of the main reasons why people in all professions--not just teachers--leave their job. What is the current environment in your district? How engaged are teachers and principals at work? There are many resources available to help leaders measure and improve organizational culture and employee engagement. Many organizations use the Gallup's Q12 Employee Engagement Survey. Dr. Wayne Hoy from The Ohio State University also offers various school/organizational climate surveys at not cost. School districts should collect this data at least once a year to help nurture a positive climate for teaching and learning that not only attracts educator talent to the district but makes people want to stay.

Step 4: Do Research, Get Creative
Once you have collected and examined data to identify gaps that may exist in your educator recruitment and retention strategy, it's time to do your homework to determine the best approach for your district. Engage a diverse stakeholder team, including educators, local business, and community leaders, to be part the conversation and planning process. Also reach out to statewide associations for support researching innovative ideas that are being implemented in similar districts across the country.

Step 5: Implement
Before implementing your district's educator recruitment and retention strategy, define what a successful process and outcome will look like. Start small. Piloting a new approach can provide an opportunity to work out the kinks and make adjustments before launching the full plan districtwide. Regular communication is also critical throughout the implementation process to build understanding and support among key stakeholders--including educators at all levels, parents, community and business leaders, philanthropic partners, media, and others.

Step 6: Measure Impact
Continually measure, monitor, and report out on the impact of your district's recruitment and retention strategy.

Step 7: Make Adjustments
Meet annually with key stakeholders to consider what elements of the district's plan are working well, what strategies are not meeting expectations, and what adjustments need to be made to reach the district's goals.

To overcome issues with teacher attrition, particularly in rural and urban school districts, the focus should not just be on how to recruit the next group of educators to fill these spots. Districts also need to figure out why educators are leaving and what can be done to keep and grow more great teachers and leaders. The grass isn't always greener on the other side; it's greener where you water it.


Special Note: If this is a topic of interest, CCSSO and GTL in collaboration with the Equitable Access Support Network will offer a "Messaging Equitable Access" webinar on Tuesday, February 24 from 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST. Details on this opportunity can be viewed on the CCSSO's website under Equitable Access and Stakeholder Engagement.

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