The labor market is tight across all sectors, making it especially challenging to find people to fill open positions in your education organization. In 2021, during the height of the global pandemic, employees between ages 30 and 45 resigned at the highest rates. Unfortunately, these high levels of turnover have continued in the education sector, creating added stress for teams as they work to accomplish their mission-critical work with fewer staff and on HR teams they struggle to fill roles in a challenging talent landscape.
In 2019, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to a mere 3.6%, a near 50-year low. Candidates were in the driver’s seat in 2019, fueling a war for top talent in the education sector. The U.S. economy set records in July for the nation’s longest-ever economic expansion, and thanks to robust hiring, the number of unfilled jobs hovered near an all-time high with more than 7 million vacant roles in the U.S.
The competition for top talent in the education sector has never been higher. We need to ensure that we can continue to attract, hire, and keep the best talent in order to deliver on our important missions. With this in mind, we have developed a checklist of questions you can leverage to drive the conversation about talent within your organization. We encourage your leadership team to compare this list against your organizational practices and address your weakest areas in order to build your capacity to attract, hire, and keep the best talent in this competitive talent landscape.
- How do you currently attract talent? Do you post on job boards or your website? Do you hire a recruiter? Do you network and keep a short list of “rising stars”? We suggest focusing on the recruitment method(s) that nets the best talent. It is likely to vary based on position. If you’re in the education sector and struggling to attract great non-teaching talent, check out WorkMonger – we’d be happy to help.
- How long does it take from posting the job to filling the job? We have found that when organizations start from scratch, i.e., they don’t have a list of “rising stars,” it usually takes about one to two months to fill junior-level jobs, three months to fill mid-level jobs (managers), and six months or longer to fill senior-level positions.
- Have you considered classifying the role as a remote job? When you expand job functions in the education sphere and make them more flexible, the pool of available talent increases and the caliber improves.
- How often does your first choice accept your offer? We believe they should accept 80 percent of the time. When they don’t accept your offer, we suggest you ask first-choice candidates why in order to learn what you can do to improve. Remember that the interview process is not only the candidate’s opportunity to sell you on why they are a great fit for the role, it’s also your opportunity to sell the candidate on your mission and why they should want to join your team.
- Do you have an intern program as an easy way to attract and try out talent? If not, check to see if your local college or mayor’s office has a program that you can apply for.
- Do you participate in your community’s “Best Places to Work” lists and/or participate in career days at local colleges to raise awareness about your organization?
Hiring Talent that Fits
- Do your job descriptions list both responsibilities (e.g., write grants) and key competencies (e.g., writing ability, time management) for each role? Have you delineated must-haves vs. nice-to-haves?
- Have you bought or conducted a salary survey to ensure a match between your job description and your starting salary/benefits?
- Does your organization conduct a salary and benefit review of all positions every three years?
- Do you use assessments (e.g., Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder) to help you assess fit and personality?
- Do you seek samples of past work or have a performance-based interview process?
- Have you established follow-up timelines for your hiring process?
Bringing Out the Best
- Do you have an annual performance review process with regular feedback discussions, at least once a quarter, for both high performers and low performers? These should result in performance plans, including professional development needs, measurable, time-bound goals and action steps.
- Do you have regular supervisor training that covers key topics, such as delegation, leading teams and addressing performance problems? If not, or if you have questions on how to approach this, check out The Management Center’s book, Managing to Change the World.
- Do you have a process to pair employees with coaches or mentors? While supervisors should coach their teams as part of their management responsibility, here we are referring to non-supervisors serving as mentors. We have found that mentorship programs result in more honest conversations and open feedback.
- Do you track key metrics on talent – turnover rates (desired and undesired), average recruitment time and percentage of first choice candidates hired? Do you share these with staff and your board as part of your organizational dashboard?
- Do you conduct annual confidential climate surveys to gauge employee satisfaction, compare them year-over-year and act on the results in a transparent way?
- Do you have early warning systems in place for high performers to have candid conversations before they decide to leave?
- Do you have a Culture Working Group that monitors and works intentionally to improve culture within the organization?
Exiting & Learning
- Do you conduct confidential exit interviews of all exiting employees without their supervisors present to learn about their individual situations?
- Do you review exit interviews collectively to find themes to act on?
Keeping & Growing Talent
- Do you have a Culture of Gratitude? When you take the time to focus on showing your employees gratitude in your educational organization, you can foster a positive employer-employee relationship thereby creating a strong positive influence on your organization’s culture.
- Do you have a culture as a learning organization? Do you encourage growth as an individual, as teams and as an organization?
- How do you manage failure? Is the organization open to taking risks and learning from them?
- Does your organization have a process for sharing positive and negative feedback across teams and between supervisors?
We hope this starts a thoughtful conversation internally about what it takes to build a healthy workforce in this challenging talent environment. With the right talent committed to your mission, you will be well-positioned to deliver on your educational promise.
This blog has been adapted from a blog that John Troy, CEO of WorkMonger, wrote with Suzanne Smith, CEO of Social Impact Architects