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Attracting, Hiring, & Keeping the Best Talent in 2021

The strategies you need to employ to attract, hire, and keep the best talent include some foundational actions, but they vary from year-to-year based on the economy and world events. In 2021, the job candidate pool is still dealing with the effects of COVID-19, quarantines, and stay-at-home orders. The Washington Post reported that unemployment in the U.S. skyrocketed to 14.7 percent in March 2020, the highest since the Great Depression. According to the Labor Department, more than 20 million people lost jobs within a month, about twice the amount of job loss during the financial crisis from 2007 to 2009.

The pandemic devastated job seekers, but it also put pressure on employers. You might feel overwhelmed trying to find the right candidate with the specialized talent you need among the large pool of applicants you have for open positions. Below we offer some guidance on evaluating your education organization’s practices about attracting, hiring, and keeping talent in 2021. Once you have a solid grasp on your practices, it’s easy to implement steps to help you attract, hire, and retain the best talent.

Attracting the Best Talent in 2021

Before deciding the best way to attract talent in 2021, you need to review how your organization currently attracts talent. Methods vary among organizations and include:

  • Job postings on a company website
  • Postings on general internet job boards
  • Postings on industry-specific job boards, like TrulyHired, which focuses on non-teaching positions
  • Hiring a recruiter

It’s best to focus on the recruitment methods that net the best talent. Additionally, the method(s) you choose is likely to vary based on the particular role you are trying to fill within your organization. This year, reliance on contractors and freelancers is more prevalent, especially in the education sector. Organizations have had to put problem-solving skills to the test to cope with COVID-19 and related policies that impact students and parents. You might also consider including contract positions in your talent pool.

One of the most significant indicators of whether you are attracting the best talent for your education organization is the rate your first-choice candidates accept job offers. We believe candidates should accept a job offer about 80 percent of the time. Always take the time to ask a candidate why they turned down your job offer. This inquiry provides you with more information about the ways you can attract more and better candidates.

Actionable Steps to Attract Top Talent in 2021

You cannot hire or retain talent if you cannot attract suitable job candidates to apply for the roles you have available in your education organization. Some actionable steps you can take to build interest amongst the best talent include:

Consider Creating Remote Positions

When you expand job functions in the education sphere and increase flexibility, you increase the amount of high-caliber candidates available for hire. The challenges of 2020 make remote work attractive for candidates. The arrival of the global pandemic might have forced you to transition some or all of your team members to remote work. Depending on your mission and goals related to students that benefit from your work, it might not be possible to make all roles remote. However, you should evaluate each position to see if you can allow some remote time within a role.

Provide Thorough Job Descriptions

Attracting the best talent means you need to list job responsibilities with key competencies or required qualifications for each role. This overview allows job candidates to screen themselves. New hires can learn and grow into their responsibilities to some extent, but they should have the qualifications to apply. If you only list job responsibilities, you risk losing well-qualified applicants because they might be concerned about their responsibilities. Listing key competencies guides potential applicants to focus on their qualifications to perform tasks related to the role.

For example, you can train someone to write grants, but you cannot teach someone to have strong writing skills. You also need to include clear salary information. Many qualified candidates skip over listings or filter job listings that do not provide a starting salary and information about benefits. You can buy or conduct a salary survey to ensure your descriptions match your starting salary and benefits.

Offer Internships to College Students

Many universities have moved classes online due to the pandemic, giving students a little more time because they don’t have to travel around campus for classes. Summer internships are a great way to try out some fresh minds and see how they fit your education organization. In 2021, you should also consider spring and fall internships to take advantage of students who might be looking to build their resumes.

Engage with Your Community

In 2021, job candidates tend to prefer local opportunities because the pandemic makes relocating long distances more difficult than usual. This location preference means you need to focus more on recruiting talent in your local market. Engaging with your community is a great way to network and meet potential talent. Also, you raise awareness about your organization that draws like-minded people to you. Some examples of ways you can engage with the community that helps you attract talent include:

  • Participate in career days at local high schools and colleges
  • Host a local event for students and families
  • Sponsor a community sports team

The possibilities are endless, but your ultimate goal is for those in your community to know about your education organization and understand the work you do. This demonstration of your work and mission draws local applicants who value your mission and are passionate about your organization’s goals.

Hiring Top Talent for Non-Teaching Education Roles in 2021

Once you’ve attracted great potential candidates, deciding who to hire can be a daunting task. Making the right choice doesn’t have to be hard if you do the legwork ahead of time. You also need to create a positive candidate experience. In 2021, the best talent still has a choice of organizations where they can accept a position. Some things you can do to help you sort through applicants, plan for interviews, and create a positive candidate experience include:

Use Assessments to Sort Through Applicants

The most progressive education organizations want a diverse team with multiple outlooks, so fit and personality assessments might not drive your candidate choices. However, you can use assessments such as Myers-Briggs and StrengthsFinder to help ensure diversity of thought and strengths on your team. 

Plan for Remote Interviews

Job candidates prefer to socially distance in 2021, so it’s best to set yourself up for remote interviews. Although virtual interviews are a must, they can also enhance the interview process. Depending on your education organization’s platform, you can allow for presentations or ask candidates to perform tasks that test their qualifications and abilities.

Perform Fair Evaluations with an Interview Scorecard

Your ultimate goal is to hire candidates who commit to your organization’s mission and can get the job done. Making these determinations can seem subjective, but if you develop an interview scorecard to vet your candidates, you can make the best hiring decisions. The result is a mission-driven team that continually strives to ensure the children and parents that benefit from your organization get access to the resources and support they need. Read our blog about interview scorecards to learn how to set one up for your interviews.


Establish Timelines for Your Hiring Process

You likely have at least a rough timeline for your hiring process, but 2021 requires you to take a closer look. The pandemic, political events, and continuous uncertainty have impacted your potential job candidates the same way they have affected you and your organization. Give those you interview a rough estimate of when they should hear from you or when it’s okay for them to follow up. If your first-choice candidate has an idea of your timeline, it could prevent them from accepting a position with another education organization while waiting for you, forcing you to continue your search.

Retaining the Best Talent at Your Education Organization

It’s costly to hire, onboard, and train new talent, making employee retention essential for your organization’s success. You should be familiar with your actual and target turnover rate, conduct yearly confidential climate surveys, and monitor your top performers for signs they might leave. This data can help you take the actions you need to keep stellar team members.

Keeping your top talent is about far more than salary. Benefits, your company’s culture, and the extent to which you personally and professionally support your team are only a few things that can influence a team member’s decision to stay with your organization or seek a position elsewhere. Steps you can take to maintain or increase your employee retention in your education organization include:

Create a Positive and Strong Company Culture

A toxic culture can eat away at your organization and adversely affect the work you do for students and parents. One of the best ways to keep your team engaged and prevent them from searching for a new job is to promote a culture of gratitude in your organization. Showing gratitude can include various things from peer recognition to private thank you’s to reward programs. Regardless of how you show gratitude, your actions foster a positive employer-employee relationship, creating a strong positive influence on your organization’s culture.

Encourage Professional Growth

The vast majority of the education sector candidates are driven by the impactful work that education organizations do to provide students access and resources. They are not looking for a ‘dead-end job.’ They want a career. You can keep your team loyal and engaged by encouraging growth individually and as a group. Conducting performance reviews, setting goals, and providing actionable steps to grow will help your employees develop their full potential. The same is true for supervisors; provide training on delegation, leadership, and dealing with performance issues.

Give and Receive Positive and Negative Feedback

An organization with strong communication between leaders and their teams helps promote employee engagement and retention. You must have a process for sharing positive and negative feedback across teams and between supervisors. Mentorship programs are beneficial for fostering candid discussions and honest feedback. Your educational organization’s leadership must also be open to criticism from employees. Annual surveys help, but having an open-door policy in which employees are not scared of retaliation for bringing up something negative is crucial. Failure to foster healthy communication can lead to trust issues among team members and between employees and supervisors; the students you serve ultimately lose out.

Commit to Safety and Flexibility

We are in a time of uncertainty where things are constantly changing, in large part because of COVID-19. Your employees need to feel supported as they go through difficult personal experiences, whether contracting the virus, taking care of a family member, or tragically losing a loved one. Employees with school-aged children also face challenges because of changing policies about in-person and distance learning. The best way you can show support is to commit to flexibility and let your team know you are there to help them in any way you can. Similarly, you must also commit to keeping your employees safe in the workplace and when they have to travel off-site.

Conduct Exit Interviews

No matter how hard you try to keep some team members, some will eventually leave for various personal and professional reasons. Take the time to conduct confidential exit interviews without supervisors present to learn about individual situations. Exit interviews provide valuable information that can give you insight into a high turnover rate. Review the interviews collectively to find themes, which will provide you with information about actionable steps you can take to retain your top talent in 2021.

We hope this guide provides you with ample information to begin a thoughtful discussion internally about what you need to do to build a healthy workforce at your education organization during this challenging time. When you have the best talent committed to your organization, you will be better positioned to achieve and deliver on your educational goals and promises. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you find the right talent for your education organization.

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