During the Friday workshop called Hiring the Best, a cartoon was shared in which both the applicant and the personnel director had misspellings (one on the resume and the other on a desk sign). The points for consideration were (1) both parties should be trying to impress each other such that the applicant would want to come to that school system and the school system would want the applicant and (2) to what degree are grammatical and typographical errors “fatal” in the hiring process. Other discussion points that day addressed how to get the applicants that the school system wants when other school systems have better pay etc. One participant shared that it was frustrating when a major player in the community told new teachers that the pay may not be much, but the community would love them more.
Fast forward to Monday and the Wall Street Journal had an article entitled Employer Branding which made me think about how branding would work well for any school system or school. Further it could be especially beneficial for school systems that may be at a disadvantage when vying for the same top applicants as a neighboring school system with “more” of just about everything. Typically folks think of branding as product focus, but in recent years, employers have been branding themselves to get the best. The article identifies 5 areas for each; I provide a school based example (that was inspired by the article).
- Potential profitability – identifies what the most effective teachers want and then create opportunities for them. Plenty of systems have talked about merit pay in various forms. Often this is hard to get adopted, so consider a recognition program for good results. For example, if your highly effective teachers want tuition reimbursement or funds for classroom materials.
- Product-feature preferences – in step 1, the school system identifies who it needs to keep/get and in step two the district seeks to provide those desirable benefits. This is dependent largely on where teachers are in their lives. For example, many effective teachers have left the classroom because of family commitments. What if there was a policy that made schools even more family friendly for workers such as a teacher-coverage program that allows teachers to leave school for 1-2 hours for parent-teacher conferences or plays at their child’s school? Other ideas include job-sharing. With so many middle and high schools going to alternate day schedules, it would be entirely possible for two teachers to split a job each working a full day and the students have consistency in the teacher. Likewise there are many other viable job sharing set ups. Alternatively, high performers may want some “perks” like funding for supplies or tuition reimbursement.
- Reference groups – people want to work for school systems that folks they interact with respect. Schools need to “market” themselves and get the positive press. This may be inviting local newspapers to cover academic school events such as “Pi Day” or an interesting science/social studies lesson on science in the Renaissance. Using the school’s outside marquee for “tooting its horn.” Keeping the website current. Sending out emails of “good news.”
- Bargaining power – admittedly this is harder in education as it refers to the power of an employee with desirable skills to negotiate for better pay, benefits, etc. Some school systems though do offer signing bonuses or extra pay if an employee teaches in a critical needs area.
- Choice barriers – these are policies that make it harder for an employee to choose to leave the organization. For example, a school system may reward employees who reach milestones in their careers. Given that half of all school teachers exit the profession after five years, maybe there is a one-time bonus given for teachers who have seven years with a school system. Another would be a true merit pay system that recognizes gains that teachers achieve with students.
The article also led me to reflect about a chapter in the book, People First, in which I wrote about how a school leader’s team sense was an invaluable set of knowledge for recruiting, retaining, and developing teachers. The chapter has three main sections:
- Wise staffing decisions
- Thoughtful teacher development choices
- Conscientious retention efforts
Think how school leadership’s actions in the three areas above could create a positive “brand” the school that would be attractive to intra-district transfers and applicants from outside the school system.