I began my journey as the new Director of Human Resources, at MSD of Decatur Township in Indianapolis, on Friday the 13th in 2020. It was no ordinary day as it was the day when the world as we knew it would change drastically with the spread of COVID-19. Schools and businesses quickly began to shut down and remote learning and teaching became the norm for the remainder of the school year. As the Director of Human Resources, this is a critical time for recruiting upcoming graduates for the following school year, as well as hosting and participating in college job fairs. I quickly realized that the typical way to reach perspective needed to change and change very quickly.
Zoom became part of my daily routine, participating in meetings and communicating with perspective, however, that just wasn’t enough. In working with Insight Education Group, we began to come up with the idea of “Coffee Chats” as a way to share our district's story with candidates that were interested in working within Decatur Township. This format proved to be successful in our recruitment process. We ran a series of Coffee Chats that focused on: Support teachers receive as a new employee; The Decatur Township Culture Guide; Perspectives From Parents; and principals shared individual stories about their specific buildings. Each “Coffee Chat” was scripted in order to keep with the topic. They lasted 45 minutes and attracted about 25-30 candidates per session.
As we opened up the 2020-2021 school year with remote teaching, hybrid teaching, and then full in-person teaching, the focus shifted to retaining our teachers. Everything we do in the teaching and learning profession is either retaining or losing educators. With that mindset, my focus turned to coaching and supporting our staff through new teacher trainings and "stay interviews." Monthly meetings were established for all new hires that were intentional, based on reflective feedback from the prior month. Each session allowed for new learning, as well as an opportunity for new employees to be reflective on a professional and personal level, by completing a Google form at the conclusion of each meeting.
This feedback was then shared with their specific principal and a follow-up was conducted within 24 hours from when the specific building received details. The culture we created was one of trust between the teaching staff and administrators.
The implementation of “stay interviews” allowed us to gather important information on why our staff members remain within our district. For example, our questions focused on how we support teachers on personal and professional levels, what recognition is appreciated, the types of professional development formats they benefit from, and how we can make the overall experience better. The feedback allowed us to take a deep look into our programs in order to ensure we were providing the best support and resources for our staff and students.
Our current situation with COVID-19 remains fluid as we monitor positivity rates and adhere to local health guidelines, however, our intentional practices of retaining our current staff have proven to be our best recruiter. In today’s world it’s more important than ever to talk to our staff daily, thank them daily, and celebrate our daily success stories. As educational leaders we must continue to ask ourselves, “Are the current practices keeping our staff engaged or driving them away?” If there is any hesitation in answering this question, then change is needed.
The “Big 3” for Recruitment and Retention
- New Hire Leadership Development: Create a program that provides a format for new learning and reflection. An example would be to use a video coaching platform like ADVANCEfeedback. We use this tool specifically so our instructional coaches, mentors and administrators can provide timely and targeted feedback to staff on specific parts of an activity by time-stamping classroom video with comments.
- Stay Interviews: Create a reflection form for all staff members to complete. Keep the reflection to a maximum of five questions to increase the participation of staff members. Use the reflective feedback to make changes and/or keep practices the same.
- Creative Recruitment: Utilize a variety of social media platforms to attract candidates to your organization. This may include virtual Coffee Chat sessions via Zoom. Use this opportunity to share the story of your district.
Recruitment and retention need to be an integral part of the district's culture. Build those positive relationships and celebrate the daily success of your school community.