Keep your district full of great people — start with these four action steps.
Retaining and recruiting staff members has become an issue that almost every district is struggling to manage. The reality for school districts has shifted and it’s now necessary to think differently about how to recruit and retain staff members.
How your district is perceived in the marketplace drives your ability to retain and recruit staff. Even if your district does not have to compete for students with other school options, it is now essential to market your schools and manage your district’s reputation to survive in the marketplace.
Here are four action steps to that will elevate your district’s efforts to retain and recruit employees and separate your district for competing options:
- Clarify your district brand
A clear and powerful brand clarifies what is true about your organization and amplifies what makes your district unique. And it is much more than a logo or graphic identity. A well-articulated brand will:
- Identify language and imagery that can be used to market and communicate about your district
- Provide direction on how to effectively communicate about your district
- Describe to others who you are, what you do and how you make a difference
- Attract others with similar values to join your district
- Create an ongoing strategy
Staff retention and recruitment – similar to student retention and recruitment – is a management function that needs to be supported by a year-round, ongoing strategy and plan. Posting jobs only when there are open positions is not enough. An ongoing plan is needed to help create enthusiasm among job seekers to want to come to work for you. Your ongoing plan should be:
- Created as part of your district’s marketing and communications plan and supported by several departments and individuals
- Viewed as an investment, not a cost. Retaining and recruiting staff members is part of the cost of doing business and the return on investment can be significant
- Transform your website and focus messaging on recruitment
Many school district websites focus their content and navigation on current families and staff with most information and messages targeted at audiences who are already connected to the district. Because your website is often the first introduction of your district to job seekers, it is essential that your website be used as a powerful marketing tool with messaging directed at prospective employees and families. Your website should:
- Clearly communicate your brand messages on the main page of the website – don’t make job seekers dig for the messages that can create excitement and enthusiasm
- Organize information for current parents and families into a “parent hub” so the main purpose of the site can focus on recruiting
- Include a landing page to serve as the hub of your recruitment efforts with brand messages that create interest and excitement about your district
The website of many colleges and universities are great examples of how marketing messages are focused on recruiting and creating interest in the organization.
- Include your district community in the conversation
In addition to the three “communication focused” action steps noted above, there is also an important strategic action that should accompany the other action steps. The staffing shortages that many districts are experiencing are not going away anytime soon and even with focused recruitment efforts, it may continue to be challenging for districts to fill all necessary positions.
While bolstering your recruitment efforts, you should also begin engagement activities and conversations with stakeholders in your district to explore other staffing options. For example, your engagement conversations could consider a question like “How might we change what we do and how we do it to continue to serve the needs of our students with fewer teachers?” These engagement activities will:
- Encourage your leaders, staff and parents to think differently about how to meet the needs of students
- Create opportunities to include the voices of student into the conversation
- Begin to create a culture of innovation with a willingness to allow current employees to test out ideas
Along with generating ideas that could lead to positive solutions, these engaging conversations can build good will with current staff members along with engaging them in part of the problem solving process.
Bob Noyed, APR, is Vice President of CESO Communications. Bob has been a member and leader of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) for decades, including service as president in 2006-2007. He is also a member of the Minnesota School Public Relations Association (MinnSPRA), where he served as president twice.