March 22, 2023
By David Faus, Head of School, The Benjamin School
Amid a national teacher shortage and post-pandemic burnout, independent schools must adopt a mindshift when it comes to hiring and retaining top talent. Long-gone are the days of the “status-quo” hiring process and the belief that potential candidates would simply be lucky to be hired by a given school, regardless of compensation and quality of life.
At The Benjamin School (Florida), we took a hard look at old systems surrounding faculty and staff recruitment and retention and recognized the need to embrace a new philosophy: concierge hiring.
Despite being the independent school of choice in south Florida with a rapidly shrinking acceptance rate and attrition hovering just over one percent, we realize we are only as good as our people. Faculty and staff are the heart and soul of our institution, and it is imperative that we continue to attract top talent and retain the beloved educators who are part of the fabric of our community.
Through this process of intentional redesign, we have identified five steps that can help your school transform its HR department into a concierge service.
Create a Mindshift
Independent schools must embrace an uncomfortable reality: we’re seeing hundreds of job openings amid a national teacher shortage. As such, what incentives can we adopt and market that represent a unique benefit to our employees? The answer will be different for each school, but get creative and involve your HR department to brainstorm and lead this shift. Pursue a commitment from key stakeholders as you clearly define roles in the hiring process.
At Benjamin, we adopted a “concierge” approach to hiring and retention. Our head of school made this a priority, and with the human resource office taking the lead, we set a goal to hire nationally and retain our top choice for all open positions. Our full-service hiring practices are supportive and intentional, always placing teacher satisfaction at the forefront.
What are the current obstacles to hiring in your market? These can run the gamut from real estate, to politics, to mission alignment. It’s imperative that schools drill down on these obstacles and find ways to address them. Are your teachers experiencing burnout? Consider creative ways to thank them, spearhead small acts of kindness, and remember that asking for their input goes a long way.
As a school, we are currently addressing the skyrocketing south Florida real estate market. We have developed a committee of parents who work in the financing and real estate space and are getting creative when it comes to helping our faculty and staff afford the rising costs of rent and homeownership. We are also addressing Florida stereotypes by highlighting Florida as a vibrant place for young professionals, being transparent about our school’s mission and front-footed as we reiterate that we are an apolitical institution.
Market Your Assets
You are your own best promoters and have first-hand knowledge of why your institution is so special to work for. Involve your communications department to help you share these stories. Personal anecdotes are powerful. Make sure your marketing materials drill these intangibles home and involve your HR department with using similar language as they convey these benefits to prospective employees.
Our work-life balance is tremendous. We have engaged our communications department to highlight this balance in our promotional pieces. We emphasize that we are committed to compensating our employees within the top 20% of average salaries in southeast Florida, while also offering generous benefits and vacation time. We have increased our opportunities for professional development and have added free yoga classes, dance intensives, and personal training for our employees on a weekly basis.
Adopt a Value Proposition
Independent schools have become adept at expressing their value proposition to prospective parents and students. Adopt the same philosophy when it comes to attracting faculty and staff. What is the value of being an employee at your institution and how does it differ from other opportunities?
We believe personal anecdotes from current employees speak the most compellingly and directly about the value proposition of being part of the Benjamin family and have included them in all our recruitment materials. A new video with testimonials from faculty and an updated website offer a glimpse at why Benjamin teachers are happy to work for our institution.
Upgrade Your School Visit
Invite candidates to visit your school and make sure their visit reflects the type of experience they will enjoy once employed by the school. Consider a social dinner the night before their visit, upgraded hotel options, or an extended stay to explore the area. Plan your follow-up strategy and deliberate interviewing and track the conversion rate of these visits.
We recognize that an investment in a future candidate can ultimately pay dividends if we are able to attract top talent to our school. We make sure that each candidate is given a real look at our school and our town, and we almost always include a trip to the beach. This demonstration of collegiality is followed up with clear expectations about when they can expect to hear back about a job offer.
David Faus is currently the head of school at The Benjamin School in North Palm Beach, FL. He previously served as head of St. Paul’s School for Boys in Brooklandville, MD, and Falmouth Academy in Falmouth, MA. David’s independent school career spans almost 40 years with a variety of experiences that range from teaching and coaching to senior administrative positions including dean of students and upper school head.
The Benjamin School is a PK3 – Grade 12 independent, coeducational day school with campuses in North Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens. The mission of The Benjamin School is to provide a challenging college preparatory education to a diverse student body in a structured, nurturing community environment. The school motivates students to master the skills of learning, communicating, and evaluating choices, and encourages them to grow intellectually, socially, morally, aesthetically, and physically to their fullest individual potential. Benjamin inspires its students to develop a coherent set of values that includes love of learning, personal responsibility, self-motivation, concern for others and a commitment to serve society.