With headlines touting 2021 as the year of “The Great Resignation” and a parent community that is concerned over any sign of teacher turnover, schools should give intentional thought to employee retention.  

Brad Rathgeber, head of One Schoolhouse, shares his thoughts on how schools can prepare for hiring in 2022. He cited a recent McKinsey & Company study which found that 32% of employees in the education sector were at least “somewhat likely” to leave their job in the next three to six months. Rathgeber suggests a focus on belonging. He encourages school leaders to make sure their employees feel valued and a sense of belonging in their school community.

The McKinsey study goes on to say that employees need flexibility, connectivity, and a sense of unity and purpose in the workplace. Rathgeber advises school leaders to intentionally carve out time to “re-recruit” current employees through one-on-one conversations that acknowledge their positive impact and value to the school.

Jay Rapp, senior leadership strategist for Mission & Data, alerts leaders that unexpected departures may be a sign of a more serious issue. Rapp offers six questions for leaders to ask themselves before the hiring season.

  1. How do you create a sense of community for your employees?
    • Collaboration, connection, and a culture of trust and respect.
  2. Are your rewards transactional?
    • Demonstrated appreciation and validation.
  3. Do you have a good understanding of what your employees need?
    • Listen, offer help, and address stress and anxiety.
  4. Do you have effective leaders and managers?
    • Address any negative behavior or leadership.
  5. Are you practicing distributed leadership?
    • Build capacity and empower others.
  6. Are you meeting the needs of your underrepresented employees?
    • Create a community where everyone feels safe, welcome, and valued.

Amada Torres, vice president for studies, insights, and research at NAIS, revisits their 2019 Jobs Study considering the impact the pandemic has had on our schools. Torres identifies three sample teacher perspectives and offers suggestions for both attraction and retention in each scenario.  

Some retention strategies mentioned:

  • Positive feedback that shows impact
  • Discussions on individual, specific career paths
  • Define work and personal life boundaries
  • Evaluate workload sharing options
  • Provide time for administrative tasks

Guidance from all the above encourage school leaders not to assume they know what faculty and staff want, but to make sure they have intentional discussions about the current needs of their employees. The pandemic brought a new and different kind of stress and responsibility to every position in the school. Do job descriptions accurately reflect the daily tasks and expectations of each role? Taking the time to recognize how each position has changed over the last two years is crucial to understanding the needs of employees and their successful retention.

Additional Resources

‘Great Attrition’ or ‘Great Attraction’? The Choice is Yours, McKinsey & Company

Prepare for Hiring in 2022, One Schoolhouse

Research Insights: Understanding Teacher Attraction and Retention, Amada Torres, NAIS

Sudden Departures — How School Leaders Can Stem the Tide of Employee Attrition, Jay Rapp, Mission & Data