Eluding the Elusiveness of Retention: How to Keep Your Great Performers

Posted on Mar 6, 2014

Eluding the Elusiveness of Retention: How to Keep Your Great Performers. A tale of two districts. In one, the annual retirement dinner is a heartfelt occasion where retirees stand up and recount the precious moments of their careers, often interrupted by their very own tears of joy, as they offer deep gratitude for having had the great fortune to work in such a fine school district. Time after time, the words “school district” are uttered by these honorees – each of whom feels that their lives have been greatly enhanced because once upon a time there was an HR Director who believed in them enough to offer them a job. In the other, a strike is about to take place. Teachers, many of them early in their profession, are angry at the school district, wearing pins and t-shirts that lambaste district leadership for what they see as arrogance and mistreatment. They seem to have forgotten that it has only been a short time since that very same school administration believed in them enough to offer them a career. And although they are educated individuals, one can be fairly sure that most of these teachers do not understand the complexity and nuance of the history of labor relations in their school district leading up to this moment. Still, their vehemence is unwavering. And despite their loyalty to their schools, to their colleagues, and even to their principal, they despise a central office that they see as tone-deaf and top-heavy. Years from now when these rookies retire and they reminisce on their professional lives, it is likely that they will not be paying homage to the district. A workforce that is grateful to the district is a workforce that trusts its leaders. A district that is about to strike is one that does not. In the first district, strong educators aspire to work there – and those who are already there choose to stay. In the second district, strong educators look around for other opportunities in other school districts – or, disenfranchised by what they perceive must be endemic to the K-12 industry, they leave the profession. Educators who are not so strong are often the ones who stick around the longest. Retention is the elusive term that speaks to how we keep our employees in our employ – and it’s important to attend to for obvious reasons: namely, the financial impact of having to train new staff; and the capacity of seasoned employees to deliver on the mission versus new employees who come with vertical learning curves. Retention is elusive because most districts are challenged to understand who is leaving and why they’re leaving, and what to do about it....

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An Outstanding Educator in Front of Them, Every Day

Posted on Feb 10, 2014

  What is our true work as K-12 HR Leaders? Is it to process I-9s? To ensure compliance with FLSA? To attend job fairs, manage position control, and ensure there’s a substitute in every classroom every day? As you all will know, the answer is “Yes.” Yes, to all of the above, and yes to so much more. There is no shortage of tasks that the HR office must do to ensure that it meets its two most basic functions—which are to ensure the district’s compliance with employment law, and to ensure that positions are filled. But there is a deeper ideal, a more salient reason why we exist—and that is to ensure that every child has an outstanding educator in front of them, every day. And because each school district employee is, at any given moment, an educator – we must not lose sight that our most important responsibility is to ensure excellence in every single hire we make, and to unabashedly address performance concerns when they arise. Let’s talk today about the first of these two important callings: to ensure that each hire we make is a quality hire. Given the reality of lean HR departments, we all struggle to make time for this. Few HR departments are seeing an increase in staffing unless it’s correlated to an increase in enrollment, and even in those rapidly growing school districts, the HR office all-too-frequently still falls behind. All of us are tackling far more legislative mandates and numerous new initiatives than ever before. We also face morale issues around pay and workload, hiring challenges when leadership vacancies occur, and the need to deepen our commitment to diversity and equity with a changing workforce and a changing student population. But for many HR leaders, the greatest challenge faced in ensuring an outstanding workforce is far more basic: it is that district leadership often does not equate our role with this mission. In other words, while we’re tacitly held accountable for the quality of the workforce, we’re not always authorized to do much about it. Many superintendents are not clear on what the purpose of HR is, beyond ensuring compliance and position control. Ask yourself these two questions: What steps do you take, as an HR professional, to ensure that every new hire is top-drawer? What systems are in place to ensure that a marginal candidate is not hired into any position in your school district? Most of us, if we answer those questions honestly, will find that our response is wanting. Why? Because in far too many organizations (not limited to K-12 by any means) hiring decisions are fully decentralized – meaning that once minimum qualifications are met, a...

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