Teacher attrition is a complicated phenomenon that impacts every school differently. But, strategically managing it can help you focus retention efforts on high-value teachers, effectively using their feedback as a resource toward keeping great teachers and boosting student achievement.
All turnover is not created equal
Over the past decade, the idea of “healthy turnover” has gained traction with private-sector businesses. It’s built on two basic premises:
- Turnover among high-value employees is more detrimental than turnover among low-value employees.
- Because the cultural, operational and financial costs of replacing high-value employees are incredibly high (some predict the cost is as much as two times the employees’ salary), employing proactive strategies designed to retain them is important.
One of these retention strategies involves conducting “stay” interviews and surveys among currently employed, high-value employees. Interview and survey questions are designed to reveal why those employees stay and what could trigger them to leave. Luckily for schools, successfully implementing this strategy doesn’t require private-sector levels of flexibility or resources.
How to implement your stay-survey strategy
Schools can use stay interviews and surveys as a retention strategy, too; all it takes is time and a robust survey tool. Here are six tips to help you get started:
- Plan ahead. Who will see teachers’ feedback once you receive it? When will you follow up with the teachers who participated? How will you show them that their feedback led to change? Establishing a process in the beginning can help information flow smoothly, and open communication is the cornerstone of successfully implementing this strategy.
- Identify your high-priority subjects and interview or survey them first. To discover who among your staff is a high priority, the HR Daily Advisor blog suggests categorizing each teacher according to value (high, medium or low) and flight risk. Then, start the interview or survey process with high-value teachers who are most likely to leave.Also, keep in mind that “high-value” doesn’t have to be synonymous with “superstar.” Depending on your situation, “high-value” could apply to inexperienced teachers with potential and medium-value teachers dedicated to improvement. The most important thing is to customize the process to meet your school’s specific needs.
- Set expectations, not limitations. Just because you may not have the power to enact wide-sweeping changes doesn’t mean big topics should be off-limits. When high-value teachers have high-level concerns, start by letting them know you’ll do everything in your power to help them. Then, dig deeper, like the Waukesha School District in Waukesha, Wis., did.According to a 2015 article in the American Association of School Personnel Administrators’ Best Practices newsletter, after conducting stay interviews, the district found that high-level teachers were experiencing stress and pressure from heavy workloads. The ideas of stress and pressure seem too big for one person – or even one district – to handle. But when the district asked follow-up questions, it discovered that the increased workload was a result of the district’s perpetual reorganization of initiatives. Searching for specifics can help you find the problem’s root, and fixing that may be well within your control.
- Make organizational questions about issues, not people. Instead of asking teachers their thoughts on administrators, colleagues or evaluators, ask which processes they would change and why. This may draw honest responses from those who otherwise might be afraid to give them.
- Balance the negative with the positive. Identifying and discussing high-value teachers’ pain points is vital toward retaining them, but that doesn’t mean the interview or survey has to be all bad. Balance it with positive, insightful questions. For example, if you ask what would trigger a teacher to leave, follow with a question about why he/she stays.
- Follow through. Be ready and able to follow up with high-value teachers about their feedback and show them how it influenced improvements. But, don’t stop there. Use interviews and surveys to monitor the success of the changes you’ve implemented. Continually check in to see how those improvements are holding up as a retention tool for your high-value teachers.
Using the right human capital management technology can help reduce exposure to turnover, empowering you to invest precious resources in retention efforts focused on keeping the type of talent that’s good for your students and school.