Want to Keep Rock Stars on your Team? Three Ways to Start

At last month’s National Charter Schools Conference in New Orleans, I heard a lot about a handful of charter schools’ pain points: Facilities. Operations. Finance. And most of all, staff retention.

Some of these issues are thornier than others (like facilities), but most of them come down to people. The hurdle to getting talented and experienced people on board who can manage complex work like facilities, operations, and finance adeptly is only a part of charter schools’ ongoing challenges. A bigger obstacle is keeping those talented people on board for the long haul.

Retaining top talent is especially critical in education. Our human-powered industry that serves our nation’s students depends on the people who staff our classrooms, central offices, departments of education, nonprofits, and beyond. Talent and talent management matters acutely, and not getting it right is incredibly expensive. Few education organizations have money to burn.

So where do we go from here? How can we keep the incredibly talented people who work at education organizations on our teams?

At EP, we don’t have all of the answers. Like a lot of education organizations and nonprofits, we have had challenges with staff retention. It would be easy to chalk it up to our fast-paced, intense, mission-driven work (which is part of it), but like so many other organizations, we’re working hard to ensure that the A-players on our team envision a long-term future with EP.

In the report, From Intention to Action: Building Diverse, Inclusive Teams in Education to Deepen Impact, that EP published late last year in partnership with Koya Leadership Partners, we shared some takeaways and recommendations on how to retain diverse teams that I think are worth sharing again when we think about retention.

The report notes that “improvements to your organization’s recruiting and selection practices will not matter if you cannot retain high-performing employees. Leadership development is vital to ensuring that all team members, particularly employees of color, remain engaged and advance in their careers.”

Organizations looking to increase their retention of top performers can:

  1. Implement a process for identifying high-potential employees.
  2. Offer support and individualized professional development.
  3. Employ a range of formal and informal professional development tools, such as buddies, mentoring, coaching, and education opportunities.

As we all work to create diverse and inclusive environments, it’s especially imperative that we retain talented employees of color. Organizations should regularly evaluate internal talent to ensure employees of color are in the leadership development pipeline.

What practices and processes do you employ to support, engage, and grow your best people?

 

Ryan Romaneski

Ryan Romaneski was formerly Education Pioneers’ Senior Director, Regional Growth, where he fostered greater cooperation between national and regional staff members, and worked toward continuous improvement and innovation in the four sites he oversees: Denver, New Orleans, Tennessee, and Texas. An EP Alumnus, Ryan joined the team following an engaging Fellowship experience with Boston Public Schools. Previously, Ryan spent five years as a classroom teacher, and worked for nearly a decade in the private and nonprofit sectors.

 

Comments

Where does compensation fall into this conversation? I would love to see data that compares teacher retention and compensation and see if there are any trends or surprises.
Jon – great question. Not surprisingly, compensation matters a lot for teachers, and TNTP cites it as a big factor for staff retention. (Note – TNTP is a partner of ours.) Take a look at TNTP's research on teacher compensation and retention here: http://tntp.org/publications/scroll/retention-and-school-culture
I'm going into my 4th year as a teacher, 2nd year at a charter (3rd year with high performing data proven through standardized tests) and the last 2 charter years have felt like my first year of teaching- reinventing the wheel over again every summer in PD as new ideas pop into Admin's heads. This is fine, I thrive on improving and working hard. To me compensation is not a staying factor- it's work/life balance, and I don't feel you have a true balance with most charter schools- and how many years do I have to prove my worth before I'm not treated as a low-performing teacher? And how long do you hang on to low-performers so that your retention rates increase? Just some food for thought.

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