How many of your teachers are on the last year of their contract?
Are you afraid of losing some or all of them?
Do you know what they want from your school? From you, as a member of the Leadership team?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, it’s not too late to find them. These answers could not only save you a lot of time and money, but may also make your parents and students incredibly happy. And here is a hint, it’s not money.
Survey after survey of overseas teachers point to four indisputable reasons why teachers leave their schools:
1. Lack of Leadership Support
2. Limited or Irrelevant Professional Development
3. Feeling Undervalued
4. Challenging Work Conditions
If you don’t believe me, and think that money is still the main factor pulling candidates away from your school, then I encourage you to speak with a teacher you value who is leaving your school and ask them to read and comment on this article.
Overseas teachers do not enter the profession with the aim of getting rich. In fact, it is not until they actually begin working internationally that they realize that in some scenarios, there is a significant savings potential available to them. But Save, not make, is the key word. It’s not about making more money. Those teachers wishing to make more money pursue leadership opportunities where the salaries and benefits are significantly better, provided of course that they have the required skill set.
In this article I want to introduce you to a case study for what one group of schools is doing to give their top talent a reason to stay. I also share 12 Standards for retaining overseas teachers created by Search Associates, based on their years of accumulated data and experience. You can use the 12 Standards as a benchmark to compare against your school’s current policies and practices.
Two Transformative Outcomes Achieved with Mentoring
Last year, from August 2021 to June 2022, I facilitated a Mentoring program that included five campuses from the Yew Chung Education Foundation (YCEF). This program is now in its third year and has grown considerably, despite all of the obstacles schools have faced during the pandemic. Claire Peet, YCEF’s Senior Manager L&PD and Quality Assurance, has been instrumental in working with me to develop and document the results of this program.
Originally, Claire was seeking to improve the number and type of candidates applying for leadership roles and various whole school projects. Most candidates had very little evidence leading any significant transformative changes within their team or beyond. Claire was concerned that if YCEF didn’t invest more time in developing promising aspiring leaders, then those leaders would go elsewhere to seek development.
Since the program’s inception, what we are learning and achieving is far exceeding our original aspirations. In February 2022, at the midway point of the program, all participants completed a survey to share their feedback.
The survey focused on two areas of the participant experience:
Relationships: How has the program influenced their relationship with colleagues and to the school?
Retention: To what extent has the program influenced their desire to stay at their school and their belief that they could effect change in the organization?
Relationships and retention are what we believe to be transformative in both a leader’s and the school’s development. Data collected relating to Relationships was very positive. Fourteen of 18 mentors participating in this program indicated that this program positively influenced their relationship with aspiring senior leaders. Even more encouraging, considering the strain educational leaders experienced during the pandemic, was high level of trust between all mentoring pairs. Thirty of 40 participants rated their relationships as ‘very trusting’, a 4 on a 1 to 4 scale. The remaining 10 participants rated their relationships as a 3.
Regarding data collected for Retention, all participants indicated that this program had positively influenced their perception of being able to effect change in YCEF.
On a 1-4 scale, 22 of 40 participants selected 3 and 9 participants selected 4. More promising was that on a 1-4 scale indicating how likely participants would stay at their school as a result of this program, 31 (both aspiring leaders and senior leaders) indicated that the program had a positive influence on their decision to stay at their school with 9 participants selecting 4, indicating it had a significant influence.
The success of the program was further verified by participating school principals, one of whom noted that all mentees and mentors involved in this year’s program had committed to remaining in the organisation for next academic year, despite the challenging circumstances in Shanghai.
12 Standards That Improve Teacher Retention
In 2020, Search Associates released a comprehensive document regarding the three distinct stages of the recruitment process, namely (A) the recruitment stage, (B) the onboarding/orientation stage and (C) the retention stage. The document, meant as a guide for all school representatives, at every level of seniority, outlines the standards set by the organization for its member schools with regard to good employment principles and practices. Below are 12 Standards developed by Search Associates related to the retention stage. These Standards cover several areas and are very comprehensive. These Standards also identify areas of practice that directly relate to the 4 reasons why teachers leave that are listed at the start of this article.
1. The school has a clear and well-integrated governance, leadership and management structure, with the roles and responsibilities of all leaders and managers documented, transparent, well understood and consistently respected and implemented by all those involved in the structure at every level of seniority.
2. The school has in place policies and procedures that in general ensure its financial health and economic viability.
3. The school’s employees at every level of seniority are appropriately qualified for the roles to which they are assigned.
4. The school has established effective policies and procedures to ensure that the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are understood, respected and implemented in all areas of activity throughout the school community. (See C.6 below).
5. The school as the employer fully honours all obligations of the contracts it has entered into with employees.
6. The school has established clear channels and principles of good communication so as to enable any employee to seek appropriate active support from her/his employer in relation to any job-related problem, concern or grievance.
7. The school has established clear channels and principles of good communication so as to ensure that all employees receive in a clear and timely manner all information related to any aspect of their professional duties in the school.
8. The school’s leaders and managers ensure that any changes that may become necessary to previously shared information related to an employee’s professional duties are made with consideration of the employee’s well-being.
9. The school has established effective policies and procedures to ensure that the school’s working environment is at all times kept healthy (taking into account both physical and mental health), safe and secure, in the best interests of all members of the school community.
10. The school caters effectively for the professional needs of employees, including fair evaluation of professional performance and the provision of professional development opportunities which employees find relevant and valuable.
11. All school representatives involved in the management of employees gain the confidence of employees and inspire a high level of professional satisfaction among them.
12. The school has established effective policies and procedures to ensure that employees are well supported during the final stages of their employment so as to allow for smooth and trouble-free transfer to subsequent employment.
If you would like to learn more about Search Associates HR Standards, please visit this link. If you would like to learn more about how to launch a mentoring program, please email Michael Iannini or visit this link, where Michael Iannini outlines the program in more detail, which also includes a downloadable PDF.
Michael Iannini, Founder and Managing Partner of PD Academia, is recognized by the Council of International Schools as an expert in Governance, Strategic Planning, Human Resource Management and Leadership Development. He is also author of Hidden in Plain Sight: Realizing the Full Potential of Middle Leaders.