The coming school year is shaping up to be one of the most unusual in living memory. As yet there is little guarantee that the usual form and structure of the school year will be in place — prudent school leaders will now be preparing for the unexpected, and ensuring plans are in place to support their community and colleagues through it as smoothly as possible. The disruption to the year caused by COVID-19 is clearly a major driver in this shift, but over the last few years a more general sense of systemic change has also been seeping into the sector when it comes to recruitment and workforce management.

Leading MATs are already implementing innovative workforce planning initiatives to ensure a cost effective and strategic response to this new paradigm — take Unity Schools Partnership’s incorporation of a tutoring agency to ensure maximum self-sufficiency when it comes to delivering the National Tutoring Programme, or Harris Federation’s implementation of Teacher Booker Talent Pools platform to ensure ‘a more flexible, fairer, and better-paid approach to securing temporary, casual, or fixed-term contract assignments’ in their academies.

As we head back to school in September, we need to be prepared for any eventuality — any return of lockdown (local or nationwide) would necessitate the reinstatement of online learning provision and blended learning approaches. Preparing in advance for a school year where the demands on your workforce — tutors, temporary staff and permanent staff — will likely be intense and constantly shifting, will set you up for as smooth a year as possible.

Keep your staff happy and and minimise the risk of staff shortages

To mitigate uncertainty in relation to staffing, there are three key areas of your workforce management and talent attraction strategy to consider:

  • Your employer brand and what you are communicating about your school to current employees and prospective candidates
  • The channels you are using to recruit staff
  • The engagement techniques you are using to maintain relationships with prospective candidates and current staff in your network

First, evaluate your outward facing employer brand. As a leader, it could be worth developing a personal profile/brand online in conjunction with your school brand. Schools and leaders who clearly and convincingly communicate their ethos, like Three Bridges Primary School in West London (‘the Happiest School on Earth’) and what life at the school is like have far less difficulty in recruiting directly — especially if the language they choose differentiates them from other local employers and chimes with the local candidate base. And of course it goes without saying that the more mobile-friendly your attraction channels are, the more candidates you will engage.

Second, consider the channels through which you recruit staff. Traditional channels like jobs boards and recruitment agencies are geared towards last minute/reactive hiring and are expensive, obscure and impersonal. If you are able to identify your likely staffing requirements early, you can make use of cheaper, more direct and more personal hiring channels like

  • Informal networks
  • Social media attraction
  • Local school-to-school collaboration

Third, once you have engaged candidates and secured their interest in working at your school or group (ideally before you actually have a vacancy), ensure you remain engaged with them. Talent Pool technology is a term often bandied about, but which in reality is often little more than a CV repository with little or no ongoing candidate engagement. If a candidate registers interest in your vacancies, uploads their CV and then doesn’t hear from you (or you have to rely on manual communications to keep them engaged), it becomes increasingly difficult to re-engage them later when a suitable role does come up.

Identifying solutions to help you succeed

There are a number of tools you can use to keep candidates engaged, for example via a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, via social media or via direct content sharing. And the best way to keep prospective candidates engaged once you have generated interest might be to invite them for casual or supply work, before you have a suitable permanent or long-term vacancy. Teacher Booker Talent Pools is a technology platform that enables all of this activity to be run easily from one central hub.

Bringing these elements together will help secure you a reliable pipeline of talent for the coming school year. However the pandemic plays out, and however the change in sentiment across the sector as regards flexible working develops, now is the time to position your organisation as an engaged, forward-thinking employer of choice.

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