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Creating a District Talent Management Strategy

Driving school system success by hiring and retaining top personnel

Fostering a high level of teacher quality is a top goal for many administrators. Included in that process is bringing on and keeping the best teaching talent, as well as continually managing and developing that talent. In today’s environment, districts need to have the ability to access and address detailed talent management information in real time to drive decision-making on everything from hiring practices to professional development plans. The speakers in this web seminar discussed a recent District Administration survey of administrators about current trends in K-12 talent management, as well as new tools that can help administrators create an effective district talent management strategy.

Kurt Eisele-Dyrli: District Administration and Cornerstone OnDemand partnered to explore some of the trends and challenges in personnel management in K-12 today. Over 300 administrators responded to the 10-question multiple-choice survey.

Our first question was about how technology enabled the talent management processes. The overwhelming majority (86 percent) answered that they use a mix of paper and all-purpose technology—that is, software that is not specifically designed for talent management: Microsoft Office, Excel, Google Docs, things like that.

Maureen McLaren: This definitely reflects what we see in the market. Most organizations are using a variety of technology systems or paper-based processes to manage what we consider to be one holistic, unified experience called “talent management”—from hire, to retire or transition within the organization.

They may have a lot of processes they are managing, but everything is sort of everywhere. It requires a tremendous amount of effort and a tremendous amount of people, time and energy to find the different data sets or to access different information across an entire life-cycle for one employee.
Eisele-Dyrli: Then 14.5 percent responded they were not satisfied with current processes, but were unaware of better alternatives, while 38 percent were transitioning to a new, more efficient technology solution. So a good chunk of people aren’t satisfied.

McLaren: At a macro level, this speaks to what we see as just the messy state of talent management in K-12 today. For the 15 percent of people who are not satisfied with their current processes and are unaware of better alternatives, we want to give them a hug and let them know that it is imminently possible to do this work very well. The takeaway is that it’s a little bit messy but people are starting to make moves toward more holistic, technology-based solutions to manage talent, which is good news.

Eisele-Dyrli: Our next question asked: How many technology systems are you using to manage recruiting, onboarding, professional development, succession planning, compensation and employee evaluations? About 83 percent of respondents said they are using two or more different systems to manage all of these processes.

McLaren: We commonly see that people have an HRIS system, which is pretty basic and necessary for things like payroll, health care management and employee benefits. They may also have a recruiting system and also an employee evaluation system. There’s an opportunity to bring some of these systems together so that you can make informed decisions about employee development and growth based on evaluations or recruiting information. The opportunity for people to reduce and streamline not just the technology systems, but the processes as well, is huge, especially when you think about how much work there is for district administrators to do today.

We listed six processes that touch an employee from the time they join an organization until the time they may take a new position or move up a leadership trajectory. If someone has to log in to six different systems to understand where they are in their work and where they are going in the organization, that’s a very cumbersome experience, in addition to administrators or leaders who are trying to gather information about where their talent is and where they are being successful in their talent management efforts across the organization. If they are trying to do that in multiple systems, the complexity and the associated costs are significant.

Eisele-Dyrli: We were also interested to learn their feelings about teacher quality impacting student outcomes. About 80 percent said they were concerned or highly concerned with that issue. Additionally, 70 percent said they were concerned or highly concerned about recruiting for critical positions, and 53.4 percent were concerned or highly concerned about succession planning.

McLaren: It’s important to note that 80 percent are highly concerned about teacher quality impacting student outcomes—because it is absolutely the right thing to be concerned about. Every study from MetLife to McKinsey acknowledges that the teacher is the most important factor in student achievement.
If organizations and districts do the work of strategic talent management—if they focus on recruiting great people, developing those people to be even more effective, and then focus on keeping those people through career paths—then that will take care of employee retention and teacher quality.

Eisele-Dyrli: The next question we asked respondents was, What are the biggest challenges in talent management facing your district? Finding qualified candidates, ongoing growth and development, support for new teachers, and teacher evaluations all had pretty significant percentages.

McLaren: By bringing greater efficiency into some of these processes, they’ll see improvements. A lot of districts are coming to grips with the fact that they have an aging workforce. In our world we call this the “silver tsunami.“ We’re set to lose almost half of our teachers to retirement over the next 10 years.  By 2020 half of the global workforce will be millennials. We have to recruit in a different, more technologically enabled way, and in a more social way to meet the talent where they are already living, which is online.
Eisele-Dyrli: Getting to our final question of our survey: Over the next 12-18 months, will resources and funding for talent management in your district increase, stay the same, or decrease? Just 14.6 percent of respondents said it will increase. A vast majority, 71.4 percent, said it will stay the same. And then there’s another 14 percent who said it will decrease.
McLaren: You are very lucky if you’re in the 15 percent that are getting increases in budget to do this work. The rest of us, the other 85 percent, are being told, “You have to do more with less or do better with the same.”

We spend a lot of time talking to our clients and partners about how they can reallocate some of the money they are spending to be more effective in facing their challenges. Sometimes it may seem counterintuitive that investing in a technology solution will actually save you money, but it does when you reduce the cost of expenditure or even the cost of hiring. A small investment in technology will pay dividends and returns in meeting all of the needs and challenges that we’re facing.

We view all of this as a unified experience for an individual employee, as well as a unified experience for an administrator who is responsible for managing all these processes. Today we see a lot of bifurcation and silos around these processes. We are able to help consolidate the tools people are using so that they can see data more holistically. That way an individual has more clarity about where they are in your organization, where they could go, and then how to get there.

The opportunity is ripe for K-12 to engage strategic talent management practices and technologies to support their work and to subsequently have an impact on the students that we are all here to serve.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to: