Communication and Recruitment
Updated: May 17
Two lasting org chart shifts emerged from the pandemic. First, schools without dedicated communications staff (about 28% of independent schools, remarkably) found themselves at a huge disadvantage during the pandemic. These schools either relied on someone inside the school working unsustainable hours to make up the difference, or struggled to provide timely messages and netted a loss of trust from parents and faculty over the last two years. Second, even schools with very strong brands are discovering that the faculty recruitment strategies that have worked for as long as anyone can remember are no longer yielding the same number and quality of candidates. In both cases, these shifts will have long tails and may even have permanently altered the dynamics of our school communities.
The matter of communications is straightforward: schools must invest in talented communications and marketing professionals if they don't have them now, and at schools that do but find themselves struggling to manage the volume and to do so artfully, they must grow the team. Once on board, school communications people must create strategies for managing the flow of pragmatic information and the channels through which it flows, and they must build their own on-going, firsthand experience with the mission in action by immersing themselves in the life of the school. This latter component may be the most challenging part of bringing in new communications staff, particularly those who have never been responsible for a "product" as unique and ever-evolving as a school.
Recruitment is a more complicated matter as this work is necessarily systemic, relying on multiple people throughout the institution to perform various aspects of the work. The current challenge lies at the top of the funnel, the part that, at most schools, once began with: we post the job and people send us their materials. Although independent schools seem to be experiencing a milder version of the Great Resignation than their public school counterparts, a greater number of early retirements, and of current and prospective educators leaving the profession or pressing pause on career aspirations has made for a greater number of openings and a very shallow candidate pool this year, a thin market that will persist for the next several years. The schools who have succeeded in this environment approach "hiring" as a year round recruitment effort by stewarding relationships with an ever-growing list of referring partners. Some schools with multiple people in the human resources office have transformed their Directors of HR into Chief Recruiters who function not as sole owners of the top of the funnel but as the primary steward of referring partners and coach to the division and department leaders who will ultimately supervise these new employees. I believe that all schools should consider adding a Chief Recruiter to their teams, whether that means reconstructing existing job descriptions or bringing on an additional employee. This effort must receive the direct support of the Head and is ideally an administrator at the next level of the org chart below the Head. It's also a position that could pay for itself across a short period of time in what it saves in consulting fees, or in the harder to track costs of churn, whether in escalating salaries or in the many ways school lose revenue when they have under-performing employees.