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Introduction to Talent Management

school recruitment and talent management office

EduStaff Head Office, 4 Cam Road, Stratford, London

As the economy continues to recover from the financial crisis of 2008, schools increasingly face a fundamental challenge – that of staff retention.

A high turnover of senior leaders, coupled with recruitment difficulties for early-career teachers, has created an unstable and ultimately unsustainable reliance on costly temporary measures.

This is not only an issue for schools but also the wider public sector as increased competition for talent in the private sector is drawing young talent away from public professions.

However, the latest research into working priorities for Generation Y gives the schools sector reasons to be encouraged.

Money is no longer the number one driver for many of the ‘emerging generation’ when choosing their career path. The millennials want to be inspired. They want to be part of a movement which excites them with its vision of a better future for society; one which they can share, shape and deliver.

Consequently, leaders will need to be inspirational. They will need to motivate through their vision of how things must be.

And then they will need to create a climate and culture within their learning community where great things can happen as staff are motivated at every level and personally empowered to achieve.

The key to a stable and productive staff team is creating an environment that encourages trust and co-operation. These are the essential ingredients required to produce discretionary effort throughout your staff team, and enable talented individuals to achieve their career objectives.

Developing and delivering strategies for creating that climate and culture must become a priority for every leader of a learning community.

In this ultra-competitive recruitment environment, school leaders need to get ‘on the front foot’ and take control of talent. For too long school leaders have been reactive to staffing situations rather than taking a proactive approach to strategic workforce planning.

Talent Management

The goal of talent management is quite simply to successfully recruit, develop, deploy and retain top individuals for any organisation or business with an objective of succession planning.

By successfully implementing the principles and processes of talent management, schools can help individuals achieve their career aspirations whilst also addressing the gap between what the staff team’s capabilities are now and what will be required in the foreseeable future.

The four pillars of an effective talent management strategy, integrated with a defined school ethos and strategic vision will create consistency and clarity within the learning community.

Up until now, talent management has been a somewhat alien idea to schools and the dearth of future leaders currently in the pipeline is a direct consequence of this oversight in school leadership.

Teachers have, in my experience, always been unified by a belief in the power that education has to both inform and transform people’s lives. A concept that revolves around creating unity of purpose could therefore seem redundant. But the landscape is changing.

What we have seen with the publication of the government’s ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’ white paper is the beginnings of an education system focused on independence and choice.

We know that every school will become an academy by 2022 and this will create myriad different institutions with myriad different philosophies.

We also know that where there is choice, there is competition. Competition not just for the highest percentage of pupils with A* to C grades, but for the talent that will deliver those results.

Now more than ever finding, nurturing and managing that talent needs to be at the top of any leadership team’s list of priorities.

It is not just academisation that is fuelling the need for talent management in schools.

Arguably the most pressing concern for schools is a lack of candidates for Initial Teacher Training.

Teacher training levels are low – way below the numbers needed according to the Department for Education’s Teacher Supply Model.

This, together with the projected increase in pre-16 pupil numbers of about 615,000 over the next five years, is starting to look like a perfect storm brewing in school recruitment.

This crisis is set only to deepen. With a workforce who are becoming increasingly older, who are leaving the profession earlier, and openly voicing their disillusionment with the establishment, the future can seem bleak.

To tackle this problem, school’s need a sustainable and workable solution, and quickly. They need a solution that kills two birds with one stone – increasing ITT numbers and promoting longevity. This, once again, exemplifies the importance of effective talent management at the heart of solving the problems that many schools now face.

Though talent management strategies have not been widely adopted by schools until now, the more you think about it, the more you wonder why.

I’ve already said that teachers are unified by a common philosophy. But they also all buy into a ‘career for life’ that offers a defined route of progression. This is one of the reasons that teaching is still one of the most attractive professions today.

The journey of a secondary maths teacher, to Head of Maths, to Assistant Principle, to Deputy Head, to Head Teacher gives people structure in a job market that can often serve up chaos.

Helping schools to understand and promote the job security they can offer and define a ‘journey’ of career progression is crucial in accessing that part of the job market that is more change averse. If a school cannot define career paths for its staff, and doesn’t have succession planning in place, then motivated and ambitious teachers will go where such plans exist.

But school leaders now need to be brave by leading the change themselves, backing their own vision and adopting proactive strategies in recruitment, development, deployment and succession planning.

By effectively implementing talent management within their organisations, schools can create secure, innovative and cooperative environments that deliver a unified strategic vision in an energetic and effective manner. Leaving management-speak to one side, isn’t this the fulfilment we all seek and that the organisation for which we all want to work?

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