Best Practice Staff Retention Strategies in International Schools
Most teachers are different and they have their own unique desires and goals which can affect staff retention. However, it’s safe to assume that all of them want to know that they are being paid at or above market rates and that they have good benefits. They want to feel that they are appreciated by their employer and treated fairly. They want to be challenged and excited by the job they are asked to do.
An effective staff retention programme addresses all of these concerns, but it also goes beyond these basics. In fact, your efforts should start on a new hire’s first day on the job, if not even before. The training and support you provide from Day 1 sets the tone for the employee’s tenure at the company and boosts job satisfaction.
Before They Arrive
Send lots of information and send it regularly. Help staff get prepared by understanding both the living and work environment they will be coming to. Hints and tips, things to consider, highlights and things to do. This will whet their appetite as well as prepare them for the positive changes ahead. You are also showing staff in advance the culture of your school. Be thoughtful and generous.
On-boarding & Orientation
A developed on-boarding process where new teachers and administration members not only learn about the job but also the company culture and how they can contribute and thrive, with ongoing discussions, goals and opportunities to address questions and issues as they arrive. All staff need to know that they feel safe and supported from day 1, so successful on-boarding for teachers allows them to feel comfortable in what is likely to be a new country with new customs and practices. Initially it’s important for them to ‘feel at home’. For example:
- Airport pickup.
- Tour of accommodation.
- a small package of food and personal items to get them through the 24hrs.
- A local contact.
- Handbook with useful information.
- SIM cards – just a tourist card to get them started. They will want to phone home after arrival.
- Cultural Orientation
It is at this point that it is integral that efficient organisational systems in finance, HR and academic teams are perfected in order that the work place matches the contract expectation.
Pairing new staff members with current members of the team allows the new employee to ‘learn the ropes’ and better understand the role and culture of the school. The Mentor must be enthusiastic and have ‘bought’ into the culture and values of the school.
All expatriate teachers will be offered a standard package to include aspects such as:
- Competitive salary (Based on a salary scale and dependent on experience and qualifications)
- Medical & Health Insurance
- Accommodation Allowances (accommodations needs to be culturally appropriate)
- Flights to and from home country
- Pension Scheme (if appropriate for local context)
A standard package will also be available for local staff members in academics and administration.
A standard contact for expatriate teachers is 2 years, whilst it is 3 years for staff in administration positions. Both of these will have incentives for renewal after the contract ends.
It Is Not Just The Money!
Countless research will tell you that money is not what satisfies staff. Even if the package is fair, it is how staff are treated and how they feel valued that makes a difference. For a reminder on these basic motivators explore Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We agree with these these Principles too. School leaders are the key to staff satisfaction and minimising turn over.
Recognition & Rewards Systems
Make a habit to thank employees when they go the extra mile, whether it’s with a sincere email, face to face conversation, a gift card or an extra day off for example. Make it known to all employees how much they are appreciated, and share how their hard work helps the school develop and move forward.
Burnout is real in any start-up company and therefore its important for the whole staff need extra support in these first months and years. A healthy work-life balance is essential, and employees need to know that management understands its importance. Encourage staff to take vacation time, and if late nights are necessary, offer late arrivals or an extra day off to compensate and increase job satisfaction. This aspect is more directed to administration staff due to the academic staffs work hours and generous holiday allowance.
Training & Development
In any position staff are looking to advance in their current roles and to move up the ladder. By offering continual training and professional development staff are given the platform to learn more and in the case of academic staff they are trained on the latest teaching methods and strategies that have entered the education market. This could be teaching techniques or new technology in the classroom that requires deep understanding. Administration staff should be reimbursed for training and development that is revenant to their role.
Communication, Governance & Feedback
A governance structure should be in place whereby expatriate teachers report to another expatriate leader in management or at least a member in management who thoroughly understands different cultures and diversity.
Keeping open lines of communication is essential to staff retention and employees should feel that they can come to their superior with ideas, questions and concerns, and likewise, they expect that person to be honest and open with them about improvements they need to make in their own performance.
Dealing With Change
Schools have to deal with rapid changes, particularly in a start-up school, and the employees look to leadership for reassurance. Keep your staff informed as much as you can to avoid feeding the rumour mill. Any big announcements should be made face to face, and allow time for questions. Change management is a big deal. If you want to learn more read some of the research by Michael Fullan.
Foster a culture of collaboration affects staff retention in that it accommodates individuals’ working styles and lets their talents shine. This can be done by clarifying team objectives, goals and roles, and encouraging everyone to contribute ideas and solutions.
Celebrate milestones for individuals and for the team. End of term celebrations, Christmas (or relevant holidays) celebrations, birthdays, new babies, etc.
How To Find Good Staff/Recruitment
In order to effectively recruit staff the school needs an area on the school website dedicated to staff recruitment. This page needs to be in English and in a ‘western style’ as recruiting teachers for international schools is extremely competitive and the applicant needs to understand the process for application in depth.
By following all these aspects you’ll be sure to have a team that is ready go and staff retention will be high.
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