Many members of the international education community often express their reluctance to discuss school affairs with business terms like value for money and Return on Investment (ROI) - a reluctance that can no longer be afforded.
Because of the current reality of reduced enrollment, downward pressure on tuition fees, and value propositions that are less relevant in a post-pandemic environment, we owe our school communities a duty of care that includes an enhanced degree of fiscal prudence, regardless of whether a non-profit, private or government-funded school.
With many forecasts predicting unstable economic growth due to the pandemic, schools will need to curtail spending and be more strategic in their fiscal planning. The reality is, this pandemic will force some schools to cease operations. However, school leaders who have the wherewithal to ask the questions about value for money and ROI will be those best positioned to deliver the most value to their communities in our next normal.
Investing in People - your biggest asset….and expense
Teacher salaries and benefits. Typically the largest component of any school’s budget, and rightly so. Without the right team, schools struggle to achieve organizational objectives, are more likely to have high staff turnover, and may fail to attract new teachers. A school’s success is determined by all those who work there, support staff, teachers, and administrators - all play a critical role in creating the culture and community from which a school thrives.
If a school’s largest investment is in its people, then how do we secure a strong return on this investment?
Hire with Purpose, Develop with Intent
Pre-pandemic, the hiring language used by hiring managers and school heads at recruitment fairs was almost Fordist in its content;
“I need two KG’s, one Grade 6, and an IB Physics teacher.”
Of course, these off-the-cuff remarks are immensely reductive of the thoughtful consideration employed by hiring school heads. Yet, the language was indicative of the generally predictable nature of the traditional school model relied upon for many years. This predictability is lost. The groundswell of change spurred by the global pandemic will have everlasting impacts on the role of schools in our communities.
In a post-pandemic landscape, school leaders are working to redefine their value proposition to their communities and reassess how they deliver on their school’s mission, vision, and strategic objectives. Never before has hiring with purpose been so vital to international school success. Coincidentally, this focus on aligning teams to missions is our driving belief at SkoolSpot, that;
Any problem can be solved with the right people, with the right skills, in the right place.
Purposeful hiring requires much more consideration than well-intended but abstract thoughts around 'fit'. It requires;
Identifying the specific skills and competencies required to achieve your objectives
Ensuring a common understanding among your team
Sourcing applicants who evidence these skills
Interviewing for these specific skills and behaviors
Carefully selecting the right teacher for the job.
And, the process doesn’t end there.
Ensuring that a teacher’s professional learning goals are a part of your interview process is critical. It can shine a spotlight on how considered and intentional their professional learning is to them. It can highlight how important you believe their continued development is to your school. Lastly, and most importantly, it sets the stage to jointly identify where your organizational goals align with their personal learning goals.
The area where teachers' development goals align with your school's learning goals is where returns on PD investment are realized. This area of win-win is the playing field for strategic professional development.
Strategic Professional Development
As a percentage of your overall budget, your PD expenditures may not seem that significant. However, the returns on these investments allow teachers to go from good to great and support the transformation of siloed departments into collaborative learning teams.
If there is much to be gained from strategic professional development, are we acting accordingly?
Mostly no. A report commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation revealed that; 'few professional development decisions are made based on rigorous evidence of effectiveness.' Often, PD budgets are spent on ad hoc requests not explicitly tied to the strategic objectives. Blanket approaches to PD are rolled out for all staff - regardless of a teacher's proficiency level. In fact, PD stipends are often seen as a de facto component of a benefits package - fly to a PD event in a tourist-friendly location, giving people the chance to network and relish in a little 5-star luxury with their colleagues in international education.
It’s not to say that any of these types of PD can’t be beneficial, that completely depends on how well you have vetted the provider, how the intended outcomes align with organizational needs, the content, and delivery, the mindset of the person attending the PD and the appropriateness of the PD in relation to a person’s current skill level. But with all these factors at play, what is abundantly clear is that professional development decision making demands a dutiful and considered approach with a close eye to the alignment between teacher and school development goals.
It starts with knowing what skills and competency gaps your school has in the first place.
Identify your Core Competencies
To identify training and development needs in your school, you need to have a clear picture of what competencies are important to your school and strategically align these to your vision, mission, and objectives. Once you have your core competencies set out you can begin the process of collaboratively identifying the unique competency profile of everyone in your team against these core areas.
It may seem obvious but there are not many school leaders who can attest to having an overview of the skills and competencies of all their staff in one central place. While the process to get there may sound like a lot of effort, those who commit to it will be richly rewarded with the ability to pinpoint not only where there are an individual, team, or school-wide areas for improvement but also where there are untapped areas of expertise.
Leverage your New Insights
Knowing the competencies of your staff allows you to strategically target your PD funds to tackle skills and competency gaps. This clarity supports a clear dialogue about the desired outcomes from the PD and sets the groundwork to identify and verify providers best matched to deliver these outputs.
This newfound clarity can also make better use of internal resources (and save money) by identifying and tapping into in-house expertise rather than outsourcing PD for a particular topic. This can provide teachers highly skilled in a particular competency the opportunity to help others improve. It's also a great way to recognize their abilities and support their career development, particularly for those interested in a leadership trajectory.
For school leaders, the development of a competency-based approach will help to demonstrate impact and ultimately whether a particular investment was worth it. This can be no more important than in education where the money entrusted to school leaders should ultimately be spent in pursuit of enhancing student outcomes. How many PD budgets have been truly spent knowing if this has been achieved?
Gain clarity with SkoolSpot's facilitated workshops on implementing skills-based approaches to sourcing, hiring, selection, and strategic development. Contact us to find out more!