Be Prepared, Plan Ahead
If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably wind up
- Clark Crouch
There's old axiom in management that "you are only as good as your people". Yet
a surprisingly high percentage of charter schools dedicate very little time and
effort to human resource planning and strategy development. Even among those
that do some formal planning, it is often sporadic and not systematic. I am
amazed at the amount of time, energy and money school leaders and HR managers
spend searching databases, attending job fairs, advertising online and in print,
and reviewing mountains of resumes without first developing a recruitment
strategy and plan.
All too often we see clients late in summer frantically trying anything and
everything to find warm bodies to cover positions that unexpectedly
cropped up. Effective recruiters know that before you spend $1 on advertising or
review your first resume, you need to have a plan that includes at a minimum:
- Anticipated hiring needs for next year?
Many factors determine future hiring needs. Some are straightforward and
relatively easy to predict such as those arising from school expansion, new
academic or extracurricular programs and staff promotions to new positions.
Others such as attrition are much more difficult to predict. In order to manage
the predictable hiring needs, all major staffing and/or academic and
non-academic school programming changes should be communicated to the
recruitment management team early and often. If recruitment planning teams know
well in advance of these changes, they can factor the new hiring needs into
their overall plan. Further, though predicting attrition is not easy, with a
good understanding of the main causes, you can at least make better predictions
earlier in hiring season. Far too many school leaders and hiring managers treat
attrition as if it is an unexpected, regularly occurring disaster. In a future
newsletter, I will take an in-depth look at the root causes of chronic attrition
and how to better predict and ultimately prevent it. For a good, in-depth look
at the issue of attrition and retention in charter schools, see this study
from researchers at Western Michigan University.
- Detailed profiles of the desired candidates' hard and soft competencies for
each open position.
I can't overstate this enough. So many recruiters set off on candidate searches
without first really figuring out who they want to fill the position. While they
often develop detailed job descriptions with all kinds of intricate details on
responsibilities and hard requirements and qualifications, very little attention
is paid to personality and organizational fit. Just because
someone has all the right stuff on paper doesn't mean she will perform well in
your school and/or in a specific position. Many schools spend far too
little time thinking about soft-skills that are necessary to thrive in a
position at your school. One of the major factors contributing to bad hires is
failure to consider factors such as personal values and temperament every bit as
important as work experience, educational attainment and credentials. To find
the "right" person, you must be able to cut through the noise and make an
emotional connection. If you don't know who you want, you certainly won't begin
to know where to find them.
- A specific candidate marketing plan for each open position
If you've done your job in number 2 above, developing a plan to reach the
"right" candidates should be relatively painless and even fun. This is a great
opportunity for a good-ole-fashion brainstorming session. Get inside the head of
the person you have thoroughly described. Where do they live? What kinds of
things do they do in their spare time? What do they read? Where did they go to
college? What are they passionate about? How can we get their attention and
interest (and here's the key) without attracting a bunch of junk candidates
in the process. Don't be afraid to think outside the box on this one. This
is a good opportunity to consider using Guerrilla Marketing techniques to reach the
"right" candidate for the job. Your hard work in figuring out exactly who you
want will pay off here. You'll be able to focus your precious candidate
marketing resources directly on the person who will ultimately be hired.
- A detailed screening and selection process for each open position
It is crucial that everyone on the recruitment/screening team knows their
role and responsibilities within the overall effort. A specific screening and
selection process should be clearly defined for each open position. While it may
seem like planning overkill to specify in September who exactly will be on the
interview team and at what stage or who will attend this or that recruitment
event, this kind of forward-thinking is essential. Let's face it, in the heat of
the school-year, when push comes to shove, recruitment and selection needs get
pushed aside. That's why it is so important to secure regularly scheduled time
on the calendars of school leadership, Human Resource staff and others involved
in the screening and selection process well in advance. In order to do that, you
must have a well-thought-out candidate management process, where everyone
involved has consistent, predictable responsibilities.
- A shared recruitment team calendar
In order to stay on top of the myriad details and to keep everyone on the
recruitment and screening team up-to-date and informed, I highly recommend that
you create a group calendar to track key recruitment milestones, events,
regularly scheduled follow-up/planning meetings and the interviewing/screening
schedule. This will help to greatly reduce confusion and ensure that all
team-members are on the same page and know their time-commitments well in
advance. There are dozens of computer-based calendar tools. I have personally
used 37Signal's Backpack and I highly recommend it mainly because it is
extremely simple to use and setup.
- A realistic budget
I can't count how many times I have heard our customers claim that they have
"no money to spend on recruitment", yet they have serious hiring needs for the
coming year. Perhaps this is more of a bargaining tactic, but I trust my
customers and believe that most of them are telling the truth. The priorities of
buying curriculum materials, hiring the after-school coordinator, whatever often
suck up any "extra" money that could be used for recruitment and selection
efforts. Given that talent acquisition is one of (if not the) most important
non-instructional functions of a charter school, there is no excuse for not
having the necessary financial resources in the budget. One of the biggest
benefits of having a well-fleshed, detailed recruitment plan and budget for the
following school-year completed in the spring is that you can ensure adequate
resources for recruitment and selection are in the school budget for next year.
Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
Developing and following a recruitment and selection plan is crucial. However,
following the logic of the Eisenhower quote above, your work is not done once
the plan is written. This should be a living document that guides and
informs your efforts. Regular (at least monthly) follow-up planning and strategy
sessions are crucial. Hiring needs are dynamic and often come out of nowhere.
Armed with a good plan and a plugged-in, informed team, even the most
challenging recruitment needs can at least be managed more effectively and with
less stress and uncertainty.