Be Prepared, Plan Ahead

If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably wind up nowhere!
- 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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