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Why understanding millennials is key to fighting teacher attrition

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With a nearly eight-percent national teacher attrition rate, schools across the country are looking for better ways to keep teachers engaged in their work.

Higher pay, better training, more autonomy-we’ve all heard the list of proposed solutions. And yet, the U.S. teacher attrition rate is still double of those in higher-performing countries, according to the Learning Policy Institute.

Millennials now make up the majority of new teacher hires. Unfortunately, less than half of them will still be teachers in five years, according to Forbes.

To attract and retain the best talent, schools will have to adapt to millennials’ changing life and work priorities, or risk losing a new generation of teachers.

The problem? Only six percent of superintendents think they understand the needs of millennials in the workforce, according to a recent Gallup study.

Gallup outlines six key changes districts will have to make to ensure satisfaction among its newest faculty members. Keep these in mind as you navigate your own hiring challenges.

1. Give teachers a better sense of purpose

Teachers don’t become teachers for the money. By choosing education, they show an innate sense of purpose. But, millennials want constant reminders of how their day-to-day work relates to the broader purpose of educating students. School leaders must provide that inspiration.

2. Provide development opportunities, not just perks

In recent years, many of America’s leading brands have offered perks to attract talent. Think of Facebook or Google offering ping-pong tables, dry cleaning, and meals.

But, Gallup reports that the workplace of the future will move away from this approach and instead prioritize “opportunities for employees to learn and grow and develop their full potential.”

While perks are great, giving teachers the opportunity to master their positions through professional development and other programs is critical.

3. Be a coach, not a boss

Workplace leadership was once defined by top-down control. But, millennials are looking for a stronger working relationship with their school leaders. Moving forward, administrators will need to think of themselves as coaches leading a team, working hand-in-hand with their faculty and staff to achieve common goals.

4. Provide and invite ongoing feedback

“Annual performance reviews are no longer sufficient,” says the Gallup report. Millennials want regular feedback on their performance, and they want to provide feedback to their district and school as well.

Do your teachers know they can approach you whenever they need to? If not, it’s time to rethink how you communicate.

One-on-one meetings are important, but you should also have other ways to collect feedback from your staff and community. Surveys offer an easy way to solicit that input.

5. Focus on strengths, not weaknesses

While “room for improvement” has long been a staple of job reviews, the Gallup report recommends a new model for assessing performance.

Millennials want to further improve what they’re good at, and want leaders who inspire excellence in them. Constructive feedback is helpful, but it should focus on what teachers have done right rather than what they’ve done wrong.

6. Provide a lifestyle, not just a job

Work-life balance has been a workplace buzzword for years. For millennials it’s a must.

To retain the best talent, you must give them a reason to stay that goes beyond money and benefits. Make sure the goals of your district align with your teachers’ aspirations, and that your work environment reflects the lifestyles of your staff.

What do you think about Gallup’s list? What other important steps should school leaders take to appeal to millennial teachers? Tell us in the comments.

Stay tuned for more on how to ensure teacher satisfaction. In the meantime, don’t miss How to connect teachers with the communities they serve.

About the Author

Todd Kominiak
Todd is Managing Editor of TrustED. Email: tkominiak@k12insight.com.

1 Comment on "Why understanding millennials is key to fighting teacher attrition"

  1. Sadly, I agree that most millennial teachers won’t last five years. I think sadly it stems back to their “growing up” in a time when everyone “gets a trophy”. I agree that administrators need to support their teachers and let them know when they do a good job but they are still the boss. I want and hope the administration takes the heat and has my back when things get tough. I have been teaching for 27 years and have never thought of it as a job. On good days and bad days I do what I do for “my kids”.

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