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How to Boost District Hiring Capacity w/ an Effective Onboarding Program
By: Julia Francis on Mar 15, 2023 11:00:00 AM
“Your heart is slightly larger than the average human heart, but that's because you're a teacher.” ~ Aaron Bacall
There aren’t enough educators in the United States, and the ongoing shortage has become a source of concern for every school district in the country. There’s a lot of competition for skilled teacher, staff, and administrator talent and a need to increase hiring capacity by providing new employees with an effective onboarding program.
At Alludo, we have created a dynamic, asynchronous learning platform that may be used for teacher and classified staff onboarding as well as for professional development. In the Yucaipa Calimesa JUSD, the system we built for substitute teacher onboarding worked so well that it grew into an onramp for teacher hiring. We’ve included many topics in our professional learning catalog that are suitable for teacher onboarding. With that in mind, here’s our advice about how to boost your district’s hiring capacity with effective onboarding. Let's start with teacher onboarding.
Table of Contents
- What is an Onboarding Program for New Teachers?
- Why is a District Onboarding Process Important?
- What is the Most Important Part of Onboarding?
- How Do You Improve a Teacher’s Onboarding Experience?
- Alludo's Take
What is an Onboarding Program for New Teachers?
An onboarding program for new teachers is a process that provides new hires with the information and guidance they need to be effective in their jobs. It’s not the same as orientation, which is typically a one-time event that covers basic information.
Your onboarding process should convey the following information to new teachers starting when they are hired:
- Your school district’s values and mission.
- The people that new teachers need to know, including administrators, office staff, teachers, teaching assistants, and support staff such as school counselors, nurses, custodial employees, and tech support.
- The professional culture, including expectations about teacher conduct and student discipline.
- Your expectations for the teacher’s professionalism and performance in their jobs.
- Resources that may be useful, including printed materials, access to online resources including professional development, and guidance to find in-school resources such as the library or AV room.
When we say that new teacher onboarding is a process, we mean that it should be ongoing. In many school districts, it lasts through the first year of teaching and may even extend through the second year. It should serve as a way to welcome and support new hires–and if done properly, can increase teacher retention and district hiring capacity for all roles, including classified and certificated employees.
Why is a District Onboarding Process Important?
Having an effective district onboarding process for new teachers and staff is essential for several reasons.
Establishing a Strong School Culture
Your school culture is responsible for how teachers feel about their new roles. Any teacher who feels welcomed and supported–like they’re part of a community and not just a worker–is more likely to feel satisfied than one who feels like they haven’t been properly welcomed.
Your school culture should be welcoming, open, and supportive, providing teachers with what they need to connect with their students and with other teachers.
Setting Expectations and Providing Necessary Resources
Orientation should be part of your onboarding process. An effective onboarding process should begin with an orientation that provides new teachers and classified staff with information and resources to help them prepare for their time in the classroom. It may include things like an onboarding checklist, a benefits package and tax forms from HR, and an employee handbook.
After orientation, teachers should be provided with additional resources that may include some or all of the following things:
- A school map
- A schedule detailing both classes and additional responsibilities, such as cafeteria or playground monitoring
- Emergency procedures
- Access to the school’s library, AV room, and anything else that might be useful
- A fellow teacher who may serve as either a buddy or a mentor
Information and resources create an environment where teachers and staff feel supported in their new jobs and understand where to find help if they need it.
It Improves Performance and Increases Teacher Retention
When a well-thought-out district onboarding process is in place, teachers and classified staff always have the tools and support they need to perform to the best of their ability and connect with students. Even teachers with little experience can go into the classroom knowing they have what they need and can find additional support when and if they require it.
On a related note, teachers who perform well and feel supported are far less likely to leave their district or leave the profession than those who do not feel supported. That means that investing in a teacher onboarding program can save your district time and money by reducing teacher turnover.
What is the Most Important Part of Onboarding?
We have pointed out a lot of individual elements of onboarding that are important, but there is one overarching element that sets the tone for everything to follow. We’re talking about leadership.
New employees need to know that there is good leadership in their school and in the district. Leadership is what makes teachers and staff feel that there’s a team in place to support them. They’ll also thrive if they have good leadership in a one-on-one capacity, specifically with a mentor who can guide them and provide support as needed.
To illustrate strong leadership, here are some things that school and district leaders and administrators can do to support new teachers and improve teacher retention. We refer to these as the four Cs of new district employee onboarding:
- Compliance is the most basic level of training, including school and district rules and regulations, legal obligations, and so on.
- Clarification is the process of letting teachers know what their jobs are in as much detail as possible, and what your expectations are.
- Culture is something we’ve already mentioned, but it should include letting teachers know how your school and district communities work and where they fit in. It should include your school district mission, goals, and vision.
- Connection involves helping new teachers forge relationships with other educators and school staff and providing them with access to information networks. This should include providing them with access to an assigned mentor, with compensation for mentors for their assistance in onboarding.
Including these elements in your strategic onboarding process will provide new teachers and staff with everything they need to make a smooth transition into your school and district and provide students with the best possible learning experience.
How Do You Improve a Teacher’s Onboarding Experience?
If you already have a successful district onboarding program in place, you might be wondering what you can do to improve it. Here are some ideas.
Provide One-on-One Feedback and Support
First, you’ll need to make sure that new teachers and staff have a way to provide feedback on their experiences during onboarding. Your district’s onboarding program should be a living thing where administrators are open to honest feedback and willing to adapt to teachers’ needs as they are articulated.
Teachers won’t feel supported if they pose a question and need to wait hours or days for a response. Instead, make sure that your onboarding program makes two-way communication possible and that everybody understands that communication is a priority.
Create a Personalized PD Plan
Personal development requirements change from state to state and district to district, but it’s always best to provide teachers with personalized professional learning that will allow them to gain knowledge and improve their performance in areas where they may struggle.
We know at Alludo that giving teachers a voice and a choice in what they learn can do more than anything else to boost employee engagement and job satisfaction, both of which can lead to less teacher turnover and higher employee retention rates.
Offer Upfront Support in High-Priority Areas
The hope is always that new teachers and staff will acclimate to their jobs quickly and feel more comfortable with each passing day. However, with teachers who are new to your school or new to the profession, there’s often a need for intensive support in the early days.
You can improve your onboarding program by identifying those areas where additional support is of the highest priority. For example, new teachers may feel anxious about emergency procedures or lockdown protocols, and providing them with extra support can help them feel confident that they know what to do.
Provide Ongoing Support and Training
As we mentioned above, onboarding is not a short event but rather, an ongoing process that should last for at least the first year that a teacher is in your district and may last as long as two years.
Teaching is a constantly-evolving profession and all teachers need ongoing support and training to do their best work. Incorporation professional development opportunities into your onboarding program provides teachers with the learning they need to connect with students and deliver the best possible learning outcomes.
District onboarding is an essential element of teacher and staff job satisfaction and teacher retention. You can increase your hiring capacity by providing substitute teachers, classified staff, and new, permanent teachers with a proper onboarding experience that makes them feel valued and supported.
The Alludo professional development catalog includes many activities that are useful for teacher onboarding. We understand that hiring and training teachers and staff is the top hurdle for K-12 education and we’ve made it our mission to assist school districts with onboarding.
The Yucaipa Calimesa JUSD is a case in point. We created an onboarding program for substitute teachers that has transformed into an onramp for new teacher hiring. We provide standardized and personalized onboarding in an online, asynchronous format that’s convenient for teachers and delivers results for school districts.
Boost Your District’s Hiring Capacity with Teacher Onboarding
If your school district needs to attract and hire more teachers and staff, implementing an effective onboarding program can help. Including the elements we’ve mentioned here can help you revamp your existing onboarding system or create a new one to increase your hiring capacity and reduce teacher turnover.
Do you need assistance creating an effective onboarding program for your school district? Alludo is here to help! Click here to get your free trial of our professional learning platform, Madagascar.
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