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Teacher retention: Once you hire the perfect candidate, how do you hold on to them? [Research report]

As the international teacher job market continues to heat up, the topic of teacher retention is undoubtedly on each and every international school leader’s mind.

As well it should be: integral to building and maintaining a successful international school is attracting – and keeping – a great team of teachers on staff.

At Teach Away, we’ve seen see this fact borne out time and time again; international schools with significantly lower teacher attrition rates experience stronger student learning outcomes and a corresponding boost in student enrollment. And they are also, invariably, the very schools that continue to grow and thrive, even in today’s highly competitive international education marketplace.

On the flipside, high teacher turnover is a huge drain on many international schools’ financial and human resources. While some level of attrition is, of course, inevitable, a higher-than-average teacher turnover rate can be detrimental to your school’s performance, resulting as it inevitably does in lost expertise and diminishing teaching quality.

While perhaps many of you may assume that international educators are more likely to leave their current teaching position due to salary, the reality is that a number of diverse factors play a role in contributing to higher teacher turnover.

You’ll likely already be well aware of some fundamental ways to reduce teacher turnover, like hiring for the right cultural fit and keeping your compensation and benefits in line with other schools in your region

However, Teach Away’s latest recruiting trends report (based on a survey of more than 10,000 international teaching candidates) recently identified three additional strategies to help you retain great teachers and increase job satisfaction at your school. Keep reading to find out:


1. Make sure you have a solid onboarding process in place.


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Source: Teach Away’s International Education Recruitment Report 2017


A successful onboarding process could be the secret weapon you need to bring your teachers’ job satisfaction and retention to the next level.

Onboarding isn’t just about getting all that paperwork signed and day one on the job done and dusted, though. As recent hire turnover continues to be a significant issue for many international schools, having a structured onboarding process cannot be overlooked.

The first days, weeks and even months can often determine whether a teacher chooses to stay at your school long term. We’ve seen that international schools with a comprehensive onboarding strategy experience a significantly reduced likelihood of attrition within the first few months, compared with schools with a weaker – or often nonexistent – onboarding process.

So don’t just hire a great teacher and cross your fingers. Ensure you have a solid onboarding process in place to make your new hire feel welcome, prepared for their new role and fully integrated into your school culture, mission and values.

A quality onboarding process will pay for itself in the long run when your teacher decides to stay long term, in large part due to the positive experience they’ve had at your school right from the outset.


2. Don’t forget that effective pre-onboarding matters, too.


A fundamental thing to realize about avoiding premature teacher turnover is that waiting until the first day to start onboarding is, in most cases, already too late.

Before your new teacher even sets foot in your school, you need to have the right pre-departure support process in place to help them learn more about your school, their compensation package and specifics about the job.

Pre-onboarding is, far and away, the best way to get your new teacher hire comfortable in their new role and teaching environment and – most crucially of all – invested in the prospect of working at your school.

At Teach Away for example, the average lead time between a teacher accepting a job and starting is around four months. What does this mean? Well, it leaves more than enough time for uncertainty and self-doubt to set in. It’s easy to forget how intimidating starting a new job can be – think of how tricky it can be for international educators who are moving far away from home and everything that is familiar to them!

The important thing is to keep the candidate interested and to raise the excitement levels as the start date approaches. This means you need to make new hire pre-boarding a priority, which will, in turn, validate your teacher’s decision to accept the job and get them excited to hit the ground running in their new school.


3. Make opportunities for development and growth at your school.


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Source: Teach Away’s International Education Recruitment Report 2017


Our international teacher survey identified the following factors that candidates most valued in their jobs. It was no big surprise to us that professional development came out on top:

In addition to paying your teachers well (which undoubtedly plays an important role in motivating candidates to apply for your school in the first place), investing in their professional development is a fundamentally important strategy to reduce employee turnover.

Your teachers want to feel like they’re gaining expertise and becoming more well-rounded international educators. Offering relevant professional development training programs not only helps you attract top job candidates and helps your current teachers perform better in their roles – it also helps you retain top educators for years to come. Professional development is a great way to boost job satisfaction – when your teachers feel they’re able to do their jobs more effectively, they become more confident and secure in their roles.

What’s more, by including training and development opportunities on your job opening, you’ll also make your school more appealing to prospective candidates you offer your staff training and development opportunities. Think about it – you’ll be building a positive reputation as an international school that cares about its teachers and strives to employ only the most talented and motivated international educators.

So there you have it – by embracing these actionable teacher retention strategies, your school will be well on its way to attracting and retaining the best international teachers, even in an increasingly competitive hiring landscape.

For more on what really matters to today’s international teaching candidate, as well as data-driven insights and hiring strategies from leading experts in international education recruitment, be sure to check out Teach Away’s 2017 recruiting trends report!

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of AISA ConneXions, the bi-annual newsletter of the Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA).

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