Maintaining innovation through Staff Turnover

How are you maintaining innovation through staff turnover?

Five Mindsets & Practices to Adopt to Maintain Innovation During Staff Turnover

I’m Kelly Croy, Apple Distinguished Educator Class of 2011 and Director of Innovation & Instruction at Port Clinton City Schools in Ohio. As an Apple Distinguished Educator and Apple Learning Coach, I’m confident that innovation in schools can be maintained even with staff turnover.

With the word ‘innovation’ in my title, I spend a great deal of my time learning, collaborating and planning around how our district and the schools I work with can maintain innovation especially while districts around the world are experiencing unfortunate higher than normal staff turnover.

Let’s be clear on what innovation truly is; it is quite simply finding the best ways to teach, learn and operate in our schools. The word innovation is too often and inaccurately reserved for technology integration and initiatives.  

Innovation is about finding better solutions which can be difficult with educators and leaders transferring to other districts or leaving education altogether.

A lot of districts abandon innovative approaches to teaching, learning and leading during times of higher than expected staff turnover because they are caught off guard and feel as if they should just focus on surviving.

Here are five mindsets you must adopt to maintain innovation during staff turnover:

Expect Staff Turnover: Expect position changes in all departments. Adopt the mindset that anyone could leave at anytime. Staff turnover isn’t a phase that is going away. This is the new normal. We need to prepare for change anywhere at anytime. Staff turnover isn’t isolated to education; all employers are facing the challenges of staffing. Get creative and be prepared to work to retain your best and recruit the best.

View Turnover as an Opportunity For All: Someone leaving your district does not have to be viewed as a negative, in fact, you should look at it as if you prepared this person for their new role. Don’t label it as a negative. Celebrate the advancement of a colleague and welcome the opportunity to train and befriend someone new. The vast majority of turnover we have seen in our district have been promotions to new positions elsewhere. We need to celebrate that! We need to adopt the attitude that we are helping others advance, while preparing ourselves for the possibility of change. This is an opportunity for fresh, new ideas and personalities to engage and influence students.

Retain & Recruit Talent: School Districts need to review and adjust contracts and how they operate to retain the talented educators and staff members currently working in their district, as well as recruit new talent when positions open. How we interview has changed! New questions and new priorities. Our district has altered hiring practices to adjust and adapt to the needs of our times and district. I’m sure future negotiations will be as innovative as well. We attend and host more job fairs than ever before, and our amazing Director of Communications, as well as our entire admin team, is always highlighting why it’s great to work in our district. We also work closely with our community so people know why they would want to move here too!

Prioritize Knowledge Transfer and Succession Planning: Recognize the importance of knowledge transfer and succession planning in maintaining continuity during staff turnover. Encourage experienced staff to mentor new hires, document best practices, and share institutional knowledge. By prioritizing succession planning, educational leaders ensure that the organization can sustain its innovative initiatives even as personnel change over time. We create electronic files where best practices, pacing and projects are stored. We utilize mentors for those brand new to education and teacher guides for veterans moving into our district. We conduct regular checkins where we sit down and ask, “How can we support you?” Using Pages to create digital books to document the position, responsibilities, accomplishments, goals and vision could be incredibly helpful to a successor entering the district.

Promote Collaboration and Teamwork: Foster a collaborative environment where teamwork is valued and encouraged. Provide time in your schools’ schedules to encourage staff to work together, share ideas, and collaborate on projects. We have Professional Learning Community (PLC) time in every building! We also have scheduled 2-hour delays for students once a month so staff can get together, collaborate and level-up. When educators and leaders collaborate effectively, they can leverage each other's strengths to drive innovation and overcome challenges associated with staff turnover. Additionally, strong team dynamics can help build resilience and support continuity during times of transition.

The mindsets and practices outlined above illustrate how you can maintain innovation during times of staff turnover. These are tested practices and mindsets that have served us and others.

I believe schools need to look at staff turnover differently. These mindsets should be discussed by all and customized to fit your district.

Which of the mindsets and practices above spoke to you and the needs of your district? Choose one of the five practices above and begin to prepare your district now.

How are you maintaining innovation through staff turnover? Leave a comment below.

#leadership #leadershipconversations

Other Posts in the Leadership Conversations Series — Continuous Innovation

All Comments

Posted on February 26, 2024

You are correct- staff turnover will never go away. Whether someone is retiring, moving, or just starting a new opportunity, staff turnover will always be a factor to consider in your school and district. Living in a rural community, we have had to be innovative in ways to attract potential staff. A strong presence on social media, along with word of mouth, have attracted those who believe in our mission and vision. When a person aligns well with the school's culture, they are so much more likely to stay with you for the long haul!

Posted on February 28, 2024

Thank you for commenting and great insight.

Posted on February 26, 2024

Hi, I'm Susan Maynor, Learning Experience Designer at EPiC Elementary, an Apple Distinguished School. Staff turnover is inevitable and can often breathe new ideas and perspectives into our learning environments. One thing we have learned over the years is to develop a strong, positive school culture that values innovation. This culture can transcend individual staff changes. Fostering a collaborative and supportive environment encourages shared values and goals, which can be maintained through turnover. Additionally, when hiring new staff, look for individuals who are not only qualified but also share the school's commitment to innovation. Maybe steer away from the norm when interviewing new teachers and ask questions like:

  1. What does continuous innovation in education mean to you? What might that look like in your teaching/learning? 
  2. EPiC sits on the forefront of what’s next in education. How do you navigate ambiguity or the unknown of the future? 
  3. What will education look like in 10 years? 

Posted on February 28, 2024

Hello! I am Donald Sorah, Associate Professor of Music at The University of Virginia's College at Wise. Although I am not in a position that immediately deals with staff turnover, I do appreciate how the culture on our campus has changed in regards to educational technology since I last chaired a search committee. I have made note of Susan's questions for a new era of faculty recruitment. I will share them with administration and keep them handy for the next time I find myself on a search committee.

I can also identify with Alyssa's challenges recruiting new faculty as we are also in a rural community. Recent developments and accomplishments such as our Apple Distinguished School status and implementing a faculty mentor program seem to be improving recruitment and retention efforts. Highlighting the ADS distinction illustrates our dedication to innovation from the start. The faculty mentor program helps to provide connection and prolonged support during the onboarding process and forms partnerships that last.

I also want to say how much I appreciate Kelly's positivity and delineation of five key mindsets and practices. These bullet points make it easier for all to plan for and take action. The positive perspective is very important when thinking of turnover. Thank you, Kelly, for encouraging us to "celebrate the advancement of a colleague," "welcome the opportunity to train and befriend someone new," and "look at it as if you prepared this person for their new role." It is so important to maintain a positive perspective when change takes place.

I'm loving this conversation and - as you can see - have already garnered some new ideas. 💡👏

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