Our schools are falling short when it comes to workplace diversity, but school and district Human Resources offices can work with administrators and school leaders to help attract and retain diverse talent.

As our nation’s demographic trends continue to shift, so should our conversations and concerns about recruitment of employees, especially teachers and administrative-support staff, who best reflect the demographics of our student populations. The need for school district administrators to identify and implement best practices in promoting diversity among employees must remain a priority in our organizations. Although data seem to indicate that some districts and schools appear to do a better job than others of addressing equity and diversity in their hiring practices, it is disconcerting that most districts are consistently falling short. As our nation’s student population becomes more and more diverse, Human Resources departments must be intentional in their efforts to help establish a diverse workforce.

“How well a district manages its hiring, recruiting and retention practices directly affects its competitive edge.”

Human Resources must play an active role in leading conversations and implementing best practices that support creating diversity, which can lead to high academic achievement and success for all students. Targeted recruitment, including at campus job fairs, gives Human Resources departments opportunities for lasting partnerships with campus administrators.

Another strategy is to establish guidelines for creating diversity on campus and in district-level interview teams. School districts should consider the advantages of cultivating relationships with PTA and PTO cultural-diversity representatives and community groups. Focusing on community  involvement increases the likelihood of developing a workforce for the community. Inviting community members to serve on welcome committees and interview teams and to join conversations with campus or district leaders is a clear commitment to diversity. Human Resources teams must also providing professional development training support to help identify diverse candidates from a large pool of applicants. It’s important to implement processes in a Human Resources data system that collect, track and evaluate progress in hiring and retention.

Because issues in the recruitment and retention of minority teachers and staff continue to be challenging, districts must highlight the intrinsic benefits of working in their communities communities. This can be done by collaborating with the Communications Department and establishing solid partnerships with the chamber of commerce, realtors associations and community businesses. District personnel must focus on helping diverse newly hired employees assimilate into the community. Research indicates that employees who are talented, especially talented minority employees, are far more willing to leave organizations that do not help new employees make critical connections to their new jobs, campuses and communities. How well a district manages its hiring, recruiting and retention practices directly affects its competitive edge. As research articles and reports make clear, there is an indisputable link among retention, recruitment and workforce representation. Teachers will “stay on the job” when they trust that a school is serving their interests. Building relationships and cultivating employee relations is key. To that end, a major component of any district’s hiring practices should be focusing on new-teacher induction/mentor programs that recognize and celebrate differences.

Human Resources acknowledges the gains that have been made in developing cultural awareness; however, the next step is to develop cultural competence. Strategic practices with a laser focus on diversity increase the possibility of creating a workforce that reflects our diverse communities. The suggestions above offer a few points to consider, but we must continue to explore opportunities and our understanding of diversity.

Written by Dr. Robert Stewart