By: Dr. Robert Stewart, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources

(DIVERSITY in Ed Magazine Contributor)

As our nation’s demographic trends continue to shift, so should our conversations and concerns surrounding recruitment of employees, mainly 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 some districts and schools appear to do a better job than others of addressing equity and diversity in their hiring practices, it is very disconcerting to realize most are consistently falling short.  As our nation’s student population becomes more and more diverse, Human Resources must be intentional in their efforts to help establish a diverse workforce.

Human Resources must play an active role in leading conversations and implementation of best practices supportive of creating diversity, which can lead to high academic achievement and success for all students. Targeted recruitment involving attendance at minority rich job fairs and providing opportunities for campus administrators to partner with HR in these efforts is a good start.  Another strategy is to establish guidelines for creating diversity within campus and district level interview teams.  School districts should consider the advantages of cultivating relationships with PTA/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, interview teams, and to dialog with campus/district leaders can create a clear vision and commitment to diversity.  HR teams must also provide professional development and training support surrounding cultural competence with a goal to help educate interview teams on ethnic nuances hidden in resumes that may indicate a person of diversity.  The implementation of processes within your HR data system to help collect, track, monitor, and evaluate progress regarding hiring and retention as related to your applicant pool, is paramount.

Because issues surrounding the recruitment and retention of minority teachers and staff continues to be a great challenge, districts must be intentional in efforts to highlight the intrinsic factors and quality of life advantages of working within their community. This can be accomplished by collaborating with your communications department, establishing solid partnerships with the chamber of commerce, realtors association, and community businesses. District personnel must purposely focus on avenues to help diverse new hire employees assimilate into the community.  Research indicates 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 hiring, recruitment, and retention practices, directly affect its competitive edge.  To that end, a major component of any district’s hiring practices should be focused on new teacher induction/mentor programs, which recognize and celebrate differences.

HR acknowledges the gains that have been made in developing cultural awareness; however, the next step is to develop our cultural competence. Strategic practices with a laser focus on diversity increase the possibilities of attaining a workforce reflective of our diverse communities. The suggestions noted above offer a few points to consider, but we must continue to explore opportunities and understanding of diversity. “There is an indisputable link between retention, recruitment, and current work-force representation. They will “stay” when they trust that you are serving their interest. Building the relationships and cultivating employee relations is key.”