Corrina O’Beirne, Propelo Director, shares her reflections on a key challenge for schools and academy trusts of all shapes and sizes: how do you build a talent pipeline of high-potential leaders so you have the right people, for the right posts, at the right time?
We already know that education leadership recruitment is incredibly competitive. The top candidates are in high demand and have more choice than ever before. It means adopting a new approach to talent cultivation isn’t straightforward.
In fact, it requires a change in mindset. Forward-thinking schools and trusts are switching from seeing recruitment as being all about campaigns, to understanding that great talent attraction is about continual, purposeful engagement with the people you want to work with.
It becomes less about how much you spend on recruitment advertising, for example, and more about investing in your employer brand. Perhaps it means fewer candidates overall - but big numbers are replaced by quality engagement with a core audience that aligns with your mission and values.
Other things to consider when switching to a talent pipeline
Successful talent cultivation relies on clear goals from the start. The first step is to define what you mean by ‘talent’.
And where are the pressure points? Is there a retirement bubble about to pop? A new academy placing extra demand on teaching capacity?
From there you can move on to develop a collective understanding of ideal candidate profiles. This includes key experience and competencies but also personal attributes and leadership philosophy - being mindful that you might need different skills in the months ahead.
Education recruitment is tougher than ever, so it’s important you know what your offer is and how that makes you different from the rest.
Ask yourself these two questions:
The second question is just as important as the first. It’s helpful to invest time in articulating what makes your school or trust unique. What is different about your cultural DNA - and how might that evolve over time?
Having spent time creating your ideal candidate profiles and key messaging, this phase is about your strategy for identifying the professionals who align with your needs.
Adopting a research-based approach can help, particularly one that considers career trajectory, impact on standards and personal successes. It can also be helpful to bring together intelligence about the contexts in which prospective candidates have worked.
Engagement and intelligence
The very best candidates are busy and in high demand. Taking the time to establish a dialogue and take an interest in their professional journey can make a huge difference. There’s simply no substitute for a real conversation. Try mapping out a network of target candidates and speak to them directly.
Talk them through what your values are, what you’re trying to achieve and what successes you’ve had to date. You can use the opportunity to gauge their interest and test their perceptions, salary expectations and future plans.
It’s not rocket science – but it takes on-going investment or people will become disengaged.
Once you’ve connected with a great prospective candidate, you need to think about how you communicate moving forward.
We believe you get the very best results and deeper engagement when you treat your ‘talent’ as a community, not a database.
It might be helpful to think about what a bespoke communication strategy might look like – maybe including some consistent elements such as trust/school updates, social media feeds, leadership/teach meets and regular catch up conversations. There’s no fixed blueprint, but consistency and meaningful engagement is imperative.