HR Insights 5 min

6 Important Human Resource Issues in Education

October 5, 2020
Updated August 5, 2021

Teachers, school counselors, and others working in education are some of the most important people in society—they equip the rising generation with the skills necessary to change the world. To address this great responsibility, school districts and universities should equip themselves with the best human resource practices for educators to take care of these employees.

The education industry faces unique challenges in managing their workforce, with many administrative decisions outside their control. For example, state funding to most schools has dropped dramatically over the past decade, leaving many schools scrambling for resources.

In spite of these challenges, there are many ways educators can create a great place to work for their employees. Here are six common human resource issues in education every school district and university should keep on their radar.

Issue 1: Recruiting & Hiring Qualified Teachers

Every school is in the market for the most qualified teachers. Unfortunately, when it comes to the most capable educators, there usually aren’t enough to go around. Recruiting and hiring can be a challenge. Causes for this include:

  • A limited hiring schedule
  • An ongoing teacher shortage
  • Exclusive hiring environments
  • Difficulties in predicting hiring needs

Navigating a Limited Hiring Schedule

While other industries have the luxury of hiring at all times of the year, most schools have a short hiring season. While it varies between types of schools, hiring usually starts in April or May and ends in August.

Facing the Teacher Shortage

The United States is amid a nearly decade-long teacher shortage. The demand for teachers continues to rise, as more students enroll in schools each year, but there aren’t enough teachers to meet this demand.

To combat the shortage, some school districts have resorted to hiring under-qualified teachers—individuals who have a college degree but no official teacher training. While this method may put a teacher in the classroom, it does so at a cost..

Unqualified teachers cause instability in the teacher workforce, as they frequently resign prematurely or leave after a single year of teaching. Students also feel the negative effects, as high teacher turnover rates can affect the quality of education they receive.

Get in-depth information on how to retain your most skilled teachers.

Creating Inclusive Hiring Environments

Hiring departments need to mitigate the effect biases can have on the hiring process. That includes:

  • Ageism
  • Sexism
  • Racism
  • Name bias

These biases need to be addressed at all points of the hiring process, including in interview questions and job requirements. For example, requiring teachers to have a “neutral accent” when speaking English, which is common in international education, could be considered biased.

Planning for Variable Hiring Needs

Most schools only have a slim idea of their needs during the hiring season. Some needs can be predicted, such as teachers retiring or the establishment of new educational programs. However, other needs are not so easily anticipated.

For example:

  • Teachers being terminated
  • Teachers resigning unexpectedly
  • Teachers backing out of renewal commitments because they received another offer
  • Districts cutting funding to a particular program

As with other industries, recruiting issues often occur after other issues lead to an increase in turnover.

Issue 2: Communicating With Teachers Unions

Teachers unions allow teachers to maintain a strong, unified body of individuals who are passionate about improving their school systems. The unions organize and present teacher demands, which may include:

  • Better pay
  • More compensation for classroom supplies
  • Improved health benefits

Unions also help protect school systems from unwise decisions made by administrators or city officials. A decision made by an inexperienced administrator could have drastic unintended consequences. The collective experience of teachers within a union can offer enough insight to highlight why a new policy may be a bad idea.

All of this suggests that teachers unions are beneficial for teachers and communities alike. Enabling effective communication between unions, the community, and the administration is an important responsibility for  HR in education. This includes::

  • Understanding wants and needs on all sides
  • Informing unions when and why changes are made to their school districts
  • Creating an open channel of discussion and feedback to ensure every voice is heard

Issue 3: Planning Payroll & Benefit Packages

Payroll planning is a staple of every HR department, though most people are aware of teachers’ less-than-ideal salaries. On average, teachers are paid 30 percent less than other college graduates, a pattern spurred by constant budget cuts at both the federal and state levels.

Salaries and Benefits

HR departments in education must be able to offer competitive salaries amid small budgets. After all, teachers want to be paid enough to at least cover the cost of their education degree.

HR professionals must also work with their school district to organize enticing health benefit packages. This requires a lot of coordination with different parties to settle on salaries and benefits that can adequately satisfy teacher needs.

Pay Schedules

Because most teachers only work around 10 months out of a calendar year, there are different payment options available to them.

For example, some teachers may choose to only be paid during their 10 working months, while others choose to receive smaller paychecks throughout the entire year. You will have to work with each teacher in your district or facility to help them decide which payment schedule they would prefer.

Issue 4: Enabling Professional Development

Teachers must constantly adapt their teaching styles, skills, and knowledge. Additionally, they may just want to learn new job-related skills they missed out on during their education. HR departments can offer that experience through workshops and development programs.

Teacher Training Programs

Because there are so many different subjects taught at schools, it can be difficult to find training programs applicable to every field of study. After all, what might be an effective teaching strategy in a science lab may not work as well during an English lecture. HR professionals in education will either need to organize subject-specific training or programs that are universally applicable.

Grassroots Communication

Sometimes the best development comes when teachers have the time and space to discuss their craft together. As with other industries, keeping time open for educators to interact with each other (even over something as simple as a group lunch) can lead to shared experiences and collaborative problem-solving.

Leadership Programs

Some teachers may want to take on more leadership roles in their career path, and it is your job as an HR professional to offer that opportunity. Whether it’s to become the head of their department or to transition into an administrative role within a school, leadership training can inspire personal growth for your teachers.

Issue 5: Dealing with Outdated Human Capital Management Systems

Human capital systems refer to the practices an organization uses to attract, retain, and train recruits.

Thanks to technological advances, most organizations have adopted optimized best practices for their human capital management systems, like:

  • Using online job boards
  • Developing positive workplace cultures
  • Offering competitive compensation

The Center for American Progress (CAP) conducted a national survey to see how U.S. school systems compared to other industries. They found that the education sector has not kept up with the changing times.

Recruitment Strategies Are Virtually Nonexistent

School districts don’t do much to attract the most qualified candidates. Most schools:

  • Only recruit from local candidate pools
  • Are very passive in their recruitment practices
  • Do not invest adequate time or resources into the recruitment process

The CAP survey also found the average school district has only 1.8 employees assigned to recruitment.

Mentoring and Onboarding Opportunities Are Not Substantial

Most jobs do not expect their new recruits to complete the same tasks as their veteran employees. For example, a new software developer will usually be assigned much simpler coding assignments than someone who has been at their company for two years.

Unfortunately, this is not the teacher experience:

  • Just six percent of schools give beginner teachers a reduced teaching load.
  • Only 14 percent of school districts provide classroom assistance to new teachers.
  • Barely 18 percent of school districts offer instructional coaching twice a month.

Note: Many colleges and universities do post job listings online and have better targeting and onboarding strategies than their lower-education counterparts. The problems listed here are mostly applicable to K-12 schools.

Issue 6: Communicating with Physically Separated Faculty

When you work in a large school district that encompasses a significant geographic area, it’s difficult to maintain communication with every teacher. If you’re not careful, you may go months without even acknowledging the faculty at a few of your schools.

On a smaller scale, the same can be said for college campuses—different buildings on a large campus make it difficult to share messages about new HR initiatives with your faculty.

When you roll out new healthcare plans or talk to faculty about training opportunities, HR professionals need to find a way to communicate with everyone. Offices have it easy—all they need is a conference room and an hour to go through everything. But when there is this degree of physical separation between employees, more creative measures have to be taken.

Sharing announcements, documents, and resources on an HRIS can help individual educators stay connected, in spite of the physical distance between them. Online training management can also help educators provide needed certification and training without taking time away from students or teacher preparation.

BambooHR: HR software with heart.
Check out our software overview to get to know our award-winning HR software and see how it can directly benefit your schools.

Solve Your District or University’s Issues with Streamlined HR Software

Many of the human resource issues in education that we’ve listed are caused by outdated practices, unpredictable variables, and barriers in communication. Fortunately, most of these problems can be solved with a simple solution: updated HR software.

When an organization’s HR software is up to date, HR professionals can spend less time on operational tasks and more time communicating with their teachers and recruiting highly qualified candidates.

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Brian Anderson

Brian Anderson expertly decodes all things HR, drawing on a decade of technical writing in the business organization industry to provide editorial support to internal and external learning programs at BambooHR. His writing explores the different motivations that shape the employee experience and the psychology of human resources.