Recruit Teachers to Become Employees Using “Group Targeting”

The Ideal Target Group of Recruiting Prospects
So take a minute and think about the fabulous opportunity that exists here. First off, forget the word "teacher" for a few minutes if you can. Instead, look at this group from an objective non-emotional perspective.The fa ct is that any group of individuals with the following characteristics would be judged as an ideal recruiting target:

  • Highly educated – teachers are a highly educated group, all having at a minimum a bachelor’s degree, many hold Masters and PhDs. Many have specialties in high demand technical areas like math, science, computer science and communications.
  • Highly competent – As a group, they have excellent communications and presentation skills. They are well organized, good at planning (i.e. lesson plans) and tend to be highly goal oriented. They are used to working under pressure and no one can match their skill and experience in "doing more with less.”
  • Adaptable – If you are concerned that they couldn't learn a new job at your organization, be aware that these individuals are continuous lifelong learners. They love to read and they excel at research, so they have the capability of rapidly learning whatever a new job might require.
  • Eager for opportunities- Teachers work in a profession where they have been dramatically underpaid and underappreciated for years. They strive for more income (one study found that 40% of teachers have to hold second jobs), which means that in these tough economic times, many would eagerly consider the opportunity to better support their families with the higher income that comes from a single non-seasonal job.
  • Large numbers — they are abundant in every community, so there are many to choose from.
  • They don’t focus on pay – money is clearly not the #1 motivator for these professionals, so even if your organization pays only average wages, they won’t be frustrated or quit over a few pennies. Whatever you pay, even in entry-level jobs, it will likely be a raise for them over their current earnings.
  • Seeking opportunities — in teaching, there are a few opportunities for promotion or learning a new profession.  The abundant breadth of opportunities in a large organization would be viewed by many as "a way out" of their seniority-based system with only one career track.
  • They can do more with less – because their current operating budgets are ridiculously small, organizations can offer them an opportunity for a change to work with ample supplies, the latest equipment and technology and abundant opportunities for development and company supported advanced degrees.  With the current intense scrutiny of school testing and rigid rules, they are also likely to look at corporate life as one that has more freedom and opportunities to innovate.
  • Local talent — because so many of them live in the community, there's no need to fly them in for an interview or for relocation.
  • Dedicated individuals – few would argue against the fact that they are dedicated and committed workers. Even though they love their current profession, my experience has been that they will shift that dedication to a new profession, if they must leave their current one.
  • Team players — they work in an industry that emphasizes collaboration and teamwork, so they transition easily into a corporate environment that stresses the same approach to work.
  • Opportune timing — because of their relatively low incomes, they are likely to be suffering disproportionately from the current strain from increasing mortgage payments, commute costs and food prices.  Obviously, the looming threat of budget cuts and layoffs within school systems make them even more eager to seek out opportunities with more security and income potential. In families where both spouses are teachers, the odds of getting at least one of them to jump to the corporate world is now quite high.

Take a Chill Pill
Now before you out of hand reject the notion of targeting teachers, take a step back and think about it. First of all, remember that it’s a standard practice for school districts to specifically target corporate employees in order to get them to leave corporate life and switch to the teaching profession. So turnabout is only natural. I am not suggesting "raiding" the school system and stripping it of every teacher, because you might only hire a handful at most from any one school. I’m recommending a cherry picking approach where you target the very best that might need to move on because of finances or because they happen to be “burned out”. Burnout is a real phenomena and “burned out” teachers that need a change in their situation are not the kind of teachers a community wants in the classroom.

Remember also that teachers are intelligent individuals that are free to make up their own mind on what's best for them. By merely targeting them and offering them opportunities, you are in no way forcing them to leave. That is their choice. Recruiters can not “steal” from any organization because employees are not “owned” by firms. It’s also not your firm’s fault that their school system and the citizens in their community chose to underpay and under appreciate them isn't your fault. Think of yourself not as a recruiter but as a "rescuer" that is doing nothing more than expanding their options. Under any definition of the word, it's not unethical to approach them and make them aware of alternative opportunities.

Will They Be Successful In The Corporate Environment?
Teachers have been leaving the teaching profession in large numbers for decades. Most leave in a haphazard manner to a variety of new careers, but now is your opportunity to develop a formal process to target them as a group. The concept of targeting educational professionals is not new; Google in particular has successfully recruited numerous top professors to join its organization. One large Las Vegas hotel has discovered that elementary school teachers make the most successful bartenders (it makes sense considering that drunks many times act like third-graders!). There are plenty of examples of teachers successfully making the transition to corporate work. Remember, many teachers already hold second jobs during the summer, so it is likely that they already have a broad skill set. If you are still unsure of their capabilities, remember that teachers are off during the summer and during long school break periods. This gives an organization that is unsure an ideal opportunity to hire them on a short-term or contract basis to assess their potential or to build their skills.

Which Jobs?
Obviously, you'll have to look at your own firm’s jobs to determine where they would best fit. But remember, many teachers are specialists in math, science and computers, so they could easily fit into technical jobs. For others, tell them they must first prove themselves in entry level professional positions like customer service jobs, customer training positions, in call centers, writing manuals, in wholesale sales jobs and obviously, in HR training and development positions.

How to Recruit Them
Identifying teachers and principals to target is quite easy because they all join an association, have a teaching license and are listed on their school's website. Employer referral programs are the best way to recruit them because many of your employees already know them as a result of being parents. You can also identify them through University alumni groups from Colleges of Education and through ads in teaching journals. They can also easily be found in a single room at seminars and conventions for teachers, as well as online on online social networks and in discussion forums focused on teaching. Because teachers are tight knit group, once you make several aware of your interest in teachers, the word will spread virally too many others.

Final Thoughts
Recruiters and recruiting managers are constantly looking for large numbers of highly qualified but "untapped" talent. If you can step back and take the emotion out of it, it's easy to see why there's no more ideal group to target than teachers. Yes, you should limit the number that you hire and be aware of the impact on the community, but remember you are a recruiter not a member of the school board. Now, summer,is the perfect time to begin. They are readily available for interviews and you will face no competition in recruiting them. What are you waiting for?

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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