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Back to School Spotlight: Teacher Shortages, Salaries and Solutions

We all have that teacher who made a positive impact on our liveswhether they coaxed us out of our shells, believed in us, or inspired us to pursue our dream career.

Great teachers exercise a powerful influence on the lives of students and so have the potential to shape the future. As such, education is an excellent field for someone with a strong sense of purpose who wants to make a difference in the world.

But as the headlines remind usit’s not always easy to fill teaching roles. In fact, one thing we are not short of is information about the teacher shortage, which is said to be at its most challenging in decades.

Demand is up, but not enough people are entering the profession, and others are leaving. So as the new school year kicks into gear, we at Indeed decided to shine a spotlight on this most essential of jobs—what it pays, the extent of the shortages, and what can be done about it.

Where it pays most to be a teacher in the US

First, let’s take a look at salaries. Although teaching is not as well paid as some other professions requiring a college degree, this doesn’t mean that conditions are the same across the country.

To find out where it pays most to be a teacher, our data science team used Indeed salary data to identify the cities (among the 25 largest) with the highest average salaries, then adjusted for cost of living using the most recent information from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).  

Chart: Where it pays most to be a teacher

It turns out the city where it pays most to be a teacher is Riverside, California (one of five California cities in the top 15). Here, the adjusted average annual salary is $58,025. This is slightly lower than the “on paper” unadjusted salary of $62,192 and so illustrates how state-hopping job seekers need to be careful when assessing salaries on offer outside their home region. Those numbers are not always what they seem.

In second place is Sacramento, the state capital of California, which was identified by Indeed as one of the best cities in the U.S. for job seekers earlier this year. Here, teachers have an average adjusted salary of $55,785. Meanwhile, Seattle, WA, Richmond, VA, and San Antonio, TX round out the top five spots.

Interestingly, San Jose, the unofficial capital of Silicon Valley places sixth, while San Francisco lands just outside the top 10 in eleventh place. Considering the notoriously high cost of living in these cities, these are surprisingly strong results. A teacher’s salary still goes relatively far in these cities, compared to some others in the US.  

That said, we don’t always see such a good deal for teachers working in high cost areas. For instance, New York ranks 23rd with an average adjusted salary of $40,233—more than $10,000 lower than San Jose and $18,000 lower than Riverside.

The teaching shortage is not a “one size fits all” problem

So if teachers want to have a rewarding career and get paid more and enjoy sunny weather the solution is obvious—they should pack their bags and head west, right?

After all, according to media reports, the sunshine state is still experiencing shortages, with many districts still hiring even as the new year begins. And if California isn’t your cup of tea, then there are comparatively high high salaries to be had in other sunny states, including Texas, Florida and Tennessee, which are also experiencing shortages.

Not so fast: despite the headlines, the reality is more nuanced. The teacher shortage is spread across the United States, but the effect is especially pronounced in specific subjects and localities.

According to a recent report from the Brookings Institution, STEM subjects, special education and schools where a majority of students live in poverty are hardest hit.

But that’s not all. Let’s say a school wants to recruit fresh talent from outside their state, or teachers in one state do decide to move across country to find a new job—there is a major hurdle to overcome.

Have certificate, can’t travel 

Unlike people in most other professions, teachers can’t just up sticks and move if they want to work in a different state. It’s simple enough to move between cities and towns, but any educator who crosses state lines will need to be certified to teach in that new state.

In short, just like lawyers, teachers have to deal with a lot of red tape and to pass exams if they are to practice their profession anywhere other than where they originally qualified. If that sounds inconvenient, then many educators would agree with you.

For instance, in a recent article in Education Week, education policy consultant Arthur E. Wise, called for the establishment of a National Board for Teacher Licensing to develop agreed upon standards and work with state licensing boards to make the process of taking up a new job elsewhere easier. The authors of the Brookings Institution report also suggested a similar solution.

But change takes time. Meanwhile, barriers to mobility remain in place, the teaching shortage persists and some teachers  are at continued risk of burnout. So what to do?

What this means for employers and educators

Of course, where possible school districts can raise salaries to attract more qualified candidates, although this is not always possible due to rules, regulations or budget restrictions in certain areas. Fast track courses provide individuals with a quicker route to the classroom, though these are not without their critics.

Some other solutions rely on policymakers changing the rules at a state or national level. One thing that does not require a complicated bureaucratic solution however is to place an emphasis on the social value of teaching when recruiting. Many studies have shown that millennials are highly motivated by a sense of purpose and place a strong emphasis on on values in the workplace.

After all, few jobs have more social value than teaching. And as Malcolm Gladwell observed at this year’s Indeed Interactive teaching is in many ways a model profession of the 21st century: “You need to have great leadership skills, social skills, you must be adaptable, must have great cognitive skills, you must be constantly learning new bodies of knowledge.”

We agree. So as the school year starts up again, we wish all teachers everywhere a fulfilling 2017-2018 school year!

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About Mildred Blankson

I am a Human Resource Professional with a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management. I have several years of experience in Human Resources and i hope this blog will be a great resource in helping you find the perfect job or candidate that you seek.

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How to Leverage Company Benefits to Recruit and Retain Top Talent

One-third of organizations have increased their overall benefit offerings in 2016, according to a research report compiled by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). As recruiting and retaining top talent continue to become increasingly difficult for employers, robust benefit packages play a key role. When salaries and perks (think: free lunch) are nearly equal from company to company, employees are likely to opt for the company that offers the best benefits and greatest opportunities.

Medical and financial benefits aside, employees are looking for lifestyle and career benefits. SHRM reported that the top reason employers increased benefits in 2016 was to remain competitive in the marketplace—and the three biggest focus areas for change were in the health (22%), wellness (24%), and professional and career development (16%) categories. Robust benefit packages that include career development, health and wellness, and flexible working options provide a platform for employers to stand out. Nearly one-third of employees look for external positions because they desire “overall better benefits,” second only to higher compensation.

The type of benefits you offer speaks volumes on how you treat and support employees, which always manifests by way of your external employer brand. It’s not enough to say “we have great benefits,” because “great benefits” are now table stakes. Companies have mastered the art of talking about perks, from catered lunches to team building activities. Failure to talk about the real support and development opportunities you offer to employees might translate to missed opportunities. So how can hiring managers and recruiters promote employee benefits to help with recruiting and retention?

#1: Kick “industry standard” out of your vocabulary

When recruiters and hiring managers list their company’s benefits and summarize with the catch-all phrase, we offer “industry standard” benefits, it’s not enough. When all else—compensation, vacation days, and perks—are even, offering a standard benefits package won’t help your company standout enough to secure commitment from a top employee. Even though it might be tempting to default to a quick response, it pays to provide more detail about the benefits your company offers, in length, during the interview process.

And even more importantly than providing a laundry list of benefits (but kudos to you for that list!), explain how these benefits fit in with core company values. For example, if you offer flexible work arrangements and flexible hours, explain that these arrangements support your company’s value of work-life balance. If you provide a gym membership or showers at work, talk about how it enhances company culture or creates opportunities for employees to get the exercise they desire in a convenient way.. When recruits begin to see how your benefits support their shared values and interests, they’ll see the benefits you offer are much greater than “industry standard.”

Employers hoping to keep a competitive edge are offering more than the “industry standard” at every stage of the employee journey, including at severance – according to a recent study by RiseSmart. If you’re on the cutting edge of severance offerings, use those benefits to differentiate your company form the competition.

#2: Talk about goals in the recruiting and interview process

Before an employee is even hired, find out what they’re looking for in their employer and what their short and long term goals are. Ask questions like, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “How are you hoping your employer will support you along your career journey?” Employees, many of whom are seeking opportunities for career development and continuing education, need to know you plan to invest in their individual career goals.

A Career Builder survey found that 45% of employees, regardless of generation, plan to stay with their employer for less than two years. During their tenure, they expect to benefit and grow with each new role and and at each new company. It’s important to convey to prospective employees that you invest in each individual employee, regardless for how long they plan to stay in the role for which they are being hired.

#3: Amplify the employee voice

Remind employees early on that they have a voice to share about company culture and employee benefits. Glassdoor, for example, recommends employers invite new hires to reflect on their first few months at the company. Whether this leads to internal feedback or a public review, it can assist efforts aimed at creating a positive employer brand.

L’Oréal recently launched a #LifeatLoreal hashtag to encourage employees to share photos of their experiences at work. The campaign all stemmed from the idea that people would trust their peers on social media when it came to L'Oréal being a great place to work. Employees posted a wide variety of pictures, including snapshots of various benefits and perks in action—such as flex days and catered lunches. Encourage employees to share the experiences they enjoy the most on the social channel of their choice.

#4: Keep employees engaged with benefits

On average, salary is only about 70% of an employee’s total compensation. When employees don’t take advantage of the benefits offered by the company, it’s equivalent to leaving 30% of the total compensation package on the table. Employers who keep employees engaged with benefits are more likely to see benefits manifest as part of the employer brand. An employee is highly unlikely to leave a Glassdoor review that mentions a positive benefit if she has never actually utilized the benefit.

Try hosting monthly or quarterly Q&A sessions to discuss available benefits. When you roll out a particularly hefty benefit, such as a new 401K offering, or an update to parental leave policy, give employees ample opportunity to ask questions. You could also share success stories from employees who have taken advantage of a particularly niche benefit, such as an hour of free lawyer services, to showcase how the benefit is used and encourage other employees to check it out.

#5: Benefits are the forgotten negotiation tool

If you are a hiring manager or recruiter engaging with a candidate, think beyond salary, or equity. Everything is negotiable, from vacation days to health insurance choices. Savvy employees, especially as the war for talent continues to heat up, will use benefits as negotiation tools—but don’t shy away from doing the same thing on the employer side. It’s often easier to offer more benefits than to secure additional salary for an employee.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your full complement of benefits, including your severance benefits. Prospective employees may feel more comfortable about joining a company that will take care of them, in the event of a downsizing or restructuring event. You may want to consider offering perks like outplacement and career transition services to employees who leave voluntarily as well as those who are involuntary subjects of a layoff. Knowing that you are invested in their career, even after they leave, will help you create a workforce of dedicated, engaged, and satisfied employees.

The world is small and everyone is connected. When you invest in employees, it leads to a positive employer brand. In the new Employee Relationship Economy, former employees will someday become vendors, customers, brand evangelists, recruiting references, or even boomerang employees. In a world where the employee/employer relationship is no longer finite, it’s important to convey your full support for employees’ career endeavors at every stage of their career journeys -- beginning early in the recruiting and interview process.

In every recruiting conversation, highlight your dedication to each employee’s career. When you frame up your organization’s benefits in context of how they fit in with the employee’s journey, it’s easy for the candidate to see how your company would support his journey. Communication about employee benefits can go a long way in the recruiting process—and will have a direct impact on your employer brand. If you offer much more than “industry standard,” you should be screaming it from the rooftops. Your current and prospective employees deserve to understand just how committed you are to their personal and professional journey.

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