The Struggle with Hiring and Retention: It’s a symptom of the challenged business model

by Peter Baron

In all my conversations with more than 80 heads of schools, a clear picture has emerged: our traditional business model is hitting significant roadblocks, and nearly every head speaks about the challenge with hiring and staff retention.

In reflecting upon these discussions, it’s become evident that the difficulties we face in hiring and retaining staff are not isolated issues but direct symptoms of the deeper challenges confronting our traditional business model.

The Big Issue: Our Business Model is Under Pressure

Independent schools make a significant promise to families— a transformative experience for their children, whether academic, social, athletic, artistic growth, or a combination of these or other experiences.

I know this first-hand.

I benefited from this transformation, and it’s why I’ve spent my career helping independent schools succeed.

But our promise has become increasingly competitive.

And with more choices available to families (public, charter schools, online schools, homeschooling, etc.), the race to offer more programs and services to attract students has intensified.

However, these additions often come without proportional revenue increases, straining our ability to staff and sustain these programs adequately.

I understand the need to be more competitive— I share those instincts, but what I’ve taken from all of these conversations is that we’ve asked teachers and staff to take on more responsibilities, but we don’t always remove things from their plates.

This causes imbalances, leads to burnout, and contributes to attrition.

Another big hurdle is how work expectations are changing, especially among millennial candidates who might prefer more flexible working conditions, like remote work, which is challenging to offer in a school setting.

The new relationship with work shrinks our applicant pool and complicates hiring.

The crux of our dilemma lies in a business model that struggles to support the staffing and financial needs required to fulfill our promise to families.

This model’s flaws not only jeopardize staff retention but also threaten long-term sustainability.

A Collective Challenge

As leaders, we find ourselves at a crossroads.

The path forward requires us to critically evaluate our current hiring and retention model, identify solutions, and adapt.

I founded Moonshot Lab to help you and your school approach challenges like these in a collaborative community of independent schools committed to shifting the model.

Diagnosing the problem allows us to put plans into motion to create long-term faculty sustainability for schools.

This makes me optimistic about our future.

What are your observations? Are there unique challenges or solutions you’ve encountered in your school?

Your insights are invaluable, and I would love to hear from you.

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