August 2017, Vol. 2

Recruiting and retaining top tech talent

by Tracy Morris

There likely is not a more difficult area to staff in public schools than technology.

Not only is there a need for smooth day-to-day operations, but ultimately the goal is to create learning environments that foster the effective use of technology. Finding employees with the necessary skills isn’t usually the problem—paying them what they’re worth is where the real difficulty lies.

While this may seem like a daunting task, there are some things a school district can do to attract and retain quality tech talent.

Promote the perks

School districts can offer many things not available elsewhere. The 2016–2017 Dice Tech Salary Survey found 40 percent of tech pros anticipated changing employers in 2017. Better working conditions and more responsibility are in the top-three reasons. These are both advantages you can offer. In addition, you can market your ability to provide work-life balance, which is difficult to find when working as a tech professional in the private sector. Be sure to leverage these benefits to applicants and interviewees.

Move quickly and make your best offer

Work to streamline HR processes to offer the best candidate quickly. Top candidates get multiple offers, and you don’t want to lose out on a candidate because your process is too cumbersome and lengthy. Also, be sure you’re making the best offer you can within the district’s pay structure.

Separate pay structure

The market for technology jobs can be more volatile than the market for other jobs. Often, jobs in IT are placed on a clerical or paraprofessional pay plan. This could be limiting your ability to pay higher wages. In large districts, it’s common to see IT jobs paid on their own structure. Having a separate pay structure for technology allows you to respond to the market by making adjustments without inflating the structure for jobs whose market value doesn’t change as significantly from one year to the next.

Pay differently

If you need someone with a specific skill set or certification, pay for it. But, be careful. Make sure the certification is valuable, relevant to the position, and above minimum requirements. Also, be sure you aren’t paying a stipend for something you’d require every candidate to have.

Adjust pay

As the market dictates, adjust the structure and pay for your employees. This is not a “set it and forget it” recipe. It’s important to evaluate your market comparison every year to determine if adjustments are needed to retain and attract the best candidates.

Create career pathways

It’s important to identify and create career pathways. Very few people come into a position saying “this is the job I want forever.” Be sure you’re coaching employees regarding skill sets and specific experience required for advancement. Define what differentiates job levels. Levels should not be used to differentiate based on tenure alone.