- K-12 teachers and parents have alarmingly low engagement in their schools
- School districts need to boost their identity by aligning their purpose, brand and culture
- Engaged brand ambassadors help recruit top talent
This article is the first in a two-part series.
U.S. school districts have a big problem -- they need many more "brand ambassadors."
These are people who don't just like a school or district -- they love it and will go out of their way to advocate for it.
The problem is, U.S. K-12 teachers who are parents are no more likely to be engaged with their child's school than are parents overall. Only about one in five parents (18%) or K-12 teachers who are parents (20%) are fully engaged -- an even lower percentage of customer engagement than in the banking, insurance and healthcare industries.
These startlingly low numbers have profound implications for school districts because of the effect they have on attracting the best teachers.
With the goal of attracting the best teachers in mind, leaders who are directly competing with neighboring schools for teacher candidates should create a strong district identity that's communicated continually and consistently throughout the district.
A district's identity -- the combination of its mission or purpose, brand and culture -- is what sets it apart from the competition. It's the reason why highly talented teachers and principals choose to work for one school system over all the rest.
Districts should be creating an identity and work environment that encourages teachers to be brand ambassadors. Whether they are employees or parents, a district's brand ambassadors are its biggest and most loyal fans -- they actively spread the word about it and encourage parents to send their children there.
Teachers should be among a school system's most engaged and biggest fans, promoting it in the community. They get to see student successes firsthand, and they have firsthand knowledge about the district and the quality of education provided.
Recruiting and Engaging Top Teachers
Districts are missing an enormous opportunity if their teachers aren't brand ambassadors.
Most teachers enter the field with a high sense of mission and purpose for educating students. Building a district identity on student success creates valuable ambassadors from current employees and has the potential to attract future ones from the talent that districts hire every year.
Districts are increasingly confronting teacher shortages and need to compete more than ever to recruit talented teachers to their organization. What's more, many districts have decreasing resources for teacher recruitment, while others do not have designated teacher recruiting teams at all. School systems must cast their recruiting nets further and wider to reach talented candidates.
A crucial source for this recruiting effort is current teachers, who have friends, relatives, neighbors or school classmates who might come to them seeking advice about the district's climate. Engaged teachers will speak highly of the school system and are much more likely to encourage others to work there.
Unfortunately, most districts don't have enough brand ambassadors, which can cause recruiting problems. District representatives and recruiters naturally want to present a strong employee value proposition -- the positive aspects of the district's working environment -- to candidates. But if candidates hear different messages from a district and its teachers, this dissonance can confuse applicants and dissuade them from applying or accepting an offer.
Teachers are the driving force behind student learning experiences, and they are vitally important to student success. Teachers are also crucial to parent engagement, and parents often seek feedback from teachers about the quality of a district or specific schools within it.
The second article in this series will discuss how districts can create more brand ambassadors.