Navigator Blog

Four Ways to Strategically Support Your Human Capital Management System

January 23, 2024

People are a crucial part of any school district. Every adult is integral in creating an educational experience that prepares students to succeed in our rapidly changing and complex world.

Because school districts put so much of their financial resources into people – on average, more than 80% of their annual budget – it’s essential that their people can deliver a quality student experience.

Now is the time to take an innovative and strategic approach to human capital management, given the current education landscape. A recent Gallup survey asked workers across the country to indicate how frequently they felt burnt out at work. Forty-four percent of respondents who work in K-12 education reported they always or very often felt burnt out – a higher rate than workers in any other industry.

There has also been a significant decline in the number of people completing education degrees. Over the past 20 years, the state of Ohio has seen almost a 36% decline in the number of individuals completing pre-service programs. A new approach to attracting, growing, and keeping educators is needed so all students can access high-quality learning experiences.

Thinking of human capital management as a system is a powerful way to begin the transformation. When human capital strategies align with an organization’s vision for learning, it creates a cohesive system working to serve and support all students.

While every school district is unique, there are four core areas that a comprehensive human capital management system should address:

1. Align your human capital system to your vision. 

Once you identify your vision for all students – your Portrait of a Graduate – a natural next step is to identify the competencies adults in the school system need to deliver on that vision. Those competencies should be embedded throughout a comprehensive human capital system and well-monitored by data. This will drive continuous improvement and help your school district become an employer of choice. 

The Winnetka Public Schools (Illinois) first created its Portrait of a Graduate and then aligned its Portrait of an Educator to support the competencies they desire in students.

“We first established the key competencies for students as they progress through our school system,” said Jeff Knapp, Assistant Superintendent of Professional Learning and Human Resources. “Having those as a foundation helped us then develop the educator competencies that we felt aligned with getting students to attain and advance in those critical areas.

2. Find the best talent. 

A great hire is one of the best investments a district can make. With a clear brand supported by key messaging, districts can tell their stories and attract applicants who will contribute to achieving the organizational vision.

The quality of a system’s recruitment and hiring practices drives its ability to bring top talent into the organization. A people system that consistently finds, attracts, and hires the best candidates includes data-driven processes to:

  • Identify staffing needs,  
  • Uncover the sources of high-performing employees,  
  • Identify strengths and values to communicate your employment brand, and  
  • Select the best person for the job.

Anthony Wayne Local Schools (Ohio) recognized it was no longer able to rely on reputation alone to attract many applicants across all positions.

AWLS took a more active approach in highlighting its value proposition as an employer – especially to new teachers coming out of college and to candidates for classified positions. AWLS promoted job opportunities through more channels, such as Indeed, Handshake, community websites, social media, and job fairs.

3. Grow people with professional learning aligned with the vision. 

A comprehensive human capital management system helps all employees – from the newest to the most experienced – grow. This includes processes for supporting new staff, assessing employee performance, and using data to provide ongoing feedback, customized support, and growth opportunities. 

An effective human capital system balances employees’ specific professional learning needs with those of the organization to ensure efforts align with strategic priorities. 

This is evident in Washington Local Schools (Ohio), where the district developed a year-long onboarding process, its New Staff Academy, for certified and classified staff to support employees’ personal and professional growth.

An essential design principle of the New Staff Academy is to target ALL new staff across the district, regardless of their role. This includes non-instructional staff, which often is an overlooked group for district-wide onboarding efforts in education.

4. Keep engaged, high-performing employees. 

A culture that values stakeholder voices, maintains transparency, and fosters collaboration is key to any high-performing people system. Districts should seek continuous feedback from staff to identify opportunities for improving the culture and developing practices that foster employee engagement and well-being. 

They should also establish meaningful systems for recognizing and rewarding excellence to help retain high-performing employees. The processes within the system that promote an inclusive and equitable environment also help support a diverse workforce.

Milford Exempted Village Schools (Ohio) refined its processes for measuring and addressing employee engagement data. These new processes have elevated employee voice and built trust throughout the district. 

“By formally measuring Employee Engagement, we are giving more opportunity for all staff to have a voice,” said Assistant Superintendent Jennie Berkely. “While the results vary across our schools and departments, so far we are hearing district themes that staff would like more opportunity to grow professionally and to be celebrated.”

Reimagining human capital in your school district is no small undertaking. It takes time and intentionality, but the results will benefit your district and students. Reach out to Battelle for Kids to learn more about how can help.