Agility prepares us for what we can’t predict

Agility prepares us for what we can’t predict

Schools across America are focused on ensuring remote learning is as effective as possible for these final weeks of the academic year. But that focus will soon shift to thinking about the start of a new school year and how to address learning loss from not only the “summer slide,” but the varying levels of homeschooling in which students have participated. Adding another layer of complexity is the potential for another pandemic-fueled problem: opening schools while adhering to social distancing policies.

How are talent strategies affected by our new socially-distanced world?

Talent strategies of yesterday—literally—have gone out the window. School districts that were immersed in some of the most severe talent shortages we’ve ever experienced, suddenly found themselves scrambling to find work for their essential non-instructional employees and coveted substitute teachers who were facing being displaced. Attention shifted from how to recruit more teachers to classrooms, to guiding their valued teachers—who thrive on the face-to-face interactions with their students—on how to teach through a computer. 

As schools prepare to reopen, we could once again be facing a reinvention of talent strategies. The talent landscape has changed. A good number of school employees may not return as they’ve had to seek jobs in other industries for financial stability. Those who are at a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 may not return simply out of fear of contracting the virus. While we may, unfortunately, lose some of our experienced educational workforce, we will also see the evolution of a new generation of talented workers looking for more purposeful work. 

The way in which we work and live has changed, too. And will likely continue to change. The bottom line is that no matter what the future looks like, workforce agility will be a necessity. Our rapidly changing environment will require us to be more flexible and fluid than we’ve ever been.

Preparing for the safe return to school

We can’t expect life will return to normal anytime soon. Social distancing will be a part of our new normal for a while, impacting the needs and demands on our workforce. 

Some things to consider as we prepare for our return to school:

  • The need for teachers and paraprofessionals will likely increase. As school districts begin to consider scenarios such as staggered start/end times or reduced class sizes, we also need to be preparing for the implications this will have on instructional staff.
  • More school nurses may be needed as districts will likely be held accountable for more stringent health screenings of staff and students.
  • The demand for flexible food service workers and playground managers could rise as more frequent, staggered lunch and recess periods may be implemented. 
  • The need for custodians may ramp up as more stringent cleaning and sanitation procedures in schools will be required.
  • We may also see an increased need for school counselors, who play an important role in the transition to our new mode of social interaction. Schools made it a priority to ensure remote counselors are available to students during this at-home learning period, and they’ll likely maintain that priority as students, and friends, reunite in school buildings yet need to stay six-feet apart.  
  • Remote learning will likely continue. Returning to school doesn’t necessarily mean the end of remote learning. Perhaps we’ll see it again -- even in a hybrid form. Continuing to prepare teachers and substitute teachers for remote instruction will be a necessity.

There has been nothing predictable about this pandemic. No one has a crystal ball. But we do know the rate at which change has hit us has been nothing short of fast and fierce, and it’s important to continue to think creatively, work collaboratively, and never stop preparing. Our world of work has been altered, and it will likely be altered again. In my lifetime, I can’t recall a time that we’ve had to be more flexible and agile in the way we work.  

Here’s the good news: It is possible to come out strong. This may all be temporary, and we’re hopeful that we’ll one day go back to school as we knew it. Along the way, we might just surprise ourselves and learn new ways of working that improve the way we educate and serve students.

By Bobby Schorr, Regional Vice President, Kelly Education