“We just need to pay staff more money."
This is the most common solution for employee retention. Schools across the country are jumping at the opportunity to pay employees more though a combination of one-time bonuses and long-term raises.
While school employees would be silly to turn down more money, that's not what they're really looking for. Certainly, compensation must align with cost-of-living increases and remain competitive with other districts and professions. But contrary to popular belief, pay increases do not yield proportional increases in job satisfaction.
Rather than view money as the driver for employee retention, school leaders should focus their efforts on the true drivers of employee retention: gratitude, recognition, empowerment, and autonomy.
One of my favorite statistics to share during keynote presentations speaks to this topic and reads as follows: Employees who receive specific, positive feedback from a supervisor at least one time per month have a 94% retention rate.
“Yeah, but what if the district next door pays more?” asked one gentleman at a recent conference. “Money talks.”
People often overestimate money as the primary motivation for changing jobs. Research shows that it takes a 20% pay increase for employees to leave jobs they love. Alternately, it takes a 0% pay increase for employees to leave jobs they hate.
This means that a teacher making $50,000 would need to make $60,000 in another district to consider quitting. Certainly, there are examples where this dichotomy exists, but those examples are rare. In a world where teacher compensation is fairly consistent across districts, the “money talks” theory doesn’t hold much weight.
The lesson for school leaders is not that they should be cheap, but rather that employees who feel especially valued do not leave organizations just to make a little more money. Rather than throw money at their problems, school leaders would be better served to focus on the true drivers of employee retention.
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