The High School Merry Go Round

Like many a parent of a 10/11 year old, I’m currently trekking around local secondary schools in order to make my preference choices in the next academic year.

Three schools have stood out, for different reasons.

School A, an “outstanding” and massively oversubscribed school, did very little on its open day to sell the school to prospective parents and pupils. The attitude was “We can pick the cream of the crop, and if you’re lucky enough to get in you’ll do really well here”

School B, an “outstanding” school, was welcoming and both staff and pupils put in a lot of effort to promote it. But their selection method (effectively a lottery) means that candidates have little or no chance of influencing the process

School C, a  “good” school with some outstanding characteristics, spent a lot of time talking about their values and ethos, and significantly let the pupils act as tour guides so that parents and children could ask questions. They also invited pupils separately to spend a day at the school.

What I found interesting was that the schools operated in the same way as many employers do when recruiting staff. Many companies take the view of School A. They assume that individuals would love to work for them and do little to sell themselves to job applicants. In a recession they can get away with it, but once the job market becomes more competitive they can struggle to find suitable staff.

School B is typical of many companies who’ve heard of “employer branding” but don’t fully understand what it means. They do a lot to convince candidates they are good firm to work for but then let something in the selection process let them down and make the candidate feel it is all window dressing

Companies like School C recognise they are competing for staff and have to convince people as to why they should work for them. Being open and honest about their culture, and recognising that “branding” is only part of it, is a key factor.

So which category does your organisation fall into? And if you are complaining currently about skill shortages, what are you doing to make your company the place that employees want to go?

3 thoughts on “The High School Merry Go Round

  1. This is such an interesting observation Simon!
    There’s a university in Poland that uses social media to attract candidates so well, a lot of employers could learn from them! Employer branding is really nothing revolutionary, the only difference between EB and what you covered is… there’s a separate name for it, but no name for that same mechanism in education 🙂

  2. I would definitely go for school C! Who wouldn’t appeal to a company where they talk about their purpose and values so that you can make an effective decision about whether that company is a good fit for you. Also walking through the company before committing is a great way to really know if it is going to be the best thing in the long run. Too often they sell on the outside, but the inside looks so different. Employer branding is about authenticity, and too often we don’t see that done well!

  3. My daughter is going to a school ‘C’ – to be honest we weren’t on the ball enough to start looking as early you, but our open days and all subsequent visits have been very much pupil-centric. The staff are enthusiastic and although the buildings and some equipment is dated, every child we came across was genuinely ‘a credit to the school’. Schools (like businesses) are only as good as the people in them, and I’d rather send my child to a school (or work for an employer) where ordinary people are supported do the best they can every day.

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