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By: Matt Ingold

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June 8th, 2017

Are You Preparing for the NY School Business Official Drought?

HR Best Practices

“How many?!” I said in shock.

I was sitting at the table preparing to deliver a presentation to a group of School Business Officials and administrators at their 2017 Training Conference (NYSASBO), and my friend and moderator, Steve Zautner, Business Manager of North Colonie School District, hit me with the stat.

“You heard me right,” Steve assured, “In the next 5 years, 50% of NY State’s School Board Officials are expected to retire.”

Wow! Without a doubt, this mass exodus of talent and experience is going to have an impact on schools across the state. If this proves true, school boards will be left with three options:

  1. Build the compensation plan into the budget that will allow you to cherry pick seasoned officials from other districts
  2. Start grooming your replacement from amongst your present talent pool
  3. Draw on talent from outside the education industry

While option 1 may be a viable alternative for large districts with the budget to support, succession planning is probably the more sustainable plan for most districts—nobody wants to rob Peter to pay Paul. Options 2 and 3, on the other hand, will take some greater planning to accomplish.

So what does it take to develop a succession plan and build up the bullpen for when the seasoned officials at the top begin collecting their pension?

Schools must build a detailed SBO training pipeline with competency milestones

In talking with seasoned school board officials, public schools can be pretty hit or miss with their succession plan for top level leaders.

One SBO shared, “It used to be that Board Officials started as educators, and advanced through the ranks over the years. But administrative departments have leaned out, and most districts don’t have the same seamless career path that they used to have.”

She further shared how many schools are looking to hire CPAs to fill the ranks of SBOs, even if they had no experience in education. “You can survive in the role with accounting experience and no educational background, but it doesn’t work the other way around. The job is too accounting-heavy.”

Regardless, SBOs aren’t groomed overnight. Whether coming from the education side and completing their SBA, or drawing CPAs from outside industries and providing them with a crash course in education, schools must identify the skills gaps in their succession plan and put the training plan in place to grow the competencies they need.

Schools have to rethink their outdated incentive structure, or they will never attract and retain young talent

The studies are published; Millennials don’t care about pension plans, and they see tenure as punishment, not a carrot.

A consistent conclusion in studies on Millennial motivators is that they want to have an impact on their organizations (and they want it now). Certainly to a flaw, in many cases; Millennials are know to jump from job to job every 6-24 months.

Global motivational speaker, author, and thought leader, Simon Sinek, recounts how he often has Millennial mentees approach him and share how dissatisfied they feel at work, and how they don’t feel like they are making a difference. “Then they tell me they’ve only been on the job for six months,” Sinek shares, “and I get a good laugh. The expectations are so high!”

Nonetheless, Sinek goes on to urge employers to take this desire to have an impact, an inherently noble desire, and channel that toward healthy, realistic, and positive goals for the individual and the organization.

This means investing in coaching and making leaders accessible. It also means rethinking incentives that currently award longevity and tenure over performance. I may be painting with some broad strokes, but I also know that in some cases this is exactly how public schools and municipalities are motivating their workforce—just put in your time, and the award is on the backend.

I know what you are thinking—it’s not possible. Certainly not overnight, but making the shift from tenure-driven to performance-driven incentives can start to happen today in small ways. Even if they are not tied to compensation, performance reviews can be a valuable tool in communicating core values, personal goals, and core competency expectations to employees. Without a doubt, the current incentive structure in public schools is a big ship to turn, but it may have to if it expects Millennials to climb aboard.

Schools have to invest in Human Capital Management

What we've been talking about up to now is the need for schools to make an investment in Human Capital Management (HCM). Where Personnel Management is a discipline that focuses on the administrative processes associated with the care of employees (paying people, providing benefits, logging timesheets), HCM is about tracking and growing the collective competencies, values, skills, and abilities of employees in an organization. 

If you want your company to be a fast developer, you're going to invest in acquiring and grooming top software developers. If you want your book of business to be unimpacted when you experience turnover, you invest in cross-training your employees. And, if you want to survive the upcoming drought of School Business Officials, you identify the plan for either acquiring or internally growing the skills and competencies your district will need to cover the gap.

About Matt Ingold

Matt has taken his combined experience in the US Marine Corps and HR tech to bring practical insights on leadership, administration, and HR technology to the Benetech Advantage Blog. When he's not writing or teaching, he can be found paddling throughout the Adirondacks!

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