I attended the second Education Ecosystem Summit hosted by New Schools for Baton Rouge (NSBR) last week and was treated to phenomenal Southern hospitality and a glimpse into a city that’s primed for some serious systemic reform. The event was top-rate and the showing from education leaders from across the country was as impressive. NSBR’s convening power is another indicator that we should expect a lot of innovation coming from smaller cities in the near future.
I moderated a panel on the challenges, opportunities, and innovations in the talent world which included Elizabeth Shaw, CEO of Education First, Rich Harrison, CAO of Uplift Education, and Krysta DeBoer, ED of the Center for Urban Teaching who each brought very different perspectives to the topic.
The overarching theme was how to move from where we are now to the next “version” of talent practices. We called it the transition from Talent 1.0 to Talent 2.0. We defined Talent 1.0 as an era of talent practices and organizations overwhelmingly focused on building pipelines and improving evaluation. What Talent 2.0 will look like was an open question and my panel raised some excellent insights on what’s to come.*
- Rich highlighted Uplift’s investments in human capital data and how a data-driven culture among teachers can raise expectations and focus their work on trouble spots and opportunities.
- Elizabeth pointed out that talented people stay with an organization and thrive when they’re challenged, fulfilled, compensated well, and given professional autonomy. Schools and education nonprofits must make it a priority to create environments with these hallmarks.
- Krysta emphasized that the very general rhetoric around retaining teachers might actually hurt schools and the profession if it translates into the retention of all teachers. Instead, schools should focus retention efforts on high-performers while counseling out low-performers.
I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible during the panel, so I want to propose a few things to look for in the coming years as the education sector innovates on the talent front.
- Diversity and inclusion – There’s a significant racial disparity between education leaders and the students that they serve. In fact, I was compelled to began our panel by acknowledging that our mostly white panel didn’t reflect the mostly black students in the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone. This has been the case for a long time, but there’s growing concern, legitimate activity, and new initiatives committed to closing the gap. Bellwether’s Talent Advising service was launched with improving diversity and inclusion as a primary objective.
- New skills needed – The evolution to urban education ecosystems require that professionals be equipped to new kinds of skills to maximize their impact. For example, opposability and cross-class expertise, which I explain in this post, are highly relevant to the education sector. Others like network effectiveness and trend recognition are too – I’ll highlight these and more in future posts. Leadership development programs and hiring organizations will be smart to add these to their competency models.
- Human-centered design for recruiting – Recruiting is about creating an honest and compelling value proposition that appeals to a target audience. The human-centered design process uses feedback from real “users” to do just that. I’ve found it to be profoundly effective.
- More free agents – Twenty-five million+ people in the US make a living working independently as “free agents” and that number is likely to grow. Responsive education organizations will employ more flexible staffing models to take advantage of the trend without taking advantage of their people by providing competitive wages, benefits, work space, and more.
Expect more on all of these topics here at Ahead of the Heard in the future.
*We can quibble over version numbers another time.