What The Teacher’s Shortage Can Teach You About Running A Small Business

A career that used to be a bankable job for life, in a stable, government supported sector, is now in turmoil. Further education jobs platform AoC Jobs suggest that teaching, especially in further education, is becoming a pivot option for millennials looking at non-linear career paths, but that current teachers are also pivoting away from education.

Yet, despite the potential range of positions and benefits of FE jobs, government spending cuts, over worked staff, and low morale are all contributing to staff abandoning the teaching profession.

Further Education teacher

So how can small business (and further education colleges) run their business better for staff retention?

Be better at maternity/paternity leave

New mothers aren’t coming back to work after maternity leave, while more and more teachers of both sexes are “considering leaving the profession within two years due to workload and low morale,” according to a survey conducted by YouGov and the National Union of Teachers. This is causing significant issues with staffing.

While no business can avoid maternity/paternity leave; it’s a government requirement, there are ways to ensure staff want to return. Creating a support system and being clear about notice periods for leave of this kind will help open the dialogue. Ideally, this would mean that those planning to have children will feel assured their jobs is secure and maintained during their absence.

Keep morale up

This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s probably the most important of the bunch. With a small business especially, it is important to make sure your workers are happy. There is not much loyalty in the working world, and it’s your responsibility as the boss to make sure that your employees want to come and work for you every day, otherwise you might find yourself suddenly short staffed. And when you’re running a small business, understaffing is something that you simply cannot afford, not least because of the extra time it takes to train new staff.

If you don’t make your current employees feel valued, it could easily devolve into a catch 22 situation whereby your workers with low morale leave for greener pastures. In doing so they saddle you and your remaining staff with their workload, thus further lowering their morale, and leading them to question their dedication to a company that makes them miserable.

By all means, run a tight ship, but a tight ship doesn’t have to be an unhappy one.

Be flexible and accommodating

One of the possible solutions to the teacher’s shortage being discussed by journalists and think tanks is more flexible working hours. The pervading opinion being that this flexibility will, for example, make it easier for new mothers to come back to teaching after maternity leave, by allowing them more time at home with their families.

There is definitely something to be said for flexibility when it comes to running a small business. Does a client need to cancel a meeting last minute? That’s okay, you’re flexible. Is an employee coming back to the office after maternity or paternity leave, needing to work less hours so that they can care for their child? You’re happy to work something out to help them, because you’re flexible.

Business mom working in flexible work hours arrangement
photo credit: GSCSNJ / Flickr

Even if an investor decided to lower their bid in your company, that’s a disappointment, but hey, you can be flexible. Perhaps you can meet them for a coffee, to discuss any problems they might have. Be free when they are to show that you care. Sometimes people simply need reassurance and a face-to-face discussion can give them that.

There is such a thing as being too flexible of course; you can’t let people walk all over you. But you have to be prepared to deal with the unexpected.You have to manage your expectations, if you haven’t already. As a small business owner, there will be times when you’ll need to work hard for other people. After all, people don’t owe you their time or their custom, you have to make them want to use your business.

Use smart budgeting

Again, this one sounds like a no-brainer at first, but it’s incredibly important with small businesses. Something that has plagued the education sector recently is a lack of adequate funding. And if such a vital, government supported industry can find itself in trouble because of a lack of funding, then your business certainly can too.

It can be very tempting to overstretch your resources, and attempt to grow your business too early. For example, if you find you can afford to hire more people, make sure you really need the extra hands before you do so. If you find that your workforce is just fine the way it is, why not use the money for the benefit of the staff you already have? Again, this goes back to keeping morale up. For instance, giving out a bonus, or a pay raise, or even just improving some of the resources around the office can do wonders for lifting the overall mood of a workplace.