What is a Key Factor in Retaining Quality Faculty and Staff?

Commitment – A Key Factor in Retaining Faculty & Staff by Toby A. Travis, Ed.D.

People trust those who maintain their relationships and keep their promises. The importance and value of making and keeping both personal and organizational commitments is key to the successful management of a school or any organization. Consider the insight shared in this article from the Harvard Business Review:

What makes a great manager great? Despite differences in their personal attributes, successful managers all excel in the making, honoring, and remaking of commitments… A leader’s commitments shape a business’s [or school’s] identity, define its strengths and weaknesses, establish its opportunities and limitations, and set its direction. Executives [and administrators] can all too easily forget that commitments are extraordinarily powerful. Caught up in the present, managers often take actions that, while beneficial in the near term, impose lasting constraints on their operations and organizations…. Managers who understand the nature and power of their commitments can wield them more effectively throughout a company’s [or school’s] life cycle…. [1]

Effective school leaders also know the high value of developing and maintaining an environment that fosters long-term commitments of their faculty and staff. Studies have shown that it takes from five to seven years to develop an effective teacher.[2] Yet in many schools around the world, between high turnover rates and other factors, long-term commitments to the same school by faculty or staff members are very low.

In a study of British schools, the average stay of teachers in the same location was 6.7 years.[3] That may mean they are leaving schools just when they are becoming most effective. In fact, the same study showed that over 50% of teachers had been employed less than 5 years in the same location.

Studies have also been completed on identifying the key components to fostering longer tenures of teachers past the five year attrition mark. The results indicate,

 “the need for school leaders to draw from occupational research and provide environments in which teachers are supported and regarded as valued decision-makers in their schools. The results reveal the importance of human relationships in the retention and growth of teachers.”[4]

Another USA-based study supports this same conclusion – identifying that school leaders who are actively, “choosing, supporting, and valuing faculty and encouraging shared decision-making appear to be the central practices in building teacher retention; and these practices are supported by and integrated with principals’ modeling of positive personal characteristics, exercising fairness and equity, being visible and approachable, and communicating in an open two-way manner.”[5]

Thus, modeling commitment is one of the key factors to retaining committed faculty and staff.

To what extent does your school leadership model and demonstrate commitment? Has your school lost quality members of your faculty and staff over a perceived lack of commitment by the leadership of the school. Research shows that the #1 reason teachers leave their school is their supervisor. Not money. Not lack of classroom supplies – but the perceived lack of support of their direct supervisor.

Visible and authentic commitment by school leaders to their faculty and staff matters. Commitment is one of the key pillars of establishing trusted school leadership.

©2016 Toby A. Travis


[1] Sull, D. N. (2003). Managing by commitments. Harvard Business Review 81.

[2] Waddell, J. H. (2010). Fostering Relationships to Increase Teacher Retention in Urban Schools. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction 4.

[3] http://www.bristol.ac.uk/media-library/sites/cmpo/migrated/documents/howlongteachersstaying.pdf

[4] Waddell, J. H. (2010). Fostering Relationships to Increase Teacher Retention in Urban Schools. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction 4.

[5] Cornella, J. A. (2011). Principal leadership: The missing link in teacher retention. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences 71, 3181.


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